The day my daughter died I forever became a grieving mother. I never wanted that title. And it isn’t something I would wish on anyone else.
Even though I knew Olivia wasn’t going to make it, nothing prepared me for the night she took her last breath. To see this tiny human I had carried in my belly give up her soul to be with Jesus was both incredibly beautiful and heart-wrenching.
Being a grieving mother is an exhausting journey. At first I didn’t want to take the time to grieve because I was too concerned with making sure everyone else in my family would be okay. It honestly took me years to begin to really deal with her loss and my own sadness.
I spent those early years with a painted smile on my face and a forced strength. I needed my husband and my son to be okay so I forced my own grief down. I had to be strong or I just knew everything would fall apart. And then without warning I would get into the shower, finally alone, and the tears would come flowing like a waterfall. Sometimes the grief would hit me with such a wave of strength that I would physically fall over. I would remain crumpled like a ball with water rushing over my back. And then I would force the tears to stop and get my smile back on before I got out. I had to make sure no one else saw how sad I really was.
Nothing could’ve prepared me for the reality of losing my only daughter. That little girl was my world. I will never forget the way she looked at me with such a complete love. She didn’t see any flaws, just the mommy that would’ve done anything to trade places with her and take her cancer instead.
Since my separation I have finally taken more time to deal with my own grief. I’ve learned to stop and to feel it, rather than choke it down. I have stopped pushing my feelings aside and I grieve more openly. I’ve also realized that no one actually expects me to be okay all the time. That unrealistic expectation came from within my own heart.
I’ve learned that grief is a never-ending process. I lost my daughter and with that a huge piece of my heart. That kind of loss isn’t meant to be dealt with quickly or painlessly. It’s soul-shattering and life-changing. 3.5 years later I don’t cry every day or even every week. But when I feel the wave coming, I know now that I need to stop and feel it. I am a grieving mother and I always will be.
The Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric cancer research. We have given $155,000 to pediatric cancer research since November 2013 and an additional $10,000 in gift cards for food, gas and entertainment to pediatric oncology patients. You can learn more and donate by visiting www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org.