“Dear Me” to 12 year old Brennan Wood

The NACG sent out a call for letters from those who experienced childhood bereavement. The letters were to be written to their younger self and hopefully show today’s grieving children and teens that there is a brighter future ahead.

The following letter came to us from Brennan Wood of The Dougy Center.


Dear 12-year-old-Brennan,

My heart hurts that this has happened to you. Not just your mom dying but all the chaos that is happening in the aftermath of this awful fact. I want you know how strong you are and, even though it might not feel like it in this moment, you will survive this. In fact, one day these exact events will inspire you to a career that helps other kids just like you. This career will somehow help you travel back in time to smooth out all the rough edges that you are feeling right now. It will feel like magic and comfort and hard work all rolled up into one.

There are a few things that I want you to know that might help you over the next 30 years.

I know that you feel like you are in the middle of an unrelenting storm, bobbing up and down in the ocean. Waves are crashing over you from all directions. Hold on. These waves will get easier to manage, I promise. The storm will lessen. You will learn to swim with the current. One day you will be walking on the shore with the waves calmly lapping at your ankles. You will always remember what it felt like to be gasping for breath in the storm – it will never go away completely – but it will get so much easier. I promise.

Hold onto the memories. There will be people who say, “you have to get over it” or that “you need to move on.” Don’t listen to them. Talk to the people who ask you about your mom – who aren’t afraid to use her name. Talk to the people who loved your mom and listen to their stories. Hold onto the memories of the Sears photo session of your Cabbage Patch Kid, the Halloween costumes, playing in mud puddles during a warm rain. Your mother taught you the art of making everyday a celebration – and you will try like hell to pass this down to your own kids – hold onto that during the hard times.

When you feel your heart breaking today, remember to let it break open. To let the beauty, joy and love that you have in your heart spill out and engulf you in light. Your life has had too much heartbreak, don’t deny this but instead recognize that it is this very fact that has added to the breadth and depth of who you are as a person. Part of your beauty will come from the hard times that you have experienced. Just for a moment each day, be grateful for that fact and try as often as possible to live in your life and not in your story.

Always hold as much compassion for yourself as you hold for others. (At least try. This one might take some time.)

I love you and I am so proud of you,