Jeanette Knutti has fond memories of her late husband, Josh.
He was nice, she said. Caring and always supportive, she added. Early on, after the two first met, she was fired from her job and started a consulting career.
Josh, she said, was supportive every step of the way.
“He was always this huge supporter, this cheerleader. He was always talking to me and I think that’s what led to a lot of my success today. He was your hype man, not just for me but for everyone. He was that person who wanted that others felt good,” she said.
He was the kind of man who would open her car door for her every day, Knutti said with a laugh. “Who still does that?”
He had his own podcast called ‘Overcoming You’ where he interviewed guests and talked about their struggles and how they overcame them. She said he understood the importance of mental health and was doing what he could to make a difference in people’s lives.
Her voice calmed as she reflected on the inner turmoil her husband had experienced.
“He was just this beautiful soul and, alas; he struggled with self-love and society — what it meant to be successful,” she said. “But before those things started, he was just himself and the carefree, loving person.”
Josh Knutti, 39, died by suicide in April 2021.
As she worked through her grief over the unimaginable loss of her husband, Jeanette Knutti began to decide her next steps.
Knutti, a resident of Costa Mesa, said she knew she wanted to continue her husband’s work, but at first she couldn’t imagine the right role for herself.
“When I thought about how I could help guys like my husband, it was too hard for me to go there. So I started thinking about some of the discussions we had shared and conversations he had with our friends and our friends’ children. He said some kids don’t develop self-love when they’re kids,” Knutti said.
‘They get confirmation from their parents, teachers. They never dwell on what they like about themselves.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diagnoses of depression and anxiety have increased in children over the years. Two decades ago, 5.4% of children aged 6 to 17 were diagnosed with anxiety or depression. By 2012, that figure had grown to 8.4%.
It is estimated that in the years 2016-2019, about 4.4% of American children ages 3 to 17 – about 2.7 million children – were diagnosed with depression.
Knutti said she remembers Josh asking kids what they liked about themselves. Some wouldn’t really understand the question. They would say things like they liked their shirt, so Josh would coach them to be more introspective. Did they know they were smart? Did they know they were nice?
“I was stunned at how important this was” [to him]† He had identified his own problems with self-love and self-esteem. I thought, ‘How can I help? What should I do?’” Knutti said.
Then it hit her.
If she could make a children’s book inspired by Josh’s understanding of the need for people to value themselves, maybe it could plant a seed of self-love.
She started writing the book – titled “Be Kind to Yourself” – last June and decided to self-publish it through BookBaby. She joked that the work she put into it was like “building a plane as it comes down.”
The book, which had received nearly $13,000 through a Kickstarter campaign on Thursday, depicts Josh as a top-notch teacher who learns from a magical fairy what it means to “be kind to yourself” and then learn what that looks like to his students. Things the fictional children in her book say are words Knutti has heard spoken by children she knows personally.
She said she worked with a retired teacher to develop a lesson plan for teachers who purchase the book. All proceeds from the sale of “Be Kind to Yourself” will either go towards the production of more books for use in the community or to a non-profit organization.
Writing the book, she said, was cathartic.
“With the Kickstarter campaign, I faced a new set of challenges. It started to do well. People reacted to it. And then I realized at a certain point: the book is not going to bring [Josh] back,” she said. “I had, again, to go within myself and work through that and remember, even though the book will not replace it… the impact the book could potentially have, the legacy it leaves with this message would be important. .
“He was the love of my life.”
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