12/11/2013 AT 12:05 PM ET
Mark Barden still cannot believe his son Daniel is no longer here to cuddle on snowy winter mornings or challenge him to foosball games before school.
“In those first few seconds when I’m awake, I still have to think, ‘Was this whole thing just a horrible dream?’ ” he says. “I still find myself trying to comprehend it, as we all are.”
Barden lost his 7-year-old son on Dec. 14, 2012, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 first graders, including Daniel, and six educators before turning the gun on himself.
In the year since the massacre, Mark, 49, Jackie, 47, and their children, James, 13, and Natalie, 11, have struggled without the little boy “who always worried about everyone else,” says Mark. “It’s been god-awful. And yet, we have had so much love and support from our family, neighbors and community.”