PTSD After Child Loss

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After you lose a child, you experience the most horrifying of fears coming true. This precious baby that once took up residence in your belly has left this earth for Heaven before you. It goes against the natural order of life that we all take for granted. And after that horrible reality takes place, you discover that you are not only not okay, but you have to face just how not okay you actually are.

At the end of March Olivia’s little brother, Landon, turned 4 months old. That is the exact same age Olivia was when she was diagnosed with cancer. At that age, my tiny baby girl was already fighting for her life with cancer that had spread throughout her brain, around her optic nerves and down her spine. And now that Landon is that same age I suddenly find myself facing an even greater fear that one day he might develop cancer too. I find myself watching him constantly for signs of cancer. Every jerky baby movement, fussy day, or change in behavior is fuel for the PTSD firestorm that parents who have lost a child experience.

I have faith in God. I know that I am called to trust in Him and to not worry, but I truly can’t seem to help it! Most days I am strong. On those days I don’t worry and I enjoy my children and the life God has blessed us with. But other days it’s like I am held hostage with fear. I pray and pray that everything will be okay and they will never have to experience the horrors of brain cancer, but yet I am still racked with fear. Losing a child does that to you. You can no longer live in a world of blissful ignorance with the belief that the bad things you read about won’t ever happen to your family. Your child is one of those horrifying statistics. Olivia was one of seven kids in the U.S. to die from cancer on October 22, 2013. Olivia was one of 46 kids who was diagnosed with cancer on July 16, 2012. And that Christmas in 2013 we were one of the over 90,000 families worldwide spending our first Christmas without one of our children after cancer.

Losing Olivia took a major toll. I am not the same person I used to be. In many ways I am a shell of my former self. I am much more broken. Much more aware of the very scary what if’s that can happen in life. I absolutely suffer from PTSD and how could I not? Any parent who has lost a child does in one way or another.

Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric brain cancer research. All proceeds benefit our neuro-oncology research team at Children’s Hospital Colorado and all donations are tax-deductible. You can learn more and donate by visiting www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org.

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