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For the longest time, my adult life has felt like a bit of a roller coaster ride.

I became a mom at 26, divorced at 30 and always managed to keep moving forward with a strong determination to create my own inner happiness. My mom always says, “Olivia, you are so strong”, and that's how I felt. – strong. Until this. 

Somewhere between the hustle of the holidays and the stark coldness of winter I was hit with the realization that he isn’t coming back. My coffee stopped tasting good. My food was bland, I had no will or energy to be social or to keep up with friends.  No matter what was going on in one single day, I would wake up and immediately count down the hours until I could go back to bed. I wasn’t excited about anything. Everything around me felt gray and dreary. Other than my daily obligations to keep my family afloat, I had completely withdrawn from life. 

A normal mundane drive to work created thoughts in my head like, ‘what if I just keep driving?’ I wanted so desperately to escape. I wanted to escape my life, my world, my reality. My feelings. This deep, ugly grief. I craved brighter days and happier times.

I craved the pre-loss Olivia.

Disassociation settled in. Who am I now? Who am I as a person, a friend, a partner, a mom? Nothing felt connected.

Standing in front of my bathroom mirror and I would beg myself to find an inkling of who I was before the loss. Watching my grief change me was like watching that mirror come crashing down. Slow motion…shattering into a million tiny pieces all over the room. That was how it felt. Shattered. 

Unsure that I could be put back together exactly like I was before. And I asked myself - what if I wasn’t supposed to be as I was before? What if I was now supposed to be something or someone changed?  

An old CrossFit coach of mine used to say, “in life you have choices!” I decided to embrace her words and came to realize that I could watch this grief swallow me whole or, I could take small steps to put the pieces of the mirror back together. 

Both of these options seemed overwhelming.

I needed to find the road that would give me a little bit of my life back. Slowly, I began to speak about how I was feeling, I let people see my shattered heart and stopped pretending I was “okay”. 

Looking back on those hard days I started to realize what was happening.

The shock of his death had worn off. This was the beginning of a new phase of my grief journey; depression.

As I am learning over time, the stages of grief come in waves. They are part of this often messy process. I am committed to walking through this pain.

Please know that if you are struggling or have struggled with some of these similar feelings, you are not alone. We are everywhere and the only way to make it hurt just a little less, the only way to begin to pick up the pieces is to open up to someone. 

Baby steps are just fine.


Olivia Harrell lives in Baldwin, Maryland, with her husband, two young children, and a Bulldog named Lola. She lost her brother, Griffin, to an accidental overdose from Fentanyl on September 25, 2023. Her monthly blog examines the twists and turns of grief and healing. Olivia loves to spend time with her family, make sourdough from scratch, and exercise. She is also incredibly thankful for the community of LITT and invites others with a similar loss to participate in LITT’s Sibling Support Group. For more information click here.

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