Too early, too abrupt and too violent, that's how families that met today at Krug Park lost those they cared about most.
Several years ago, they were all strangers. Now they share a special bond.
"Everyone gets together and they get to share the same pain that we all have and that's how we get to know each other," said Gloria Watson, whose son Danny Watson, Jr., was murdered 10 years ago. "No one is going to know how you feel unless you've been through it."
Watson organized a yearly balloon release to honor her son and other victims of crime during National Crime Victim Awareness Week.
"We all feel cheated," said Watson. "We've all lost our kids or some other loved one. They're never going to come back. We're never going to be able to hold them or see them again."
The balloon release gives families a chance to get together, share their grief, and continue through the healing process.
"I'm hoping I can help someone with fresh pain by sharing theirs with mine and helping them get through this," Watson said.
Still in the early stages of managing the pain is Rachel Gross. Gross' father was murdered in 2012.
"It's just nice that when all this happened to us we had people like Gloria Watson to go to to help us. It was better than any counseling I could get."
The balloons Gross and others brought to the park are more than just symbolic. Each has a message written on it for a lost loved one.
"It's nice to be able to write on the balloons and send them to heaven and hope he gets my message," Gross said.
Professional victim advocates recognize how difficult the grieving process can be.
"There's anger, there's loss, there's sorrow," said Morgan Hansen, a victim advocate for the Buchanan County Prosecutor's Office. "It's always coming and going. We know that no one ever fully heals. There's always going to be a loss."
Families are grateful for the opportunity to share their grief with others who understand.
"It's like asking someone that's never been through this to cut off a hand or a finger and trying to live without a part of them for the rest of their lives," said Tim Bartram. Bartram's 18-year-old daughter Jordan was shot and killed in 2010 while sitting in her car.