In just a few weeks, Connecticut will reflect on the sixth anniversary of the darkest day in state history, the tragedy at Sandy Hook, a day where 26 families were forever changed.
NBC Connecticut’s Keisha Grant sat down with Newtown mother Nelba Marquez-Greene for a valuable lesson in grief.
"I can't imagine my love for Ana growing any less today, tomorrow than it was on December 13, 2012,” Marquez-Greene said.
That was the last day that she saw her daughter alive.
"People sometimes feel like this pain will be less as time goes on, but that's a misconception of grief."
It’s been too long since I’ve heard my favorite duet. The grief expires the oxygen in my lungs, the iron in blood, the beating of my heart. But not the love in it though. It is threatened but will not stop. It is SO f’ing quiet uptown... #sundaymorning pic.twitter.com/TUD5HCe6IY— Nelba Márquez-Greene, �������� (@Nelba_MG) October 21, 2018
Ana Grace was just 6 years old when her bright eyes and dazzling smile were taken from this world.
"A lot of people don't know, we only moved to Newtown four months before the shooting,” Marquez-Greene said.
It is a deeply troubling time in America. I look into my son and husband’s eyes for strength. Goodnight, friends. Goodnight, stars. Goodnight, darkness. Light comes in the morning. 🙏🏽— Nelba Márquez-Greene, 🇵🇷🇨🇦 (@Nelba_MG) October 25, 2018
Not a day goes by that she doesn’t mourn her precious little girl. It’s been her new normal since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.
"I think there are a lot of people who watched in horror as it unfolded and…I think they are rooting for us to survive,” Marquez-Greene said.
I’m so, so sorry babies. October 16, 2011. pic.twitter.com/hrQCbvH3kW— Nelba Márquez-Greene, 🇵🇷🇨🇦 (@Nelba_MG) October 16, 2018
She is surviving, one moment at a time.
"It is very difficult to answer the question of 'how are you?' especially if I know that the person is a mother, or a parent or grandparent because I know they would not be able to live a day in my shoes,” Marquez-Greene said.
Marquez-Greene sometimes she holds back speaking her true feelings, because it can be too difficult not just for herself, but others.
"Very often I'm in protection mode," she explained. "I'm going to keep you from this because you really wouldn't be able to handle it."
But Marquez-Greene found a place for that painful dialogue, on Twitter.
"It's been a beautiful outlet for me," she said.
Her tweets are real. And raw.
And each one is a real-time story of survival.
"It allows a lot of people an inside look at what grief looks like,” she said.
As Nelba uses her voice to honor her daughter’s memory, she’s living each day for her son Isaiah. He too was at Sandy Hook on that day, and he survived.
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"We didn't want him to say when he got older- I lost my sister and then I lost my parents," Marquez-Greene said.
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It’s a journey thousands of followers across the globe are taking with her.
"I think we have made grief very real for people.”
She pours all that emotion and purpose into The Ana Grace Project, the foundation that bears her little girl’s name.
Their mantra is simple: Love wins.
"We want to reduce school violence. We want every child to feel like they have other options and that they have opportunity," Marquez-Greene said.
She runs the foundation from an office at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. It’s her sacred space surrounded by inspiration, and daily reminders that love really can conquer all.
"I met my husband for the first time on the campus of CCSU -my face is getting really smiley when I talk about this." She was 15.
Giving back to the New Britain community is close to her heart, from adopting city classrooms to exposing children to higher education, Marquez-Greene’s work is enriching a community that’s embraced her family on their darkest days.
"People heal after trauma when they are provided with a sense of safety and a sense of control and being here has allowed that to happen for me."
It’s all part of her journey, teaching others to navigate the inevitable.
This year, she’ll drive out the darkness of December 14 with the Love Wins Community Drive.
CCSU, The Ana Grace Project and the Consolidated School District of New Britain will team up to collect toys, winter clothing, toiletries, and food for New Britain for families in need. You can learn how to volunteer or donate by clicking here.
"It's just another way we keep her memory alive and it's a way we can make our son quite proud when he sees the way we are handling our grief,” Marquez-Greene said.
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