The NAGC sent out a call for letters from those who experienced childhood breavement. The letters were to be written to their younger self and hopefully show today’s grieving children and teens that there is a future ahead..
The following letter came to us from Frannie
Dear Me (at 7),
It has been exactly 40 years since your father died. I bet you didn’t think you would have survived? I am sure you didn’t think his death would impact your entire life. I know you spent many nights crying before bed, wishing your surviving parent would notice and try to comfort you. I know you struggled to pay attention in school because your school days were better spent day dreaming about him than learning. I know you felt different throughout your entire school years; not knowing anyone else who experienced the death of a parent can be lonely. I know you learned talking to him was a comfort to you and doing this quietly did not draw too much attention to yourself.
Your healing occurred slowly and without community resources, nothing existed during the 80’s or 90’s in your neck of the woods. You were able to move yourself through the process, and yes, at times you had to stop and rest, even pretending it didn’t happen.
I remember one time you created a story of his leaving the country as a reason he was not in your life because death was just too final. The problem with that, as you soon realized, is that it wasn’t helpful because he never came home. Those stories served to make the time go by and offered you some strength to grieve on your own because no one paid attention or knew how to identify or even support grieving children/teens.
Grief was with you always and if you had been given the opportunity to grieve sooner, maybe things would’ve been different...or maybe not? The college years seem to be the time that you learned about grief and its impact on you. During that time you were able to reflect and understand the impact of not being able to speak of your father openly for a number of years because it “upset your step father” and didn’t “fit” with this new family life.
I am sorry you didn’t have the support that you now provide to others. Your commitment to other grieving families in your community has been beneficial to those bereaved. It saddens me that you kept your grief isolated from others all that time, but you survived. Eventually, you did learn how to catch up mourning. The universe put loving people in your life, and they were able to give you what it is said you give to others - a compassionate listening ear and simple care and concern. These life angels never judged or made attempts to stop your grief process; therefore, you were able to heal. Yes, we know the emotional pain has subsided, but grief bursts do occur on occasion.
Although I know you still wonder how life could be different for you if your dad had lived, you understand this to be a part of your grief. With all the pain and lack of resources at that time, you did find your own support. Finding that helped mold you into who you are both personally and professionally. Had you not experienced any of this, I don’t think you would be what you are today, a Grief Therapist, serving other bereaved children, teens and families in both individual and group settings. I know you enjoy your life, continue doing what you love.
All my love,
The NAGC sent out a call for letters from those who experienced childhood breavement. The letters were to hopefully show today’s grieving children and teens that there is a brighter future ahead..
The following letter came to us from the staff at The Dougy Center.
This letter is a compilation from the staff at The Dougy Center to their younger grieving selves…
We hate that this happened to you. Nothing will ever make it okay that it happened - and - you will be okay. Even when it feels like everything is wrong and messed up and ruined, you’re still okay. Are people telling you how to feel? It happens. Some people will worry that you don’t show enough emotion, others will worry that you show too much, but you know you are just you… the you who is figuring it out. The you who is making it through another day. The you with all the feelings and thoughts that come with grief. Just be you - even if you don’t know exactly who you are some days. When you’re overrun with other people’s opinions, try to remember everyone grieves differently. There’s a good chance you might find their way of grieving to be frustrating, maddening, or concerning, but be patient with yourself and others. Try not to compare yourself to your siblings or the adults around you because each person grieves in the way that is right for them.
Here’s the secret about grief no one tells you: You can be strong & okay and still have big feelings that seem overwhelming. Having big feelings doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or you’re doing grief wrong. You are totally normal if you feel sad, happy, guilty, tired, angry, relieved, anxious, confused, short-tempered… and just about any other feeling under the sun (or none of those feelings). There’s no right way to grieve, and no one way that grief should or does feel.
So, if it’s okay and normal to feel like a confused mess, what can you do to help when that mess feels like too much? Grief can be very lonely but try to remember you aren’t alone. It may feel that way sometimes… or a lot of the time… but there are more people supporting you than you will ever realize. There will likely be times when your feelings tumble over each other like a pile of unruly puppies - when that happens, take a moment (or 10) to hang out with them. Find a person or place that allows you say hello to and express those feelings. Seek out people who feel safe and accepting. If they start a sentence with “Don’t feel that way” or “At least you’re still...” or “You’re overreacting,” look for someone else to talk to!
What else can you do? Ask people about your person who died, they have stories that will help you know them even better than you already do. Some of those stories will make you laugh, some will make you cry, and some might make you mad that you didn’t get to do those things with the person. When you have time and if it feels okay, imagine what you would be doing and talking about with your person if you did get to do those things.
Two last suggestions - take them or leave them because unsolicited advice can feel less than helpful:
- Be good to your body - sleep when you can, eat things that are nutritious, drink water, and move around. Bonus if you find some way of moving that helps you focus and gives you a break from the heartbreak. Remember how much you love to shoot hoops?
- What still makes you laugh and feel excited? Do more of that!
Okay younger self, we need to sign off, but we are here, thinking of you, and sending love and support through the airwaves. You’ve got this. We know your heart, it is strong and kind. Don’t forget to save some of that kindness for yourself.
Your older, but not that old, self,