Guest Column: 7 Years, Dealing With Loss

Michel and Ellen Shane

On April 3, 2017, it will be seven years since our precious daughter Emily was murdered. In life, we deal with a lot of loss from the circle of life, losing parents, to close friends dying as we age. I thought I would share my journey as a way to help others understand what it means to deal with a loss of this magnitude. 

I will say this, that time is your friend; the pain you feel in the beginning, the heaviness, the sadness that everyone experiences from a loss does get lighter. 

The longing doesn’t go away, but it does diminish. My sadness now comes from what could have been, or the lost moments, or who she would have been as a young 20-something, but this is normal and will always be with you. 

Missing Emily at family events — her presence is always felt, but seeing her smiling face, hearing her infectious laugh? That is missed every day. But life does go on, and a worse thing would be to make this death the destruction of all the lives of our family and her friends; it was critical to me that this not occur. The worst part would have been her being forgotten or becoming, “Who was that young girl killed on PCH?”

Don’t get me wrong; I always say “I created three hearts (my three wonderful daughters), one was destroyed, so how can my heart be full again.” It can’t; it never will, but I have learned to live with this, not pleasant but a reality. I’m not sure that I will feel unbridled joy again, but happiness does exist.

The definition of time has become very relevant; time is fast moving, any parent will tell you one day in the madness of life your children are young and life is a whirlwind and then, poof, they are adults and are making their way. I have come to embrace time, never taking it for granted — that is a fallout of losing Emily. I appreciate all the moments now; yes, like everyone else, I take time for granted, but I try to be conscious of the moments with people and the time spent. You can earn more money, you can do a lot of things, but time lost is gone forever, never to be regained.

Am I sad? Yes. Am I sad every day like before? No, not even close. Some things have saved us: Our dogs, our friends, the fact that we were able to stay together as a family. My wife and I are closer than ever, and we don’t sweat the little things. 

Death brings a different perspective on life; what would have driven you to the edge before, becomes water just sliding off you. The loss of a child is nothing you get over; you learn to live with it.

What has helped us is making a difference in other kids’ lives; honestly, the impact of changing a middle schooler’s life has been such a rewarding factor through the foundation in her name, The Emily Shane Foundation. It keeps Emily’s memory alive. They learn about her, her struggles, her processing and learning issues and, through the university mentors we hire, they see what is possible in their lives. I say this a lot, but can you imagine being between the ages of 10-14 years old and not thinking that you have a future, that you aren’t smart? We modify this; we create children who end up loving to learn, have faith in themselves and feel they have a future. Add in for good measure the aspect of “Passing it Forward” and you have a recipe for success. A child who gives back because he has received a gift to succeed becomes a caring adult, a prominent member of the community. 

The impact is both ways; the mentor grows as well, they spend a school year with the child and a bond is established, and they both want to succeed. We have gotten letters from our mentors who say they thought they were doing this to help a student who is struggling, end up feeling that they are getting more out of this than the student.

This is a gift that we are thrilled to be giving; I never thought we would be on this road, I cared like we all care, but to do and create change, that is how Emily’s death impacted me.

Yes, I am sad. My heart aches. I miss her and would give the rest of my life for five minutes, though that would be unfair to my other children or my wife. 

Death changes you; the question is how and what you do with the loss. It has destroyed many and those who are left behind have trouble surviving. You have to decide which it will be for you and those around you. 

Seven years is a good year. Find your calling, make your mark in the name of your lost love, help create something new and, most of all, you can feel sad but don’t feel sorry for yourself. Life if full of suffering; as I have been known to say, “How do you know you are having a good time if you haven’t had any bad times?” Live, love, dance and, above all, smile.