by Paula Osipovitch
Almost Eighteen: A Mother’s Journey Through Grief
PHYSICALLY, it is silent. Emotionally, however, the pain is overwhelming. I dare not shout out my grief, nor do I speak to others who do not have a clue about it. In my heart I cry out your name, frightened someone might hear me.
“Oh, she is still hurting?” They would ask. “After all this time, why is she not ‘over it’ yet? She is dwelling too much.”
My child, in my heart I long for you every moment, whether awake or asleep. Now when I dream of you, I am aware that you are gone and grateful for your presence. Your death has become a new life within me with feelings of being reborn. The person I was does not exist any longer. A piece of me left with you. I want to be with you, but I want to live. I want you back and that would make everything right again. Everyone expects me to get better, but I am not ill, I am just missing you.
Grieving for your child is not a sickness; it is reality, a heart-wrenching reality one must face every day for the rest of one’s life. I heard somewhere that grieving for a child is similar to losing a limb. You will forever long for that missing part, but now you must learn how to live and function without it. Of course there are replacements for a limb, but nothing can replace what or whom you had.
It is a daily struggle one must live with and that I call survival. If you make a choice to live and be functional, which I must say should not be a question, then, you must take one day at a time. There is no time limit within the grieving process and you do not need to place any more pressure on yourself. Knowing your child would not want you to feel this way does not ease the pain. Some choose to move on and that is wonderful. I envy those who are able to do so. I am trying to do just that, the best way I know how.
In the past 17 years of my journey I have gone through many emotional trials. I am here some days stronger than I have ever imagined possible and other days I’ve had a roller coaster of emotions. On the other hand, depression plays a key part in all of this. Am I depressed? Yes, I am. Am I starting to enjoy what is left of my new so-called life? Absolutely, and I believe most bereaved parents will be able to in time as well!
I never would have believed I could be this far in the grief process and make a choice to live, because it is, in fact, a choice. I never realized I could be functional in this world without my child. I would have been the one to say all the wrong things to a bereaved parent, never knowing or imagining the pain and agony involved.
Before my tragic event I thought, “What if one day a loss such as this would happen to me,” comparing myself to others who had lost a child. My immediate response would be lock me up in a room and throw away the key, because I would never be worth anything to anyone ever again.
I know I’m not alone in feeling like this because it’s the absolute worst thing that could ever happen. No one could ever relate to this feeling of emptiness unless it has happened to them. So now, 17 years later, thank goodness I have thawed out just enough to face my days. I never imagined it would be possible. Never! Not in my wildest dreams could I be functional without my child. But somehow I am.
All the new and wonderful events that may come your way after your loss seem to be bittersweet. I am no longer in denial, although it is normal – what I call “new normal” – to feel denial in the beginning. I consider myself an expert on grieving for a child. I don’t need a degree of any kind to guide others in a path of grief. I am all too familiar with what to expect in the beginning of this journey, such as the obstacles you may run into and the bittersweet blessings that may come your way.
Others who have never lost a child, well doers, so called grief supporters, or grief therapists, do not understand what a bereaved parent feels. They try, they mean well, but to no avail. Sort of like the blind leading the blind.
Many of the people I have met are deceiving
As I go through my journey of grieving.
They are well doers and people of emotional healing
But do they truly care about my dealings?
They are acting sincere, I doubt if they care
I call it generic feelings.
The holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and family reunions all seem to affect your life as you try desperately to put on that fake smile. Oh, that fake smile, or mask as we call it, has worked so well during picture time. If only they could see beyond your outer layer that you are wishing your child were there with you, but they are oblivious to that. Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside. They do not know who I am thinking of in my mind’s eye.
The anticipation of these upcoming events such as holidays, your child’s birthday, and angel anniversaries, is sad beyond recognition. I have found that for me the anticipation is far worse than the actual day. Everyday without your child is another day of emotional pain and sadness. Although there will come another day that we are dreading in anticipation: the day when, in just another year, our precious daughter will be gone longer than she was here on earth. It’s difficult to explain the torment and pain this will cause.
I am dreading the fact that she will be a distant memory as years go by. I am worried that when I get older and with the passing of decades my mind will wither and I may forget that I had her. Could that even be possible? In my heart now I know that could never happen because she is embedded deep within me. But I am so forgetful at times and memory loss does run in my family. I wish I could just lose touch with reality so her memory would not hurt so much, but as time goes by and I seem to forget important dates, or the reason why I went into a room, or important things that people tell me, it’s becoming more and more clear to me that I may be in trouble one day. I feel the need to write important things down on paper so as not to forget. What is happening to me? I have heard that stress can cause this to happen and I pray that my mind will get sharper. I certainly hope my age isn’t against me.
As years go by I am still stuck in reverse. It may be 17 years that my baby girl is gone but it still feels like yesterday that I felt her presence. That is strong and I can still see her beautiful almond shaped eyes, her soft silky brownish/reddish hair with highlights, and her infectious smile. Oh, that heavenly smile that would instantly bring a smile to others when she would look at them. She was an angel…She had to be! Many people loved her. How in the world can I ever forget that!
My baby girl will always be forever young as I grow older. I need to stay focused on her as I keep her memory alive and remember, as the years pass, I have to recall all the wonderful things about her. Her likes and dislikes and how she loved the changing of the seasons, even if those memories are just what they are. They are memories and they must remain memories I should desperately cling to so as to never lose focus, even as decades pass.
The holidays seem to drag me down more than other days, especially Christmas because I am with family. My family shows their blissful happiness with each gift they open and with each song they sing and I miss my Trisha more and more with every Christmas that passes. Hearing the words “Happy New Year” is like a needle going through my heart. Yes, I do want and pray for a happy new year. One without any new tragedies, but another year without her is another year added onto the many years that have already passed with her absence.
I have been so overwhelmed on the actual day of her birth and anniversary of her death that I find once I cry and let out my emotions I can face the day, as sad as it is. Have you ever cried and felt somewhat relieved afterwards? As draining as it can be, it’s almost like a release for your system. The only way I can explain this is your heart has toxins of tears building up and getting rid of all the sorrow once you’ve allowed yourself this small indulgence, will relieve the pressure. I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “good grief.” Failing to release your emotional tears can also cause physical pain as well. It can truly drain the life out of you and cause physical disabilities and also disease. What’s so good about grief? Not a thing, but now we have to try to get by the best way possible and expressing your sorrow will aid in doing so.
Grieving certainly makes you feel old and tired. Your facial expressions change and you quickly begin to show your age or get old before your time. My husband and I have always said that we are too young to feel this old. I am reminded of a time shortly after losing our Princess when we went to a restaurant. We could barely eat and we were playing with our food. So sad and distraught, we were trying to hold back our tears as we were talking about Trisha and the senseless accident. We were there for about an hour when an elderly couple approached our table. We looked up at them, wondering if they knew us. The couple stood side by side and the gentleman spoke. He was in a good mood and thought he could cheer us up.
“What in the world can be so sad? Smile, it cannot be that bad” he said.
We responded that we lost our almost-18 year old daughter just a few short weeks ago. Their faces dropped and I could see the man’s legs getting weaker. He took my hand and gave his condolences and asked for our names. He assured us that he and his wife would keep us in their prayers. I actually felt badly for them because we had changed their moods. I’m sure he took us home with him, so to speak.
When the couple walked off, our thoughts were how wonderfully nice they were, but a bit of jealousy came over us. Why do some people get to live long lives and our beloved daughter couldn’t get the chance to see age 18? We used to think how great it was to see an elderly person reach a ripe old age and now it’s different because our child will never be one of those people. Is this wrong? I had my mom still with me, although mentally and physically she was drifting away and I knew it was a matter of time. Only God knows how long I will live, but we will always ask why some are put on this world to suffer and others live long lives with no grief. Gosh, sort of like how my parents left this world before their children. I may have years and years of owning this feeling of sadness and I guess I will have to work on that. It would make me feel better giving blessings to that couple.