My cousin Jan was the coolest person I knew. Four years older than me, she had the most stylish clothes, the best makeup, and all the friends. I soaked up our sleepovers, knowing how lucky I was to have even a fleeting moment of her light shining solely on me. I wanted nothing more than for her to like me, to look in my direction, to notice me. We’re in our 30s now, and I still feel the exact same way, even in her absence.
Jan was shot and killed last May by her former partner, who then took his own life. They left behind two young children and dazed families who continue to grapple with the whys and hows of such an enormous loss. It is impossible to grieve the loss of Jan without recognizing and feeling pain for the person who left this world with her and for his family and friends. Balancing the complexities of this grief is an exercise in compassion, in turning over new perspectives, in sifting through anger and recognizing the futility of blame. I wish I could tell Jan to know how sorely she is missed. She is loved.