To say that child loss is life-changing is such an understatement. Losing a child doesn’t just break your heart and change your life. It causes a truly cosmic shift in the makeup of your soul.
I sat down to write a post today about the heartbreak that comes each time I have to refer to Olivia in the past tense. But as I stared at the young mother in the picture above I realized that she doesn’t exist anymore either.
In a way I died the day Olivia did.
I was just 25 years old in that picture. In many ways I was still deeply naive despite the challenges that had come during my first year of parenting with prematurity and cancer.
I had such hope. I truly and completely believed that somehow, some way Olivia was going to beat cancer and that our family would survive it all and come out better on the other side.
In reality cancer was already raging once again in Olivia’s brain as that beautiful picture of my girl and I was taken. An MRI would be completed just a few weeks later that would turn our lives back upside down. And in October of that same year Olivia would pass away at 20 months old after spending nearly her entire life battling cancer.
My family also was not okay. We hung on for a few more years and I tried my best. But it wasn’t enough.
Demons already existed that only became darker with the reality of cancer and child loss looming around us like a big shadow.
There was nothing I could do and at 29 I made the choice to end my 8 year marriage.
A few pieces of that 25-year-old remain, but at 30 I am vastly different. This life has shaped me, molded me into a different kind of mother and woman.
I’ve had the worst case scenario play out more than once. And I am no longer quite so naive because of it.
I’ve also developed a different kind of strength and wisdom. I am no longer afraid to fight for my kids or for myself. I also know that sometimes it is in fact better to retreat then to fight any further.
I wish I had become the woman I am today without all the hardship, but I’m proud of where the kids and I have made it. It hasn’t been easy. Each step has been hard fought. But this new beginning is pretty darn wonderful.
The Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric cancer research in memory of Olivia Caldwell, who passed away from brain cancer at 20 months old in October 2013. We have given $225,000 to pediatric cancer research in just 4 years. To learn more or to donate visit http://www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org/.