Nineteen of his teammates, along with 19 other club staff, were among the 71 who died, while three players were among the six survivors of the plane crash in Colombia
The 42-year-old Nivaldo was left out of the squad for the first leg of the Brazilian side's South American Cup final match against Atletico Nacional in Medellin Wednesday, spared the trip to get ready for his 300th appearance for the club in front of home fans this weekend.
"That was in his (coach Caio Junior) head and it's my destiny," Nivaldo told CNN from the club's stadium. "I have dual feeling about being alive today but deep in my heart what if I had gone?"
The small club from Santa Catarina state was decimated by the loss, and Nivaldo wonders what the future holds for the team.
"Today we have nothing," he said. "We have our fans. The strength of a city and the strength of the entire world which is helping us and who is wishing Chapecoense to recover.
"This is also a very difficult moment for me. But as I said I need to be strong. I have to be strong.
"There is a game on the 11th -- I don't know if we have athletes to play. I don't know if we are psychologically ready to enter on the field. I don't know if I can enter the field."
Nivaldo later announced his retirement, still unable to make sense of the accident.
"Tragedies happen. It can happen to anyone," he said.
"There is no explanation. You see that video they posted
. All happy. And here our hearts are in our hands."
Chapecoense is little known outside of Brazil but the top-flight side punched above its weight and was heading to the Colombian city for the biggest game in its history.
"Chapecoense pays badly but was able to do what the bigger teams couldn't," added Nivaldo.
"Our strength has always come from the locker room. Few players but those who were there were dedicated to Chapecoense.
"You could feel their heart when they put on that jersey for the club."