'My Daughter Was Murdered at Parkland Three Years Ago. The Pain Never Ends'

jaimeguttenberg
Jaime Guttenberg (2003-2018). Courtesy

Today it's been three years since my daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland shooting, at her high school.

Three years.

It sounds like a long time, yet it feels like it was yesterday.

In fact, I hear from people who don't understand why I can't just "get over it" by now and "move on". It doesn't work that way. I continue to be traumatized by the very thought of what happened to my innocent daughter who was sitting in class when chaos erupted. The pain is still just as raw now as it was at the beginning, but with addition of reality, now that shock has worn off.

There is a harsh reality of suffering a loss of a loved one in such a violent way. You don't sleep and often have flashbacks of every detail of that day, as well as the weeks, months and years following. Your brain suffered a trauma and may never fully recover. It goes into overdrive to protect you, but it can't fully do that. Things still slip through. You don't want to think about what happened, but at the same time you want to never forget who and what you lost, so you think about it often.

Brain fog affects your ability to think clearly, and you often find yourself searching for names and words and losing your train of thought. You are constantly exhausted, but somehow muster up enough energy to fight for justice and keep your loved one's name alive. You are trying to hold yourself together to be strong for the rest of your family and friends, as well as strangers who realize you are on the verge of breaking down in tears.

You are encouraged to keep yourself busy so that you have something to get you up for in the morning, but in turn you feel frustrated that you need to busy yourself just to get yourself through another day. You live with an empty space on the couch, dinner table, and in your car. An empty bedroom haunts you. Your family is incomplete and will never be full again. You spend holidays at the cemetery while others enjoy family gatherings. You don't celebrate, you reminisce about what used to be.

You don't have joy, but instead you try to find moments of just being okay. Your relationships with family and friends are not the same. It hurts them to talk about their families with you. The things you had in common have become differences, in a flash. You don't want to burden them with your new life, so you keep much of it to yourself. It is bad enough that you have to feel this way, but they are entitled to move forward with a "normal" life. You gain new friends in those who are the only ones who can really understand you, those who have been through the same horrific tragedy as you have. You do your best to support one another and team up because there is more power in numbers.

Sadly, not much has changed in three years. As I hear of continued threats at schools, public buildings and other places, my mind races and I pray nobody actually loses their life leaving behind family members like myself. As I hear loud, unexpected sounds I startle and sometimes cry with the reminder of what happened. I have gone from living for the future to living one day at a time, because just getting through one day is challenging enough, and you don't know if there will be a future. I live with the sadness in people's eyes when they talk to me, some saying things to appease themselves, others attempting to appease you, and yet others saying nothing at all because they know there is nothing they can say that will help. I try to wait patiently for justice, but it is impossible, as I watch hearings about the murder case and see the trial getting continually delayed.

We will always be "those people". The ones who tragically lost a child and whose loss triggered a national response from kids, teens and adults from all around the country who were fed up. Jaime's face will be one of the faces that people remember, but for all of the wrong reasons.

Those with crazy conspiracy theories claiming that nothing happened to my daughter should trade bodies with me for a moment so they can live with the hole that I have in my heart. Heartless lawmakers who move on immediately from each tragic incident add salt to the wounds. I imagine what my life would be like if safer gun laws had been in place at the time of the shooting. The police were called to the killer's house dozens of times, but without Red Flag Laws, they couldn't remove the guns from his home.

One of those guns, a weapon of war, was used to hunt down my daughter and sixteen others. Three of them were heroic teachers, and the other fourteen were amazing teens. Better background checks are also needed, to keep guns out of the hands of those deemed dangerous and unstable.

There is nothing to argue about here. Our government needs to pass these important laws without hesitation. It's what the majority of the citizens want. It should be what everyone wants.

Approximately 40,000 people per year lose their life to gun violence, but friends, family and entire communities become affected. This amounts to millions of people per year who are affected by gun violence. Things must change. This deadly issue needs attention, not in the future, but right now.

At least I can breathe a breath of air knowing Joe Biden is our president and Kamala Harris is our Vice President. I see a glimmer of light now. I know there is a way to get this done. For now, I watch her friends move forward as they graduate this year and head off to college, while my beautiful girl remains forever 14. I will continue to honor Jaime so that the world can remember what they have lost, because they have lost so many good ones—including mine.

Jennifer Guttenberg is the mother of Jaime Guttenberg and co-founder of Orange Ribbons for Jaime.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.