The new year comes with the dreaded month of Michelle’s passing. It’s now 30 years since her fatal car accident.

Years ago I started a group on FB “Remembering Michelle.” It started as a way of reaching out to family and friends for their memories and pictures of Michelle. It’s expanded to include new-found friends who never knew her but now can feel her essence through shared posts.

The anticipation of writing and reaching out doesn’t come easily. Each time I write about Michelle publicly, whether in a COPE newsletter or on FB, I feel my vulnerability.

Michelle exists inside of me where she feels safe and alive in our new relationship.

It’s during these days, when my feelings are on the surface, that I struggle to find words adequate to express the depth of my love and the loss of her. There are no words to describe this reality—the void, my ache, and longing for Michelle. I can only attempt to find balance and try to fill myself with all the ways I connect with her.

It’s a time of many complex, conflicting emotions. When I’m able to find the courage to write about Michelle and share my feelings, I’m always amazed by the energy that comes back to me through close friends and all the people who care. The gift is knowing her lasting impression…feeling the love and endless connections.

Lilly Julien is COPE’s Founder and President Emerita