This month, Gurls Talk - the community-led non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the mental health and wellbeing of adolescent girls and young women - launched a campaign inviting community members to write a letter to their pre-pandemic self.
The campaign is a way to process what we've endured, how we’ve changed through adversity - and who we've become. Here, Daniella Raveh, Executive Director of Gurls Talk shares her letter to her pre-pandemic self…
I’m writing this letter to send you a big hug and some love from the future. I wish I could do more for you; I wish I could protect you from the storm that’s about to rage and throw your life into disarray. I wish I could shield you from the pain and darkness that will soon plague your days. I wish I could tell you everything will soon be okay. What I can tell you is this: the next couple of years will put you through the wringer, but you will come out the other side with more grit, resilience and capacity for joy than you ever knew you had.
You’ve never liked feeling out of control and now, a new disease is spreading through the globe and so many aspects of your life are uncertain. Your new pregnancy excitement is quickly overtaken by fear and anxiety, but I promise you will get the best care and will give birth to a healthy, happy, baby girl. While you’ll be physically isolated for much of your pregnancy, you won’t be alone. Your community will accompany you on this wild adventure with support, compassion and love. And when your beautiful baby enters this ailing world, you’ll discover a love you didn’t know existed. Her giggle will light up your world and guide you through the darkest times.
Your community will accompany you on this wild adventure with support, compassion and love.
As you watch baby Elodie evolve into a person - getting her first tooth (farewell breastfeeding!), learning her first word (bye!) and developing her mischievous personality – you will also be forced to witness your father deteriorate and slowly become less of one. And when you stand in that hospital room with his hand in yours, feeling his body become cold as he leaves this world to his final rest, you will experience new depths of sadness that will bring your world to a halt.
For the next few months you will feel like an alien, floating between the worlds of life and death. But even though you’ll feel lost on some other planet where no one can see you, people will surprise you and find you even in that twilight zone. You will connect through shared experiences of loss, through memories of your father, through stories and music and art. You will sit with your pain, which at times will consume you, but other times will abate at the gentle touch of a friend.
You will wonder if you will ever find joy again and today I’m here to let you know you will. Grief is a journey, there are no easy fixes, no bandage big enough to cover the gaping hole in your heart. But that hole will fill again.
You will replenish. You will begin healing. Your memories of the hospital will start fading and will be replaced by all the moments of laughter you shared with him. All his incredible nicknames, his fantastic stories, which you know he probably just invented to make you smile. You will think of the endless ways he supported you, how proud you made him, how he fought to save your life after your injury all those years ago. You’ll find solace in the time he was able to spend with Elodie and the happiness she brought him. And even in the ability to be there with him in his final days, despite how intense they were. You’ll feel proud to have been his daughter and privileged to live the life he made possible for you.
And when you look at your baby, you’ll rediscover a whole new beautiful world through her eyes. You will see all its wonder, the beauty in every leaf blowing that makes her eyes shine bright and every melody that makes her jump with joy. You will honor all that you’ve inherited from your father and make sure to pass on all the stories, nicknames and memories to your beautiful child.
This won’t be an easy ride. But you are far more resilient than you think. You have been through turmoil and grief before and have come out the other side with clarity, meaning and a strong sense of self. Though it might not always feel that way, know that you are so much more than your grief. Don’t let it define your identity. Trust that you’re able to weather the storm that’s coming your way because you are. Lean on your community – they will show up for you in ways you can’t yet imagine and put you on the path to heal. And be kind to yourself, as they are to you.
p.s. get the epidural IMMEDIATELY
ABOUT GURLS TALK
Gurls Talk is a community-led non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the mental health and wellbeing of adolescent girls and young women. Following Adwoa Aboah’s personal experience with mental health, Gurls Talk was formed with the goal of creating safe spaces – both on and offline – where gurls can access mental health resources, share their experiences and support each other so they never feel alone or have to reach a breaking point. To help support their work donate here.
WANT TO WRITE YOUR OWN LETTER?
CHOOSE A DATE Identify a specific day before the pandemic (for example the first day of quarantine or the last 'normal' event) and write a letter to be received on that day.
ADDRESS THE LETTER TO YOURSELF and write it as you would a real letter. It can help to physically write the letter.
USE THESE PROMPTS
Honour the challenge: I want you to know the first three months will be… Days will begin to feel… You will lose… The hardest part will be…
Reflect on how you've changed: You will learn to appreciate… Moments of peace will be found through…
Celebrate your resilience: Care for you now looks like... Even though bad days will continue, you must remember... With time, you will recognise that quarantine brought meaning to...
WRITE / RECORD Once you have written your letter, record a short video (30-60seconds) reading it out loud or post a caption with the written letter
SHARE Spread the word with friends and family to encourage them to sit down and write a letter to their pre pandemic self