This past Saturday, August 20, marked five years of the loss of four beloved boys who lost their lives far too soon in a car accident. Those boys were not only my dear friends, but also siblings, cousins, sons, and brothers of many others. They were athletes, boyfriends, a reason to smile, and a face to remember. Their vanishing from our lives shook the very ground we were standing on with not a hint of ease. Looking back on that day never becomes easier. The hardest part about losing someone is having to do it every single day. There is a part of you that’s missing and can’t be replaced. No matter how much you try to distract yourself or “let time heal all wounds,” the pain remains. And it’s a pain that can’t be described in words, you feel this pain. You feel it in your eyes as soon as you open them in the morning, and you feel it in your legs with each unwilling step you take back to reality. You feel it in your ears when you hear unpleasant sobs, and with your hands when you give comforting hugs. It’s an overwhelming sensation that you feel in your heart every heavy breath that you take and it doesn’t go away overnight, let alone, over months, and even years.

If you have lost someone, you know this reality all too well and have fought to be at the point you are at today. Whether you are content at this point or not, I promise you that you have improved because, whomever you may have lost, you know they would want you to try to be happy…and I think that’s one of the hardest parts about recovering from losing such an important person in your world. Being happy without them feels wrong, sometimes cruel, and at times selfish. However, that does not make you any less decent of a human nor take away any ounce of love that you have towards them.

The death of a loved one changes you. It takes your world and flips it inside out and backwards. It leaves you hanging upside down and falling forever. It makes you question everything you’ve ever known, experienced, learned, and loved, and it creates a remarkable appreciation that you never wish you knew; an appreciation for life. Although you have been through your own personal hell on earth, you owe yourself the chance to grow and wholeheartedly smile at the joys of living again. Looking back five years ago, I couldn’t fathom the places I’ve gotten to and the obstacles I’ve overcome. Of course, it did not happen quickly and it was not the slightest bit easy, but it did present me with the person I am today, which I wouldn't have any other way.

If I could give a single piece of advice, after living and managing, sometimes merely, to survive the same things you’re going through, I would tell you every day, for the rest of your life, “Don’t give up on yourself.” There are going to be days you cry from the moment you open your eyes in the morning until the second you let them rest at night. The even worse days will come when you’re too numb to cry…you’re too numb to do, feel, or express anything. These days will come more often than good days, or even decent days, but I'm telling you now to push through. Because when you’re out of the dark and can finally see how far you’ve come, every hour of those bad days will be worth it. You will lose hope, you will lose faith, you will fight the hardest arguments within your very own head and you will lose, but one day you will win. You will trust, you will believe, and you will thank every cell in your body that you didn’t stop fighting, that you didn’t give up on yourself, and that you learned to fall in love with life again.