Grief is like standing in quicksand. You keep sinking deeper and deeper and can't imagine how you will ever get out. Anyone who has experienced a profound loss can relate to this.
What's really amazing is how one life can touch so many people. By the same token, it's really amazing how one death can also touch so many people. Jamie Kirk Hahn was one of those people. In a senseless act of violence, she was stabbed by a man she considered her best friend and later died from her wounds.
Jon Broyhill had intimate access to Jamie's life because she let him in. She gave him a job, she gave him her unconditional love, she even cared for him when he lied about being sick.
Last week, Broyhill was convicted of first-degree murder in Jamie's death. At his sentencing hearing, her family, including her husband Nation Hahn, were given an opportunity to speak about her life and their loss. Nation described how he was in so much despair after his wife's tragic death that he wanted to die. He shared an anecdote about not wearing a seatbelt hoping that someone might hit him and take him out of his misery.
This was so familiar to me because I remembered when my mother was dying of brain cancer that I did the very same thing, often breaking down in tears at stoplights with strangers peering at me with intense curiosity through their car windows.
Jamie's parents also talked during the hearing. Her mother and her stepmother both shared their heartbreaking thoughts about having their daughter murdered. No matter how many times I meet mothers of murdered children, I can't ever comprehend the magnitude of their grief.
Grief has a ripple effect. The concentric rings spread exponentially, touching everyone in their wake.
"We are the parents of a dead child," Debra Funderburk, Jamie's mother, said at the sentencing hearing.
Funderburk called being a mother her "greatest gift" in life. She recalled their last hug, the last time they exchanged "I love yous."
"I am doomed to a life of grief," said Teresa Kirk, Jamie's stepmother. "My beautiful girl is dead."
Kirk said Jamie's face is the first thing she sees when she wakes up in the morning and the last thing she thinks about when she lays her head on her pillow at night.
But as I listened to these women, I realized something profound. While grief has a ripple effect, so does the positive energy that someone leaves behind. Jamie's energy - the energy that is still here - is reflected in the good works being done and carried on in her name.
Debra Funderburk said her daughter was "so much more" than what has been said and written about her. That, at the tender age of 29, she was truly a "community leader." She was someone who had set her sights on social change, who, had she lived, would surely have created that change.
Kirk said her daughter "had a gift" for making positive things happen in the community, for making the world a better place.
Jamie's husband implored everyone in the courtroom to help live out Jamie's legacy by continuing her mission of helping others.
"Take some of her with us," Nation said, eyes brimming with tears, "her essential goodness, love for others, her care, concern, compassion."
He explained that she will never really die as long as "we carry her example forward."
Jamie's work continues through the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.