Guilt is a constant companion after you lose a child. You feel guilty when you are depressed because you worry that you are neglecting the rest of your family. You also feel guilty when you are doing well because you worry that you are forgetting about the child you lost.

The morning after Olivia died I expected to be bedridden with grief. Instead, I was able to get out of bed and take care of her twin brother. I made plans for her funeral. I cried. But my grief wasn’t what I expected it to be at that moment. And at that realization I felt tremendous guilt. I questioned myself… did I really love my daughter? What’s wrong with me that I’m not falling apart right now?

Of course I was in shock and I have found as time goes on that my grief comes in waves. Some days I am happy. I laugh. I still miss her but the grief isn’t overwhelming. But on other days I am overcome with sadness. It’s all I can do to make it through the day and fake a smile.

As time has gone on the guilt still hasn’t changed. I look around at my life and realize how different it is from our life with her. We have the freedom to take family vacations and to make memories outside of the hospital. And I find that as I feel joy when making those memories with my boys, it is always tinged with guilt. I feel guilt because I worry that I shouldn’t be enjoying life without her. And then more guilt for not fully appreciating the beautiful kids I still have.

Grief truly is a rollercoaster. It’s a cycle of ups and downs. Joy and intense sadness. And at least for me, it comes with a lot of guilt.

Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric cancer research. You can learn more and donate by visiting

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