Post Traumatic Stress After Child Loss

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The photo above was taken just days before my sweet Olivia took her last breath in the arms of myself and her daddy. This photo captured a family moment of me cuddling with my baby twins for one of the very last times. I should have had a lifetime of cuddles with my babies. I should have been able to watch them take their first steps together, talk to each other, play together, go to school for the first time, ride their bikes, grow up, get married, and have their own babies. Instead I have one child to (God willing) make those memories with. My daughter, Olivia, is an angel in Heaven. She was taken from me at just 20 months and 3 days old because of pediatric brain cancer. I never got to see Olivia walk on her own. She never said her first word. I will never get to braid her hair or watch her get married. Cancer stole my little girl from me and along with her, a lifetime full of special mommy and daughter experiences that we should have had.

I firmly believe that I suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. And I believe the same for all the other mommies and daddies that have lost their children far too soon. We are forever changed. We are scarred. Any change in our children that could be written off by most parents as nothing is terrifying for us because we have lived through the worst case scenario.

The other night, my son Wyatt, was wrestling with his friends. He was having the best time being a wild little boy. Then he fell down while trying to tackle his friend and bumped his head on the floor. He cried for 30 minutes straight and ended up throwing up. I was hysterical! I had visions of rushing him to the ER and finding out that he had a concussion or even worse having a scan reveal that he too has a brain tumor. As my husband and friends assured me that he only fell on carpet and not from a distance bigger than a foot or so, so he really was okay and probably just over tired, my mind could not calm down. Sure enough he was just over tired and once he fell asleep in his bed he was fine and woke up the next day as though nothing had happened. I’m so thankful for his safety and health but it made me realize once again how unbelievably scarred I am by the experience of having my daughter battle cancer and then losing her.

I have heard countless times from my fellow cancer parents how terrified they are of losing another child. It is very scary to think that this could happen again, and in some families it actually does. There are many parents across the U.S. and around the world that have faced one cancer battle with a child only to have another child develop cancer. It is rare but also very scary! Childhood cancer is supposed to be rare too, but when 46 kids are diagnosed and 7 die every single day, that doesn’t seem to be very rare to me. And honestly it doesn’t matter much how rare it is when it’s your child that’s struggling to keep their life. It is the biggest news you have ever heard.

Cancer changes everything! It changes family dynamics and creates new worries and fears. It creates realities that you thought could only happen in your worst nightmare. I don’t know why Olivia had to have brain cancer. I don’t know why she beat it once, only to have it return worse than before and take her life before her second birthday. What I do know is that I miss her terribly and I am forever changed because of my experiences with her. I am forever in awe of her strength and her grace, and I will do anything I can to make sure that no other parent has to bury their child due to pediatric brain cancer. You can help us in our mission by supporting our cause. Donate. Buy promotional items through our online store. Help us spread awareness. Share our story. The child’s life you save could be your own.

The Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a pending 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric brain cancer research. You can learn more and donate by visiting our website at www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org.

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5 thoughts on “Post Traumatic Stress After Child Loss

  1. I certainly believe parents who say “see u soon” to a child suffer from PTSD too. After my only child was born prematurely, weighing 1 lb. and 1 oz. at 6 months. We spent over 4 months in the NICU and PICU with her. Months of being on a ventilator, months of not getting to hold her, months of blood cultures and blood gases and spinal taps, months of beeps and monitors warning u just how close to death and how far away from life ur child really was. Bones literally snapping in two just as she laid in her bed because she had no 3rd trimester therefore she received no calcium to strengthen her bones. No family portraits, no taking her to church and Sunday School. We buried her on a hillside overlooking a lake when she was almost 8 months of age. There’s something so unnatural about watching grown men throw dirt on top of a blush colored casket about the size of a big shoe box. U see when ur only child dies, u dont just get over it, I heard those monitors and those beeps and alarms for months and months after my child was gone. If the phone rang, I jumped. If something fell in the floor, I gasped for breath. U do not lose a child and walk away from it ok and unscathed u see, because its not just the present that is changed, but the landscape of ur family’s future is forever altered. Everything that couldve been is lost as well. I thank God for the hope that is given that I will one day see her again. The only thing that’s gotten me thru this is knowing that along with my baby’s precious body, there’s a promise in the dirt as well. The promise that God will wipe all tears away from our eyes, and death, pain and separation will be gone. Im waiting for my reunion to see Natalie Hope. My heart and my thoughts are with u friend. ❤

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