The NACG sent out a call for letters from those who experienced childhood bereavement. 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,