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An Open Letter to the Families and Friends of the Victims of Sandy Hook

Updated on December 17, 2012

As I approach my second Christmas since my son’s death, I want you to know that whatever you feel, everything you feel, is the right thing. I want to tell you to not be afraid to say how you really feel. The people in your life who truly matter and love you won’t mind; and the ones that do mind, well, they simply don’t matter.

I am not going to say,”I know how you feel,” because I don’t. I know how I feel as a grieving mother. I know how I feel to be the parent of a son who takes his own life. I don’t know how it feels to have a child taken from you because of a mentally ill young man. I do, however, empathize with you. My heart does break for you. I do know the long journey of grief you are headed on.


No Promises

I really want to tell you that with time you will get over this, but that would be a lie. The hard, cold truth of the matter is that you never will. This tragedy, this grief will forever be the 850 lb gorilla that is your constant companion. It will affect your sleep. It will impact you health. It will hinder your job performance. It will damage your relationship with your living children. It will change your marriage. It will change you. Please, don’t think me cold or unkind. I tell you this because I know it helped me when an acquaintance who also lost his son to suicide a year before me told me the hard, cold truth. You see it gave me permission to NOT be okay. It gave me permission to stop trying to make things normal again. It gave me permission to feel what I needed to feel.

I can tell you that as time marches on the severity and the acuteness of your grief will ebb, a little. Eventually, you will be able to think about and remember your child without crying every single time. I remember the first time I realized I had not thought about my son in twenty minutes. I actually felt guilty. I felt guilty because grief had not completely consumed me for twenty minutes.

Learning a new normal

Losing your child also means having to learn a new normal. Normal for me now means that some days will be great. Some days I will laugh with friends. Some days I will enjoy shopping with my daughter. Some days I will smile and share stories about my son (without crying) with my husband.

The new normal also means seeing a field of red poppies will send a wave of grief over me as strong and as terrifying as the early days. The new normal means finding the same beloved stuff toy he had as a child in Goodwill and having to buy it then sleeping with it for a week. The new normal means some minor thing (the smell of Old Spice Swagger or a pint of pistachio ice cream) will bring tears to your eyes.

The new normal will mean feeling jealous and petty when your friends celebrate milestones you will never get to enjoy – first dates, high school graduation, weddings, and grandchildren. You will feel embarrassed and ashamed. You will also want to scream at people, friends and strangers alike, when you over hear snippets of conversations. “I am so mad at Johnny he made a D in algebra!” “I can’t believe Suzy is graduating. I’ve been crying all day!” I always want to yell at them. “So he got a D! He’s still here with you, isn’t he? He can always do better next time, right? I’ll gladly trade a D in Algebra for the 8-lb box of ashes on my mantel.” “What’s wrong with you? You should be thrilled she’s graduating! How wonderful for both of you. You have reached an important milestone!”

You will get through this

I want you to know that you are stronger and braver than you think you are. I want you to know that you will get through this in your own time and in your own way. There is no right way to feel or specified length of time it will take until you feel, well not better, but not sad and mourning all the time. Slowly but surely, you will get back to the things you love (and the people you love). You will find ways, ways that are appropriate to you, to remember and honor your child. Hold tight to the people around you. Reach out to your fellow grieving parents of Newtown. Knowing you are not alone and someone does understand is helpful.

Above all, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to cry. Don’t be afraid to scream. Don’t be afraid to feel. Don’t be afraid to get help if you need it. Finally, don’t be afraid to live. Your child lives on through you.

“Where there is love, there is life.” -- Mahatma Gandhi.


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