Dear Sandy Hook Parents:
How do I begin a letter to you? How do I begin typing a letter through my tears and anguish for you? What can I possibly say to you to take your pain away, slap the shock down, rip the anger out?
As you woke up today without your precious children, or spent the night awake in anguish, I know this is what you are thinking. The hole in your hearts is raw, a fresh wound that you know will never heal.
A beast took your child away from you without your permission, without your consent, without your knowledge. You will never be the same again.
Although my situation is different, I too have lost a kindergartner to a beast. The cancer beast came and took my child. It crept up on him slowly, and then after one day, one frightful seizure and ambulance ride later, nothing was ever the same. Although my child lived for thirteen more months, my child as I knew him was gone forever after that one day.
I want to tell you, even though you cannot see it now, that you will be okay. Even though a piece of your heart and soul has been ripped from your body, you will be okay.
It seems impossible to think that will you ever laugh again or dance or speak in a silly voice or be goofy.
But you will. You will catch yourself doing it one day, and it will surprise you. It will even make you feel guilty.
You will feel guilty for laughing one day.
But I promise you, the day will come when you will laugh again.
Because right now, something amazing is happening - real life angels are lifting you up in prayer. People you have never met, will never meet, have yet to meet, are lifting you up. They are crying for you and with you, and they are creating the footprints in the sand. They are carrying you through this terrible, unimaginable thing that has happened in your lives.
People you don't even know will send you letters with prayers, letters with strong words, letters of faith and healing. They will call you strong and graceful and amazing. They will marvel at your strength and hold you up as an example of resiliency.
But you will not believe them, not now.
But as time marches on, as unfortunately it will, you will slowly begin to believe them. You will slowly realize that you will not let this tragedy break you. You realize that this WILL NOT BREAK YOU. You will steel yourself against the idea that a beast with a gun has the right to rob you of all the moments of joy and happiness in your lives.
Because you will find joy and happiness again. You will be able to talk about and remember your child and the happiness he or she brought to your life. You will laugh as you remember the goofy things he did, or you will smile telling a story about one of her big accomplishments.
This day will come - I promise you.
Yes, you will forever be changed - of course. You will forever have a gaping, aching hole in your heart. You will have days where you will want to throw things, smash things, and curse God about the unfairness of it all. You will constantly be waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the next tragic thing to happen. You will look over your shoulder and hold your other children a little too tightly sometimes.
You will stand in a Build-A-Bear store three years from now and cry because you will see a new bear that is in your child's favorite color, and the cuteness of this bear will hurt you so much because you know that you would give anything to buy this bear if only your child were here.
Colors, games, foods - random things will make you sad.
But that's okay. Because you will know that you have loved and you will know that you can still love. It will make you realize that that beast did not steal your ability to love and feel love.
You will find yourself one day reaching out to someone who has lost a child. Even though it hurts to be asked, you give your advice, your words of comfort, support and condolence.
You will do this.
You will be okay.
You will find a way to help others because of this terrible thing that has happened to you.
Maybe you will make huge, sweeping change in gun laws or school security or mental health treatment.
Maybe you will silently and anonymously send letters to grieving families.
Maybe you will buy a bear at Build-A-Bear for another child in your child's honor.
Any way that you help is okay.
Just as you know - you must know - that any way that you grieve is okay.
It is okay to grieve in any way you want. It is your right. That can not be taken from you.
But please know this, these two things: Many people are holding you up in prayer. Right now. Oh, yes, some people will forget about you in a month's or year's time after crapiversaries are marked and the tragedy is remembered. But there will be people who will hold you in their hearts forever - I promise you that. I promise you will feel their love and support always.
The second thing I want you to remember is to not let that beast steal any more moments of joy and happiness from your lives. Those are yours. He already took away one of the most precious things in your life. He doesn't get everything else, too. Everything else is yours.
My heart and soul are with you today. They will be with you always.
I have the most beautiful picture in my mind. It is a picture of all the little children taken from us too soon - from cancer, from violence, from disease or hunger. They are running and playing and laughing. And they all have their own bear that reminds them of home. The angels are making sure they are having fun.
I don't know how to end this letter. I don't want to end it. I want it to end in a huge hug. So I will end it with my promise to pray for you, every day. And a promise to do good things in this world - this crazy, insane world - for your child and for mine.
Read here for 7 ways to keep your kids safe from gun violence.