Beautiful, Bitter Reality

Olivia has been extra heavy on my mind lately. She always is this time of year as we get closer to the anniversary of her passing, but this year my grief seems to have kicked up quite a few notches.

When I first lost Olivia I put up so many walls to protect myself that I don’t think I really started to grieve her loss in any real way for years. I had so much going on in other parts of my life that I knew if I allowed myself to really feel the loss of my only daughter it would do me in and I wouldn’t be able to be the mom I needed to be for my other children.

Fast forward to today and I am the healthiest I have probably ever been. I’ve done a lot of hard work on taking the time to grieve my daughter and to work through everything else that’s happened in my life. The kids and I are happy and thriving and in a very stable home. We have the love of my wonderful husband who has patiently knit us all back together over the past 4 years. This stability is incredible, but it has also made a lot of my old walls come down.

I had put up all of these walls to protect myself from ever feeling the magnitude of my own grief. I threw myself into busyness to keep myself from having to really feel anything. I dove headfirst into running Olivia’s foundation, helping her brothers through their own grief, and countless other activities and projects. None of these things were bad by any means, but they also only put a bandaid over my own heart and my own deep grief, which was bound to come off.

Over the past 9 months I’ve probably cried more than I have in years. And sometimes I am really angry at how unfair this has all been. I miss my daughter. I’m sad and angry that I don’t get to watch her grow up. I should have a healthy 9 year old daughter right now, and I should be able to look forward to a lifetime of doing life with her.

But instead I am coming up on the 8th anniversary of her death. I had 20 months with my daughter instead of a lifetime. I never got to watch her learn to crawl or walk. I never heard her first word. And I will never get the opportunity to know the incredible woman she would have undoubtedly turned into, and that just isn’t fair.

The work we’ve done with Olivia’s foundation has given me a purpose and has allowed her life and her legacy to live on and I am so grateful for that. But it still hurts that the research we funded found the cure for her cancer…just 4 years too late for it to benefit my own little girl. That beautiful reality is incredibly bitter to swallow. As a dear friend reminds me often I can be thankful for the progress made in my daughter’s name and simultaneously angry that it didn’t happen fast enough to save my own baby.

Today I don’t have anything profound to share about what I’ve learned from all of this. I am missing my daughter and really sad that I don’t get the privilege of watching her grow up.

But I will say this…if you know and love a grieving person I will ask you kindly not to give up on them. They might seem distant at times or absorbed in their own life and their own grief, but they will also probably love you in a deeper way than most other people are capable of. They just might not always have the energy within them to show you how much they really do care. But love them anyways.

Huge losses open your eyes to how short life really can be and how important it is to not waste a moment with the people you care about. So let’s all commit to loving each other well. Take the time to be with the people you care about. Send that message of encouragement. Tell the people you care about just how much you love them. Don’t waste a moment. Time is one thing you don’t get back.

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