Military widow: I've had to show my children what resilience is

Published: Sep. 16, 2018 at 10:59 PM MDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Alyssa Gavulic was home alone when she got a knock at the door every military family dreads. Air Force TACP Master Sgt. Josh Gavulic had died while training for a deployment.

"One of the first things I said: 'Oh my goodness, what am I gonna do?'" Gavulic recalled. "I need someone who’s been through loss and understands. I need a widow."

With that support, her family and friends, and her faith, Alyssa made it through a difficult year of firsts. Then, a few weeks later, another unbearable loss. Her 2-year-old daughter, Lyla, drowned in their family pool.

"She was blonde, curly-haired, extremely vivacious, just a spitfire," Gavulic said. "She wasn’t afraid of anything. She was rough-and-tumble and then she would be very dainty and girly and dressed up."

Now Gavulic warns parents of the importance of getting swimming lessons.

"Keeping them away from the pool is not as safe as teaching them how to survive if they get in the pool," Gavulic said.

In only a few years, Gavulic lost her husband, daughter and then two brothers, one to suicide and the other in a quadruple homicide. Since then, Gavulic has learned to navigate through the grief process both personally and professionally.

"I've had to develop character traits that I didn’t know I would’ve ever held so dearly," she said. "I’ve had to show my children what resilience is instead of talking about it."

As a psychotherapist, she teaches clients that the belief you can overcome is critical to the grief process.

"If I can imagine myself in the future overcoming, then there’s a better chance that when I am given a challenge I will behave in a way that aligns with that because I already imagined that I could," she said.

Her faith in God is also a big part of her journey through healing.

"I really believe He’s asking me to do some of the hard parts out of the good story He is writing in my life," Gavulic said. "We really do have power over what we focus on, and as you walk through very difficult seasons there’s so much beauty in brokenness. The true secret is that every day I get out and I just try to do it a little bit better than I did the day before, and if I make constant and never-ending intentional strides forward then eventually enough time will pass and I’ll be in a different place. That’s how you get through the grief process."

You can hear more from Alyssa Gavulic this February at the Angels of America's Fallen Gala in Colorado Springs.



for information about swim lessons from the National Swimming Pool Foundation.