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Lately I’ve been feeling a shift in the atmosphere, the energy all around us is different. The sadness on the inside is seeping through, and the masks that folks have been wearing for so long are coming off, the agony is being revealed.

This past week during a road trip to Six Flags, Great Adventure, I sat in traffic, handed snacks to the children and told them to lower their voices. I looked at my phone and saw a text, “This Chris Lighty story is so sad.” It took a second for it to process, and even though I had a feeling of what those words might mean, I just couldn’t believe it. I had to pull over. Without hesitance, I went to America’s number one source for immediate information, Twitter. There it was all over my timeline, “R.I.P Chris Lighty.” I got back on the highway, nauseous.

I prayed for Chris’s soul and his family, especially his children. I glanced at my son Kasseem and thought of “J,” Chris’s youngest son. Kasseem and J spent a good amount of time together. They’ve had sleepovers, play dates and have traveled together. My heart cried for J that day and I wanted to make sure that somewhere in his future world he would know that he would be OK and not alone in this. That’s when I decided to write him this letter.

Dear J,

By the time you are old enough to read this letter you might have asked a thousand questions or maybe even figured a few things out on your own. My intentions here are not to write about what happened to your father, but instead to help you to understand what might possibly be happening to you.

It’s important that you know your dad adored you. I can still see him smiling at you as you ran towards him, leaping into his arms and I remember the way your eyes lit up when he entered the room. Baby boy, be brave. And being brave means letting the tears flow and being able to ask for help. There might be an empty space that will take time to fill. Please never be afraid to talk about it; it is important that you do.

Your father has left you a village of strong men and women – and you must know that they will always be there for you and your brother and sisters. On the days when you feel sad and confused, don’t be afraid to draw a picture or listen to your favorite song. Call a friend or one of your beautiful siblings, you will need each other to grow through this. Never hesitate to communicate what you feel. I guess what I’m trying to say J is; express your feelings in a positive way. Never bottle them up.

The times you and Kasseem have spent together were priceless – Kasseem still keeps a picture of you on his bedroom wall. I’m honored that I got to see you at your purest, so honest about your thoughts and emotions, so kind and caring and smart, you were an incredible four-year-old! What concerns me is that I don’t want you to become like some of us adults who feel the need to hide and stifle our deepest fears because we don’t want to be considered weak.

Grown ups have a way at hiding their pain and not talking about it, not expressing it in a positive way and ultimately it hurts and destroys us, individually and as a community. I want you to know that this can be avoided. There are things that have happened to me as a child and it took me years to realize that my prayers, the grace of God and talking to the right therapist helped me begin to heal.

You are always in my prayers.

Love Always,

Mashonda and Kasseem

Be sure to follow Mashonda onTwitter @MashondaLoyal and check out her personal website here. Get tips on helping your family deal with bad news in this exclusive post by Terrie Williams.