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Blog helps Utah family deal with loss of daughter in Newtown shooting

Published: Sunday, March 10 2013 4:10 p.m. MDT

Alissa Parker started a blog to help her process her thoughts and emotions over the loss of her daughter, 6-year-old Emilie Parker. Emilie was shot and killed Dec. 14, 2012, during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. (Alissa Parker) Alissa Parker started a blog to help her process her thoughts and emotions over the loss of her daughter, 6-year-old Emilie Parker. Emilie was shot and killed Dec. 14, 2012, during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. (Alissa Parker)

OGDEN — Just how much Alissa Parker misses her 6-year-old daughter Emilie Parker is evident from her blog.

“I feel her often. I feel her influence even now,” she wrote on the website called The Parker Five. She created the blog to help process her thoughts during a painful and confusing time.

On Dec. 14, 2012, a man shot and killed 26 people, almost all of them children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Among them was 6-year-old Emilie Parker, the daughter of Robbie and Alyssa Parker who grew up in the Ogden area. They buried Emilie in Ogden's Myers Evergreen Memorial Park.

The family titled the blog The Parker Five because: “We will always be together.” Alissa Parker said she is taking things one day at a time and knows it’s going to be long healing process for her and her family.

Helen Thompson leaves a message on a sign for 6-year-old Emilie Parker, who was one of 20 children killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., near the Rock Cliff Stake Center in Ogden on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Helen Thompson leaves a message on a sign for 6-year-old Emilie Parker, who was one of 20 children killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., near the Rock Cliff Stake Center in Ogden on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

During a phone interview from Newtown, she told the Deseret News she had a growing desire to begin a blog, not for anyone else but for herself.

“I felt like there were things that I needed to process and there were things I needed to articulate," she said. "I enjoy photography a lot and I needed a medium that kind of would help me to express myself and I needed to be able to have time to kind of think and process what I was actually feeling and what I was going through.”

She doesn’t allow comments on her blog (theparkerfive.wordpress.com/about/) for a reason. It's about her process and about the things she is going through.

On a Feb. 11 entry, she wrote: “Emotions are powerful things. Sometimes it is hard to fully understand them. They come and go as they please, leaving a deep trail behind them. I sometimes try to understand my emotions but most of the time I don’t. I understand that it is because I have to feel what I need to feel and just let it out.”

A photo of Emilie Parker, who was killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. She was 5 years old. (Alissa Parker) A photo of Emilie Parker, who was killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. She was 5 years old. (Alissa Parker)

On Jan. 22 she wrote about a time when she was 10 years old and felt depressed dealing with all the evil around her. Murders, beatings and anger seemed to be everywhere she turned. At that time, her mother gave her a picture with a drawing of three balloons floating together in the sky. Underneath the balloons were the words: “Rise above it.”

She said that she fell into a very dark place on the day of the shooting. “This was the deepest hole I had ever been in. I tried to look up and see a way out, but I could barely see any light. I felt this enormous pain inside as I realized a piece of me had been taken away forever, all by one person’s evil act.”

Parker felt she had to find a way to rise above the pain, but she had a difficult time.

“Each day for me seems to hold a set of new challenges that I can never seem to anticipate,” she wrote. “The emotions of grief are intense and hard. But every day, I feel the compassion from a loving God who sees me in my moments of need.”  

Blog entry on March 1, 2013. Blog entry on March 1, 2013. "I helped Madeline make a card to send up to heaven for Emilie yesterday. I wrote down her sweet little message word for word. Sometimes I feel like she is teaching me more than I teach her. I love that girl." (Alissa Parker)

Parker shares her memories of her daughter on the blog. Days before the Sandy Hook shooting, they were buying a birthday gift for her friend Joey. The party was scheduled for the day after the tragedy.

On March 6 in an entry titled “Birthday in Heaven” she wrote: "We had been at Target for over an hour and Emilie was still pacing up and down the toy section. I sighed and asked her if she had decided yet. She looked at me with desperation in her eyes and said, 'I just don’t know which one to pick! It is so hard!' Emilie was invited to a birthday party for a little girl in her class. When Emilie got the invitation in the mail, I knew this girl was special to her. Emilie had this funny habit of getting so excited about something that she would begin crying 'happy tears.'"

Emilie was extremely excited, Alissa wrote, when she found the perfect gift: a Belle Barbie doll dressed as a ballerina. On the blog, Parker wrote: “Emilie said, ‘Joey loves Barbies and she loves tutus. Joey can’t talk mom, but she always touches my fluffy skirts and my Barbie backpack, so I just know she will love this!’”  

Emilie Parker attends a baseball game with her father, Robbie Parker. Emilie, who has family in Utah, was killed along with 19 other children in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012. (Facebook) Emilie Parker attends a baseball game with her father, Robbie Parker. Emilie, who has family in Utah, was killed along with 19 other children in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012. (Facebook)

The day after the shooting, Parker grabbed the invitation off the fridge. She said she wanted to make sure Joey knew that Emilie cared so much for her.

“The next morning,” Parker wrote, “Robbie told me there was a list of all the names of the children from the shooting posted on the Internet. … I read over the list as fast as I could. I felt sick as I read each name and recognized almost all of them as Emilie’s friends. One name in particular stuck out to me; it was Emilie’s friend Josephine Gay, or Joey for short.”

She contacted Joey’s mother and told her how sad she was about not giving Joey Emilie’s gift.

“Her response was so incredible,” she wrote. “She said, 'You know what, I know those kids are having a birthday party in Heaven.' I was so thankful for the sweet vision that came to my head of all those little angels, together playing and singing 'Happy Birthday' to little Joey.”

She wrote she had an instant connection with Joey’s mother, Michele.

Parker said writing stories like that have given her a voice.

"A lot of people want to know what's going on, but they don't want to have to constantly call and ask for updates, but they can feel connected through our process as well," Parker said.

Each entry shows great sadness but also extraordinary love from a mother blogging to heal. Several things have helped her in her healing, she said

“I think my kids have been extremely instrumental in my healing process," she said. "The things that they say to me, just being a mother and caring so much about your children, it’s been interesting to have them be so instrumental in my healing.”

On March 1, Parker wrote about helping her daughter Madeline write a card to send up to heaven for Emilie. The card said, “Dear Emilie, I hope that you are fine up in heaven. So I know that you talk in my heart. Love Madeline.”

“I wrote down her sweet little message word for word,” she wrote on the blog. “Sometimes I feel like she is teaching me more than I teach her. I love that girl.”

Parker also takes a lot of comfort in her faith. “I think a major, major contributor has been the many, beautiful prayers that have been offered on our behalf,” she said.

And she finds comfort from family and most important, she said, from her husband.

She recalled going to Utah to bury Emilie. "I don't remember conversations or decisions I heard that took place. Just fog," she wrote.

She said she will forever be humbled by the love and kindness she felt from Utahns.

“In Salt Lake, we got the biggest hugs from all those there in Utah when we came during a very tough time in our lives,” she said getting very emotional. “It was so amazing to feel that love and support from so many people. I don’t know if we will ever be able to adequately say thank you to all those who provided that for us. But we are so grateful for all the support that we received in our little home base of Utah.

"We hold a special place in our hearts for all of you.”

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