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 Jill Kottmeier.
Dear 17-year-old me,
I know that sometimes it feels like life is spinning out of control. You have had to say goodbye to 2 of your friends by senior year, and then your world was rocked by the death of Kaleb, one of your best friends baby.
I know you feel lost, you are not religious and you are seeking answers and support from something bigger than yourself.
You feel so alone, like no one in the world understands your grief. You remember special days and events, and your parents don’t talk to you about you. You don’t know what is normal and what is not.
It is ok to feel what you are feeling. It is grief. It will be part of you forever. It changes and it flows, sometimes it is too intense to bear and other times it calms down. But it is a part of you now. You are forever changed by the experience.
People say stupid things to you about your grief, even those who love you. Try not to take your dad’s comments to heart about the photos of Kaleb and decorating his grave. It is his ignorance of the situation, it is not that he doesn’t love you. He doesn’t understand the death of a baby. Really no body does. Stick with Becki, she will be a lifelong friend and teacher.
One amazing thing is going to come out of all the grief you experienced as a teen. Your passion for helping others through grief, especially baby loss, will become a career. You will go on to become a labor and delivery nurse and help countless families going through the hardest times in their lives. Kaleb is one of your greatest teachers and inspirations in your life. You will continue to honor him and Becki through your work and land your dream job, Perinatal Palliative Care Coordinator.
You don’t fully understand this right now, but the grief you are experiencing in high school is preparing you for things that lie ahead that might seem unimaginable. You will have to say goodbye to more friends, and your life will be forever changed after you bury your cousin, your father, and your brother. You have more resilience inside you than you could ever imagine. You will need to rely on that to get you through. The death of your brother will come just 6 months after your divorce. I promise you, you will get through it and you will find happiness again.
Lean on those who love you the most and accept help. All of your loss makes you who you are. It gives you new perspective to help other people and be there for them. Just remember your grief can bubble to the surface at any moment. Even when you think you have made it out to the other side, it is there. Acknowledge your grief, let it sit with you, cry, scream, feel it throughout every part of your body, become friends with it…that is what leads to healing.
Your 41-year-old self