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RUMFORD (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- It’s a sunny day off from school for one group of elementary school kids at Black Mountain in Rumford. They are so eager to ski that they are still getting their gloves, helmets and jackets on as they race to the lift.
Between the laughter and chatter they may call each other annoying at times, but this is one loyal group. When one in the pack needs help they all come to the rescue, especially when one of them gets stuck in the glades.
At one point however, one of these 5th graders really depended on that kind of support.
“He died from an overdose.”
Skye Mills lost her dad two years ago. Her mom tried everything to get her the help she needed.
“My mom set me up with a bunch of different counselors but, like a bunch of different counselors.”
Now 11 years-old, Skye was 9 at the time. She didn’t want to discuss her dad or what had happened.
“I didn’t really like it that much because, I don’t know, I’m kind of weird about just talking about things like that to a stranger I guess.”
She had so many questions and emotions bottled up inside, until one day, a class assignment changed everything.
“I don’t know about you but it’s not always easy knowing that your dad died of a drug overdose," Skye reads out loud. "Just kill me now, right? I thought. My dad loved me but I guess not.”
Once Skye started writing a letter to herself, she was able to break her silence.
“I remember when you used to sit in your bedroom all by yourself with the door locked. I always wondered what you did in there, but now I put the puzzle pieces together and I know now.”
It was a letter that she knew her father would never read.
“I have a necklace with your thumbprint on it I hope you know that, I hope know that no one can explain how much I miss you.”
Skye is not alone.
“Over the last four years the number of calls that we’ve taken for overdose loss has quadrupled,” says Rebecca Diggins, the Assistant Program Director for Bereavement Services at the Center for Grieving Children in Sanford and Portland.
She says in the last year alone, 14 percent of the calls the center received were for families who lost a loved one to an overdose.
“We encourage families to be honest, to tell the truth, to let their kids be part of the process.”
When talking about loss with children, Diggins recommends using simple language, especially with young kids.
“Use the word overdose to explain to them that means that that person took too much medication that made their body stop working."
She says it's OK to even use the words: dead, death, or died.
“It helps kids to be able to understand and to process. If you use words like we lost this person or passed on, kids often times don’t know what that means. They might think if they’re lost, let’s go find them.”
“I hope I’m not the only one who feels this way,” reads Skye.
After writing a letter to herself, Skye started asking her mom all her questions and was ready for honest answers in return.
“I know whoever is reading this is probably like this girl is just talking about every negative and bad thing that’s happened to her and probably just wants to make people feel bad. Well I’m not."
Her teacher sent that letter to the local paper where it was printed anonymously. For the first time, Skye wants to put her name to her powerful words.
"If you want to hear how I feel and see things from my point of view, here it is.”
The point of view everyone in this group loves is from the view from the top of their favorite mountain, where Skye can enjoy being a kid in Maine surrounded by the unspoken support of one fiercely loyal group of friends.
Here's the letter Skye wrote:
So whats up??? How’s life going?
I’m good, I guess. Well I’m ok….. kinda. Never mind. It’s complicated. Ohh ya I’m you and you’re me so u know. Well at least I think u know….. do u know?
Now I’m realizing I’m talking to myself and that I can’t really get a real response. So just never mind. Ok I’ll just tell u. It’s just kinda hard moving into a new apartment.
Ya I know I know. Your opinion writing was all about how Jimmy was a butt head, but the truth is I kinda miss that little step-booger. I also kinda miss Jeff too. And my Mom’s always like “do u see how easy u have it.” And you know, she’s my Mom so I kinda have to say yes. And since I’m a kid you’re probably thinking “What did he do, steal your animal crackers?” Like it’s no big deal.
No like I said before, it’s a little more complicated.
IDK about u but it’s not always so easy knowing that your daddy died over a drug overdose. Just kill me now right. I thought my dad loved me but i guess not ….. but really dad was your life just so horrible that u just didn’t think about all your friends and family who loved u dearly? Every one misses u so much, u didn’t have to leave us all, but sense you apparently had so many stupid problems down here u did drugs and took your own life for no reason.
Whenever I talk about u to meme and mum they all say some stupid thing like “he’s safe now” or “he’s in a better place now.” What does that mean? What were u trying to hide from me?? Because some day some one is going to have to tell me what’s going on.
I remember when you used to sit in your bedroom all by yourself with the door locked. I always wondered what u did in there but I have now put the puzzle peaces together and I know now.
Mom always says you were just trying to protect me. But what were you really doing? I’m 10 years old. I shouldn’t even know what half of this stuff means…. but i do.
Dad it hurts me to just think about it. I will always love you and never forget about u, but u hurt me, mom, meme, papa, an many more.
I hope I’m not the only one who feels this.
Did you ever even think of nick ? That was the first time I’ve ever seen him cry. Just writing this is giving me the chills. The other day I was thinking about when we were at that college in bethel playing basket ball and i had to sit on your shoulders just to make it in. Me, u and nick had a lot of fun there.
Those are the memories i miss…… not the 3 min phone calls from u to me when u were at jail….
I have a neckless with your thumb print on it. I hope u know that no-one can explain how much they miss u.
I know that whoever is reading this is probably like “this girl is just taking out every thing negative & bad stuff that’s happened to her and probably just trying to make people feel bad.” Well I’m not.
If u want to hear how I feel and see things from my point of view, hear it is.
Thank u for taking the time to read this, whoever u are.