Watching My 6-Year-Old Grieve His Twin Sister


When I found out I was pregnant with twins I spent hours daydreaming about the life they would share together. I imagined a special bond filled with a secret language, lots of giggles and endless hours of play.

twin babies sleeping

I saw visions of my sweet twins being close even in adulthood as they shared a lifetime of adventures. I saw them supporting each other through thick and thin, always having a great advocate in life.I never imagined their future together would be cut so short. Or that Wyatt would spend his life without his beloved sissy after only 20 months together on earth.

We lost Olivia more than four years ago to brain cancer at just 20 months old. Her death not only meant the loss of my daughter but also the loss of Wyatt’s other half. And I have watched him cope with that tremendous loss each and every day since the moment she took her last breath.

The night Olivia died was truly awful. Wyatt was miserable and extremely tired so he went to bed at 6 p.m. He was sound asleep in his crib down the hall when Olivia took her last breath at 7:09 p.m. At the exact moment her soul left her body my little boy cried out from his bed. And the next morning he knew she was gone. He didn’t ask where she was. He didn’t look for her. That little baby just knew.

Since that night Wyatt has learned how to do life without his sissy, but he still feels her absence. And as he gets older he asks more questions about her and why she died.

This morning as I drove Wyatt and his younger brother to school I saw tears rolling down his cheeks. When I asked what was wrong he told me he had dreamed about Olivia and he was really missing her today.

He said in his dream Olivia was still here with us. They were in kindergarten together and they shared a room with Landon.

And then he asked me the big question: Why couldn’t it be that way? Why did Olivia have to go?

Those are questions I wrestle with on a daily basis. Why did I lose her? Why did my baby get cancer? Why couldn’t it have been me instead?

All I could do was tell Wyatt yet again that I didn’t have the answers. But we will keep talking about her. Keep missing her. And make sure we remember and honor our girl for the rest of our lives.

Content with my answer for the moment, Wyatt dried his tears and bounced off to happily play with his friends at school.

Grieving my daughter has been awful. Her loss is like a giant chain I wear around my neck each and every day. But my grief is nothing compared to watching my (almost) 6-year-old grieve. Wyatt has experienced far too much loss in his life.

I can’t fix it. I can’t bring her back. But I can love that little boy without ceasing. I can give him a safe space to talk about his sister and make sure he still feels her presence in his life. And I can work to give him the tools necessary to deal with his grief in a healthy way.

Olivia girl, I miss you. Your brothers miss you. We all miss you. And we will love you forever and ever.

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. To date we have given $225,000 to pediatric cancer research in just 4 years. You can learn more and donate by visiting www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org.

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