Grief is a messy business. It’s emotionally draining, sometimes lonely, and often awkward.
Losing my daughter has not only changed me drastically; it has also changed my relationships with everyone in my life. It has shown me the true colors of so many, both in good ways and in not so good ways. I’ve had people meet me, find out I lost a child and turn around and walk away like they might catch my grief if they stand too close. I’ve had others walk away after years of friendship because the weight of it all was too much of a strain.
But in spite of it all I’ve learned there can be real beauty in grief if you look for it. While I’ve lost some friends, I’ve gained many others who love me so well. I can honestly say I’ve been blessed to find real community, even in the harsh reality of grief.
When we found out Olivia was going to die a dear friend who worked in nursing got special permission to act as Olivia’s hospice nurse so we could let Olivia pass away at home. That wasn’t even close to her normal job description, but she gave us the amazing gift of comfort in those final days, and I will never forget it.
Another friend ran to my house the night Olivia died and held me as I sobbed uncontrollably. She then had her kids nap at my house almost every week for those early months so I wouldn’t have to be alone.
And since I’ve moved to Casper I have a new set of friends that never had the privilege of meeting my sweet daughter. But they still love her and love me so much better than I could ever expect from other imperfect human beings.
I have a friend who sneaks little gifts into my son’s diaper bag or stops by my house with candy and flowers whenever a big, painful anniversary arrives. She never forgets.
Another friend brings me coffee or sends notes of encouragement so I know I am never alone.
I had friends who dropped everything the night my marriage ended and spent hours with me at my house while I cried and worked through a million questions and emotions.
And I have friends who have given up hundreds of hours of their time supporting the Olivia Caldwell Foundation as board members, staff and volunteers. These incredible people show up to help with everything without expecting anything in return.
Today I sit with tears streaming down my face in pure gratitude for the amazing friends God has given to me. These people love me so well, even though I am far from perfect. I can’t imagine having to live with this grief without them.
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 in October 2013 at 20 months old. Since then we have given $155,000 to pediatric cancer research and another $10,000 in gift cards for food, gas and entertainment to pediatric oncology patients at Children’s Hospital Colorado. You can learn more and donate by visiting www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org.