“Dear Me” to 4-year-old Jacob Pippin

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’s author is Jacob Pippin.

Dear 4-year-old Me,

It’s three days after Christmas and your mommy just took her final breath. Cancer just took her life. You don’t understand why, most 4-year-olds wouldn’t. You don’t know really understand what all the needles were for, or the wig. You don’t know what leukemia is or chemotherapy. All you know is what they tell you, that she‘s gone and she isn’t coming back.

You’ll have to live with Grandma and Grandpa now, but know that they will love you like their own son, despite the difficulties over the years. Your mom was their only daughter, she was 26. You’ll stand outside a lot and stare at the stars, you don’t really know why but it always made you feel better, it makes the pain seem smaller. Sometimes you wish you were one of those small lights in the distance, far away and above it all. You run around the house sometimes, screaming. The noise helps the world seem silent.

One day you will be 5, then 6, and you will start school. School is routine and you learn to love routines. It keeps your mind busy. You will still feel alone a lot, like there is a veil between you and the world. You see moms and dads all around you and you’ll wonder why you are so different. You’ll visit a tall man in a fancy office, he will watch as you play on the playground and he will write in his journal. He’ll decide you need medicine, you don’t why. You will have to stop by the school nurse and she gives it to you while your class goes to lunch, you won’t like that. You already feel different.

You’ll have to answer questions, questions you will become numb to. “Why do you call her Grandma?” “Where’s your mom?” “Where’s your dad?” You become good at answering them, the words become routine and you like routine. You’ll have to answer other questions too, like “Jacob, what you want to be when you grow up?” Grow up? Be? What do I want to be? You don’t know how to answer it. For you, there wasn’t “when you grow up” there was only tomorrow. Will I be ok, tomorrow?

Middle school will come and go, you will make friends and learn to be “normal,” a survivable normal at least. It will feel like you’ve gone years without remembering her, it makes you feel bad, it makes you feel like you’re losing her again. Sometimes you pull out her picture, you sit and look at it, you close your eyes and pray for a memory. You will go to high school too. You’ll play sports, sports with routine, you still love routine. You find that as long as your busy you don’t have to think, to really think. One day you will look around and see friends making college plans, you don’t. You’ll feel angry about that. Your heart will feel like a broken compass, no direction seems right. You will try college but it doesn’t work out, at least for now.

Life starts to feel like a slow drip. But one day you will meet a beautiful woman and who will ask her to be your wife (she will “yes” so don’t be too nervous). The more time you spend with her the more you worry that she will she how damaged your heart is. She knows that it is but she will love you anyway. One day you will become a Daddy and you will LOVE being a Daddy.

One day, many years from now, you will look back at your life and ponder all the hard questions. One day you will realize that throughout all the years of pain and tears that you were never alone, even though it felt like it most times. One day, child, you will realize that grief is the other side of love, the price we all pay for loving so deeply.


Future You