by Paula Osipovitch
My name is Paula Osipovitch and I live in Toms River, New Jersey with my husband, George, of 39 years. I have 2 children: George III and my beloved, Trisha, who is now in heaven. I have a wonderful daughter-in-law, Joann, and 3 handsome grandsons, Christopher, Brian and Joseph, who are my reason for living and who keep me focused on enjoying the future.
My goal as a bereaved parent is to one day speak in schools and youth centers to teens about the dangers of driving recklessly. I have facilitated many bereavement groups for parents who have deceased children and have published a book based on my journey through grief entitled Almost 18: A Mother’s Journey Through Grief. In the book, I have chronicled how I have dealt with the death of my daughter and the obstacles that interfered with the grieving process.
Writing has always been a passion of mine ever since I was a child although I now wish I never had the reason for writing this book. I have written because it is based on my life as I knew it then, and my life as I know it now.
I enjoy singing, and have sung for bereavement groups such as The Compassionate Friends which is a worldwide bereavement group for parents who have lost children. I have also written a song entitled My Child of Mine which will soon be available for purchase, it is available to hear on youtube.com.
As parents, our children are a part of us – they give new meaning to the people we once were, the people we are now, and the people we will become in the future. In a certain sense, they are an everyday reminder of the lives we have lived, the choices we have made, the fears we have fought, and the dreams we have embraced. We want nothing more than to see them grow and prosper, to build upon the lives we have given them, and to leave them with a legacy better than that which we ourselves inherited.
And yet, for some parents, those few simple wishes are painfully shattered. For some parents, the unthinkable becomes a cold, previously unimaginable reality.
I am such a parent.
My daughter, Trisha, left this world due to a reckless driver just one month short of her eighteenth birthday. Confusion, rage, anger, and denial became my new world. I felt alone, as if I were free-falling for years. But my words are a sanctuary. My desire is to bring awareness to other parents who have lost children. My message is to convey to bereaved parents that they are not alone on this journey and their feelings are not only acceptable, but also normal.
I hope to provide a forum in which those who suffer as I have can compare their feelings along with mine, can share in the same emotions I have, as we try to learn the best way to continue moving along in a world that for us can never be the same. In truth, there is no formula; there is no step-by-step guide, for each person’s pain is different and unique. What we have in common, however, is the knowledge of how our tragedies have transformed us.
I have tried to offer my take on what I have endured and hope that the stories I recount and the strategies I suggest can offer inspiration to those who find themselves struggling over the same questions as I. Indeed, I’d like to be able to play a part in helping us all discover a smoother road upon which to travel. Thus, this is a compilation of the thoughts, emotions, feelings, and questions that I have taken with me over these past seventeen years. Some are chronicled in the refuge I have sought in journal entries. Others are simply a retelling of a story as I remember it, while others are suggested strategies that have worked for me that I’d like to pass on to others.
The word “easy” never comes to mind in this scenario. I have endeavored to provide a reference also for those whom have not lost a child, to explain how bereaved parents feel so they, too, are aware of our new personalities. No matter what we have been through, every parent can appreciate the fact that we want to protect our children. That’s what we do! We want to place that band-aid where it hurts, kiss the pain away and make everything better.
Sometimes, it is just “out of our hands” and our backs are against the wall, leaving us to accept that we are not in control and cannot fix what is broken. Here, questions of complicated grief come into play. It is a shock, and torments the lives of parents. A parent never expects to hear the words “She didn’t make it,” or “He’s gone.” You hear these stories on the news, but for some of us it’s a reality: children falling to their deaths, murder, overdoses, suicide, car accidents – as in the case of my beloved daughter, Trisha, who, like many teens, innocently took a ride one day and was tragically killed. I’ve heard stories of parents taking their child to the emergency room with a high fever to be told it is the flu, only to return a day or two later to find their child has passed on. It’s almost impossible to escape the feeling of guilt, the feeling that you didn’t do enough.
It doesn’t matter how old your child was or how they passed. Some were grown, with families and children of their own. Some don’t even reach their first birthday. For some bereaved parents, they must face the loss of their child while mustering the strength to become surrogate parents to their grandchildren. No matter the age and no matter the circumstances, if the tragic event occurs and we are here to bury our child or hold on to his or her ashes, we all cry the same. We all grieve as one. We have gone through the same experience of losing someone we have brought into the world and who we have loved and nurtured.
My husband, George, has written a chapter based on his journey, Grown Men Don’t Cry…or So They Say: A Father’s Perspective.
Men tend to hold their feelings in because that’s what they were told at a young age by their fathers: “Be strong, not weak. Only babies cry.” His chapter is a retelling of a story from childhood. He writes about how he was forced to overcome challenges, trying to be functional in work and obligations to his family after the tragic loss of his beloved daughter.
I have written to express my inner most feelings after my beloved daughter was killed. I have written because it is a misery that no one should bear, but it is a pain that can touch anyone. The emotions I’ve faced for the past eighteen years are expressed story after story. While words can never suffice, my words are my therapy; feeling comfort in the stories I have written about my Princess. The journey on this coaster ride is the toughest road you will ever be on. This is the road no one dares to think about or travel, but are forced to in order to survive.
I pray this book in some way will help other bereaved parents. I pray this book in some way will be an eye opener for others who have NOT lost a child as I explain how a bereaved parent feels. I pray … and that’s what I do!
Read Paula’s latest article in the April issue of the Bereaved Parents Newsletter