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Saanich, B.C., teen heals from loss by helping others

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SAANICH, B.C. -

As Olivia Hahn looks back at pictures from after her mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she recalls their countless conversations about owls.

“She said, ‘I’ll be coming back as an owl. Just know I’ll be watching you,’” Olivia recalls with a smile. “I was like, ‘OK. That’s really cute.'”

But Olivia didn’t really get it at the time.

When we first met her last year, Olivia said she couldn’t have imagined that there would be a day when she’d leave the hospital and tell her mom, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow,’ but arrive the next day to find she never got a chance to say goodbye.

Olivia was 15 when her mom died. She spent the next few months feeling lost and alone.

“It made me feel like I was different or I was weird,” Olivia says.

Her dad John says Olivia also felt frustrated that they couldn’t find any books about expressing grief from a teenager’s perspective.

“If we can’t find you a book,” John recalls saying. “I guess you’re going to have to write one.”

While John admits he was being flippant, Olivia — despite never really writing before — did just that.

“I wanted to write something that would help me through it,” Olivia says of her book. “But also help other people as well.”

A year later, she published ‘Healing Our Wounded Hearts,’ with proceeds supporting palliative care, and the goal of empowering others to begin their own healing process.

“And to let them know it’s OK to not be OK,” Olivia adds.

Since then, Olivia’s published another book, a collection of poetry about loss titled ‘To Hold Your Hand One More Time.'

She’s also modelled in fundraising fashion shows to support the BC Cancer Agency, and volunteers as the youth ambassador for Learning Through Loss, which offers programs to support grieving teenagers and young adults.

“[Youth] feel so alone in their grief,” says Kathryn Dafos, executive director of ‘Learning Through Loss.’ “Olivia reaches out her hand says, ‘You’re not alone.’”

And through helping, Olivia says she’s finding healing.

“It makes me feel better to help others,” she smiles.

But nothing compares to those moments — and there have been many Olivia says — when she hears a ‘hoot’ and spots an owl.

“It’s so reassuring,” Olivia smiles. “It‘s like I know my mom is there.”

It feels like her mom’s always watching over her with pride — that her little girl is growing up to be such a strong and caring young woman.

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