By EMILY SCHENDEL
Fifteen years ago, Erin Kelly of Viola endured perhaps the worst tragedy of her life, when she learned that her young daughter Natylee Rianne Geary (NGR) had died in a car crash. Since that horrible day, Erin has started writing, journaling and making voice recordings of the memories, thoughts and feelings of her daughter, whom she often affectionately calls Nat. After many years of creating these compilations, Erin released her book, NRG: The Mourning After.
“It took about 13 years of preparation,” Erin says of creating her book. “I would walk away from that a bit, because it would suck me in and I would have to walk away. Then I would sit back down and start writing snippets and making voice recording journal entries.
“I eventually worked with a friend to help put it all together in a book,” Erin recalls. “When people read it, they tell me it’s like my voice is talking, and that makes me so happy because I want it to be more of a conversation about what happened, my life, and Natylee and how much she loved her father, and the grief that goes with it.
Throughout the book, Erin speaks candidly about her time right after her daughter’s death. She writes down trigger points for her. She points out that she stopped at a roadside attraction the week after her daughter’s funeral and saw “purses” of trinkets and toys, which was one of the Nat’s favorites for nearly losing a lock of her daughter’s hair as another trigger. Also evoking the stories and traditions of his life, such as the tradition of giving Nat’s father a bathing suit on Father’s Day, or when Nat cut his hair.
Erin also addresses how she tried to come to terms with her daughter’s death, with blunt honesty.
“I felt like shit,” Erin writes of the first few days after her daughter’s death. “A lot of days I was depressed. I was on Valium and I was drinking. It was like that.
“The book is also really a reflection of my life,” Erin points out. “I had a hard time explaining some truths. I am a truth-seeking person, but it was difficult to choose the truths about my family. However, choosing the stories about Nat was so easy. In the end, it helped me realize how much of an impact this had on our little community, and people are going to judge either way, but it’s a way for me to talk about what really happened and all my emotions and truths around it. I told Jason, Nastylee’s father, that I would never put anything in there that would make us feel worse. People can take the story for what it is, but Nat loved his father more than anything else.
The stories in the book are woven together and give you the easy feeling of sitting down and having a cup of coffee with Erin and listening to her tell you her life story. From touching on Erin and Jason’s developing relationship, to reminiscing about Nat’s favorite baby shower gifts and Chippy sandwiches, the 130 pages contain plenty of memories, happiness and sadness; while capturing Erin’s personality, feelings and voice.
The accident that claimed Natylee’s life happened on Father’s Day weekend, 2007. Erin recalls in her book, feeling restless and “just not great” the day before the accident . Natylee had gone with her father, Jason, to go camping in Castle Rock for the holiday weekend. While Erin stayed home with her boyfriend and father of her second daughter, Gwenny. Although Nat and her father had spent time camping together and things weren’t out of the ordinary, Erin couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.
“The most awful part for me is that at the time Jason had a Tracfone and you had to load minutes on it, and I was able to talk to Nat for a short time before he ran out of minutes that Saturday and that was the last time I got to talk to him,” Erin recalled. “I never let him run out of minutes again, probably for the first five years of the accident. I would just fill his cards so I could send him a message,” Erin continued in her book.
When she didn’t hear from Jason, she was a little concerned, but also knew he had run out of minutes and assumed he and Nat had been home late that she would hear from them in the morning.
After 11 p.m. that Sunday, Erin heard a knock on the door of her then-boyfriend’s house and they had both thought it was pretty much the antics of the unruly friend of the Erin’s boyfriend who was spending the night.
“Even when we looked outside and saw the cop lights, I never would have thought it was for ME,” Erin writes. Eventually she heard her brother-in-law outside and finally decided to open the door. That’s when the news of what happened hit Erin like a freight train.
“They told me right away there was an accident and my daughter didn’t survive,” Erin recalled, noting that she just collapsed and “came back” a shortly later and that she was instructed to travel to Mauston to view her daughter’s lifeless body. .
From there, her life became a sorting haze in life after Natylee.
“I just got confused,” she said. “I kept trying different coping mechanisms, but eventually realized that I was looking to heal a broken heart and there was no medicine for it. Heartbreak like this makes you feel feeling really invalidated as a person. And that (creating the book) helped me move forward. I was able to come from the mother of the deceased child, to Erin, to a person, a sister, a daughter, a friend and a mother of two daughters.
In addition to the publication of this book, in the years following Natylee’s death, a bench was set up outside her kindergarten classroom at Kickapoo Schools in her honor and Erin was able to start a scholarship fund. studies that lasted 12 years and ended two years ago in what would have been the year Nastylee graduated.
“I tried hard to choose kids for the scholarship who reminded me of Nastylee’s personality,” Erin notes.
Still, Erin and her daughter Gwenny along with Jason celebrate Nastylee’s birthday every year with a cake, read books at her grave, sing happy birthday, and indulge in Natylee’s favorite treats.
“I always make a big deal out of her birthday, I’ve found focusing on the good makes a difference because if I dwell on the bad I get caught,” Erin explained.
Growing up as Natylee’s sister Gwenny, Erin found it to be a bittersweet experience.
“After Gwenny turned five, I didn’t have so much to compare Nat to,” Erin said. “But I would look closer and see that Gwenny has my chin and pulls it out the same way when she’s angry as Nat does, and as I do, and I realize it’s Nat, and it’s me. , and it’s so heartwarming.”
After finishing the book, Erin shared that she felt both proud and a weight lifted from her shoulders, knowing Natylee’s memory will always be there.
“I did this to keep his memory forever,” Erin explains through tears. “That way everyone will get to know about my eye-catching Nat and how much she loved her dad.”
Erin encourages people who are grieving to take the time to talk about it.
“Even if it’s hard at first to talk to someone about it, talk to a recorder. If you bottle it all up, it’s going to ferment inside you and eat away at you and you can’t try to move on. in this way.
Erin will be sharing her book and talking about heartbreak and Natylee on Thursday, August 4 at Driftless Books in Viroqua. His book ‘NRG: The Mourning After’ is available digitally on Kindle, E-Reader, Barnes and Noble and wherever online books are available. Additionally, signed books are available (will be available at the Driftless Books event) by contacting Erin at [email protected] Erin also hopes to share her book and do discussions with grief groups in the future.