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The New Normal
Beginning of the New Normal

~ Bob Bagosy, Survivor

September 15, 2014

On September 11, 2001, my children were young.  My oldest daughter, an attorney, was 29; she was to be married in November. My second daughter, a teacher, was 23; she was to be married in May. My oldest son was 19 and in his first year of college. My second son was 17 and a high school student; my youngest son was 12 and a grade school student. My wife and I were working within our professions. A dog and cat rounded out our normal middle class family in suburbia. We had no idea that our normal everyday life was about to turn into what we now call the new normal.

I have this memory of my wife and me with the three boys huddled on a bed watching the news of the terrorist attacks. Like all of America, we were stunned out of our complacency.  My wife and I understood that war had been declared on our country. With tears in my eyes, I looked at our three boys and understood that this would affect their lives for a long, long time. While my sons watched the attacks on TV, I watched them and their expressions. I realized that their seemingly lack of emotions were due to the technology era that had exploded during the 90s, and the realistic action movies where death and destruction were on TV on a regular basis, not real but  the perception of reality. So how did this tragedy match up with reality and our normal everyday life?    

 I started calling my family members to check on their safety and emotional wellbeing. I called my oldest who told us that her and soon to be husband had been in New York at the World Trade Center on September 9. They had dinner at the Windows of the World restaurant at the top of one of the towers. I called my older brother, who at the time, worked at the Newark International Airport in New Jersey. He told me he and his wife had watched the second plane hit the tower.

At time I worked for Chase Manhattan Bank.  My position in the company required me to work in Midtown Manhattan a couple days a week, and as a result this necessitated me to stay overnight at the Marriot hotel next to the World Trade Center. I would arrive in New York via the train which stopped at the World Trade Center. I would take the long escalator to check in at the Marriot and walk a few blocks to the Chase building. I was not in New York on September 11. I was scheduled for surgery in Delaware on September 12, so I too had a reality with this tragedy. It's as if we all had missed boarding the Titanic but still felt a kinship with those twin towers, and the people who had died there which has remained with us after thirteen years.

As for the Bagosy normal life, it pretty much continued until my son Tommy enlisted in the Marine Corps on June 5, 2004 at the age of nineteen. As a family, we all supported Tommy with his choice. Our family was proud of Tommy; we felt it was our family patriotic response to the safety of America. I watched as Tommy changed from a teenager to a mature Marine serving two combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and a deployment to Japan. Tommy got married and had two children. Tommy had reenlisted for another four years and was well on his way to a career in the Marine Corps.

We, as his family, did not see another change in Tommy that resulted from his combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  His wife did notice the changes and was working with Tommy's command at MARSOC and with the doctors. Tommy did not want us to know he was being treated for a TBI and PTSD- both as a result of combat. We did not know but our new normal was on its way. On May 10, 2010 Tommy completed suicide while on active duty at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

 Tommy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

 We, his family, continue to live with this new normal.

 Semper Fi Tommy!

 

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Forest Path
Saturday Morning Message: Places that Remind Us of Our Loved Ones

September 13, 2014

Good Morning,

As we walk this path of grief, it may seem dark, but there are spots of light. We are those spots! As we share how we feel, we might bring a message of hope to others. When we read the thoughts of other survivors, we connect our feelings to those words. This week survivors shared their emotions when visiting or working in places that remind them of their loved one. Thank you to those who sent in replies. Hopefully, this week's responses will be a light for you.

There are times, no matter how long it has been, feelings of grief can, out of nowhere, creep into your heart. I thought that we could share some ideas on how you cope, so the question for this week is: What are some of the strategies you use to help you when those feelings of grief come over you?

I look forward to your replies as we walk this path together. With TAPS, you are never alone.

If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a question and would like to read strategies used by other survivors, just push reply to this message or send an email to carol.lane@taps.org and it will come directly to me.  I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn't have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful.

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: There is a difference between grieving and healing. I know I will grieve till my last breath for my son. However, I had to give myself permission to heal in order to function, live, love and be a good person. Will I go to places that remind me of my son? I have tried to make new memories. I visit him at the cemetery for a good talk. But there are certain places I avoid, so I don't make myself miserable.

From Karl, father of Tre: This is a question that I myself always wonder about how others deal with it.  I never realized how past places would be so haunting to me, when in fact comforting to others.   When I go to my grief group I hear others say, "Oh I would never leave the house my child lived in." I sold the home and moved from the town where I lived when my son passed. The military called and asked where I wanted him buried. I immediately said TN, because that is where he was born and what I felt was 'home" instead of Arlington which is not a place of good memories for me since my son spent much time at Walter Reed. There is one place where my son stood on a rock that I go often to stare.  It is on the end of a sea wall on the Atlantic Ocean.  It was his last trip to the beach with me before he went to basic. I stare at that rock wishing he were still standing there. It is hard to leave this place as it holds good memories for me.

From Ruth, mother of Jim: As the years slip by I find myself more and more wanting to visit the places Jim loved.  I was saddened when they closed the grocery store where he worked when he was in high school.  People still tell us stories of Jim and his good friend and the antics they pulled while working there.  They were both let go and were told they would never amount to anything.  His friend became a doctor, and Jim became an attorney.

Jim loved the beach.  He visited there as often as possible.  I love to sit on the shore and see the same things he saw, and feel the same wind that ruffled his hair.

His high school is just down the road and I was so pleased to see his daughter walk across the same platform her dad did to get her diploma.  No, I do not find it hard to go to the places he went.  I find it welcoming and refreshing, a time to remember the days of carefree living.

The other day my granddaughter asked me to drive to all of the places we had lived. We have always lived in the same town. What a trip down memory lane.  We visited the house where we brought Jimmy home, grandma's house, the house we lived in when he started school, and the house we lived in when he graduated. We cried, we laughed, but more than anything my granddaughter learned how life once was.... she now can carry some of my special memories.

My motto has always been, it matters not how he died but how he lived.... He enjoyed life, friends and family.... and we loved Jim.

From Bob, father of Louis:  When we pass locations where Lou used to live, I feel a great sadness. I try to hide it from Vivian, but she is experiencing it as well and is trying to hide it so as to not sadden me. Nine years out and we find there is no patch for the hole in our heart.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: I received a call from my daughter-in-law about Blake's death with a warning that we would be getting the visit that afternoon. I had been working on bill paying at the time the call came in. After that I thought it was odd that every time I tried to pay my bills, I'd get extremely nervous and jittery. I couldn't figure it out until someone mentioned "the triggers." All of a sudden it all made sense! I tried several things like telling myself, "It's not going to happen again." I also tried my bill paying at the kitchen table! Finally the idea came to me to do some rearranging of the furniture to see if that would help. It hasn't been a cure, but I seem to be able to sit at my desk a little longer and don't get the nervousness and jitters as much as I used to. I still shake enough that my writing and typing show it quite a bit. You can see the jitters in my writing and I am having to stop and correct many errors I didn't used to have before. I tend to hit either the wrong key or hit the key one more time than I need to! And I used to be a secretary for a number of years!

General Support Chat
This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat
Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kim Suggs and Carla Stumpf-Patton

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at 1-800-959-8277. 

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Never forget
FACING THE THIRTEENTH ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11: TAPS SHARES TIPS FOR FAMILIES OF THE FALLEN

September 11, 2014

The thirteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States causes us all to remember that tragic day and may stir emotions for the thousands of people in the United States who are grieving the deaths of a loved one who died during the attacks now more than a decade ago.

The anniversary also poses an emotional challenge for the families of those with loved ones who died in the Global War on Terror in Iraq or Afghanistan, many of whom enlisted in the military, in part, due to the 9/11 attacks.

TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, offers the following tips to help the surviving families of our fallen:

Take charge of the anniversary date. Anticipating the date, can be worse than the actual day. Taking charge of your plans for the day and mapping out how you will spend your time can help relieve anxiety. 

Be sensitive to your reactions to images in the media related to the attacks. Documentaries and tributes will be more prevalent in the media around the anniversary of the attacks. Be gentle with yourself and aware of your emotional tempo when watching media coverage, especially graphic images. Children who may have been sheltered from the images at the time of the attacks may now be seeing the footage for the first time and exposed anew.

Make plans. Plan to spend the anniversary where you feel nurtured, emotionally safe, and comfortable. Having a plan will help you navigate the day and its events. But remember to plan for flexibility, as you may not know how your emotions will respond.

Take stock of both joy and sadness.   Give yourself permission to feel joy as well as sadness. Don't feel like you have to "be a certain way" because of your loss. Just be yourself.

Express your feelings. Bottling up your feelings may add to distress, not lessen it. To express your feelings, use your creativity to write a poem, talk with a supportive friend, create a painting, or pen a journal entry.

Make a memorial contribution or do something for someone else, in memory of your loved one. Consider making a donation to a charity in memory of your loved one. Give a gift on behalf of your loved one to someone else. Volunteer with a charity to do something that your loved one would have enjoyed or approved of.

Don't pretend you haven't experienced a loss. Imagining that nothing has happened does not make the pain of losing a loved one go away, nor does it make a difficult day easier to endure. Even though memories may be painful, they can be comforting when they include reflections on the joy your loved one brought to your life. It is ok to talk with others about what you have lost and what your loved one contributed to your life today.

Create a tribute.   Light a candle, display a favorite photograph, or set a place at the dinner table to represent the missing loved one. Consider writing a letter to your loved one and share your special memories and thoughts.

Avoid your grief triggers. For some, it is a smell. For others, it's an image that scrolls on television screens over and over. They are instant and visceral reminder of trauma and loss. If you know something is a trigger for your grief, then avoid the trigger as best as you can.

Be gentle with yourself.   Realize that certain sights, smells, and even tastes, may be comforting, or may jolt your emotions. Be careful with your emotions and listen to yourself.

Attend public functions if you can. Consider attending public functions, especially if you will be able to spend time with supportive family members and friends. Make an escape plan in case the event is more than you can handle, and trust your hosts to understand if you need to slip out. If you think a gathering might be more than you can bear, it is ok to stay home.

Reach out for support if you need it. The TAPS Resource & Information Helpline is available 24/7 at 800.959.TAPS (8277). Caring and trained professionals are available to talk with you confidentially by phone.

Realize that what helps you, may not help others in your family.   We each grieve differently, and have unique relationships with the person who died. What comforts you, may not help others in your family who experienced the same loss.

Pay attention to your health. Make sure you get regular rest and drink lots of water. Do not over-indulge in sweets or alcohol. If you feel overwhelmed, talk with your medical care provider.

Find sustenance for the soul.   Your church, synagogue, mosque, or other faith community may offer services, resources, and support networks for the bereaved. Families who have lost a loved one serving in the military may find comfort by connecting with other survivors through the TAPS online community, peer support groups, peer mentors, or care groups.

Video Interview with the Chronicle of Philanthropy: 9/11 Spurs Growing Demand for TAPS Services

USO On Patrol Magazine Interview: Survivor Supports Families in Wake of 9/11

About TAPS

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America's fallen military heroes. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, grief seminars and retreats for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, online and in-person care groups, and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for all who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces. Services are provided free of charge. TAPS has offered support to more than 40,000 surviving family members of our fallen military and their caregivers since 1994. For more information go to www.taps.org or call the toll-free help line at 1.800.959.TAPS (8277).

 

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Peggy's picture
Remembering My Son- A Dear Mother's Reflection

~ Peggy Scallorn, Survivor

September 8, 2014

Cody Allen Scallorn

15 June 1993 to 2 January 2012

 

Cody started his life out with an uphill battle. He was born eight weeks premature and showed from the very beginning of life that he was a fighter. He was so small and fragile. I wanted nothing more in life than to protect him. I had no idea what greatness lay ahead for Cody. He was our first born child of three children and our only son. He had these piercing blue eyes and bright blonde hair while growing up. He certainly knew how to keep smiles on the faces of those around him. He was a happy child for sure. He made others laugh by his goofiness like when he would throw the guts of the pumpkins out on to the dogs while we were helping him carve his pumpkin! At an early age though Cody showed such compassion for others and loved unconditionally.

Cody, at the age of ten, had always wanted to be part of something greater in life. His compassion and willingness to serve others led him in the direction of wanting to serve in the United States Air Force. During his high school career he participated in the JROTC program and excelled in it. He knew at that point that he wanted to join the military and went into an early enlistment program at the age of seventeen.

He worked hard at school and had a part time job throughout high school. He was liked well by all and showed far more compassion for others in life than most adults do. He inspired and encouraged those around him to become better people and to follow their dreams in life no matter how big or small. Cody may have had a short time here to grace this earth but made an impact on those who were placed in his path.

His hard work and dedication paid off. He completed and graduated high school an entire year early to pursue his dream of becoming an airman. Cody left July 5, 2011 for basic training to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. He completed boot camp and technical school in the field of security forces. Upon technical school graduation he came home on leave to spend time with his family and friends.

On December 31, 2011 Cody came home after being out with some friends. He said he had received a call from his commander and had to go back to his base earlier than expected. He had to leave the next day. I was so upset that night as I was not ready for him to go back. I gave my son his last hug on January 1, 2012 before he left to leave to drive back to Texas. Unfortunately, the morning of January 2, 2012 my son took his own life at the age of eighteen. After an investigation into my son's suicide, we found that he had gotten himself into some minor legal trouble unbeknownst to us. Cody had never been in trouble before this incident, and we know that the last phone call to my son was from his commander within minutes before my son completed suicide. No drugs or alcohol played a part in my son's death, and there were no warnings before his suicide. It is believed that Cody took his life out of fear of possibly losing his career in the military. It should have been the military's first and foremost responsibility for Cody to make it back to Lackland AFB safely.

Hearing the words that our son was found after he had been missing for two days and that he had taken his own life brought me literally to my knees. My breath was taken from me and I could not even begin to comprehend the reality. My son loved us all so very much. How could he do this to us? Why? Those questions haunted me for at least a year into my grief journey along with a million others. I felt like I must have failed my child in order for this to have happened. I was naïve to suicide thinking that things like this don't happen to families like ours. I was uneducated about suicide before my son's death and even more so about the high suicide rate among veterans and active military. In 2012 alone over 349 soldiers took their own lives which averages to one every 25 hours. A staggering epidemic that has been plaguing our military in the past several years. It is estimated 22 veterans a day take their own lives as well.

Immediately after my son's suicide I felt very alone on my journey. Just trying to function day to day proved to be quite difficult as all I could concentrate on was my last moments with my son and the last moments that we shared as a family of five. My family dynamics were forever changed. I no longer had a living son and that was a very hard thing to come to terms with. I went through denial for quite a while as it was easier to pretend that Cody was away at the base. I tried to stuff down my emotions on a daily basis only to have complete meltdowns. I couldn't concentrate even on a simple task or conversation. Life had become almost unbearable to live. It was hard to be the wife and mother to my two daughters as my grief consumed my whole being.

About four months after my son's death, I was on a mission to find someone who had gone through a similar situation as mine. I was desperate to find a connection with others who had experienced a military suicide. That is when I found TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors). TAPS is a not-for-profit organization that was founded by Bonnie Carroll in 1994 after she had lost her husband in a military plane crash in Alaska in 1992. It is a peer-based support system that provides 24/7 emotional grief support and resources for all those who have lost a loved one in the military regardless of relationship or manner of death, including suicide. TAPS was where I could openly expressed my emotions and love for Cody and the immense grief I was feeling. It is also where I received the emotional support, love and understanding of my loss. TAPS offers seminars, retreats and Good Grief Camps for children. My husband and I have been able to attend two seminars; one was specifically for suicide and my daughters were able to attend the Good Grief Camp. These seminars are so helpful as they offer many different workshops pertaining to your grief and journey. Since I came to TAPS in May 2012, I have been able to not only receive help for myself in my grief journey but also have been able to provide emotional support and understanding of the newly bereaved as well. I recently completed the training in November 2013 to become a peer mentor for TAPS. It is an honor to be able to give back what has been given to me and my family. I have also done a national radio interview on military suicides as well as help bring awareness to this subject back in December 2012. Cody's picture has adorned the "Love Never Dies" quilt the past two years which is used throughout the state of Tennessee in awareness and prevention programs for suicide.

It has now been a little over two years since Cody took his life. I have learned that the pain of losing him to suicide will always be there, but the pain changes as the time passes. I am able to look forward in my future with my daughters and husband and I hold on to hope. I am not the same person I was prior to Cody's death, and I used to long for the woman I used to be but have learned to accept who I have now become. I have found joy in my life again, and I am grateful for all of the small moments I have with my family. We are all survivors on our own separate journey. My life mission is to continue to keep his memory alive, bring awareness to others of suicide and hope to those of us who are living through the loss.

 

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Saturday Morning
Saturday Morning Message: TAPS Events

September 6, 2014

"The words of kindness are more healing to a drooping heart than balm or honey." Sarah Fielding

Good Morning,

When you walk into a TAPS event, you are met with smiles and words of comfort which bring warmth to the heart even in the midst of grief. In a past TAPS magazine article, I Knew I Was Picking the Right Table, Sarah Greene surviving spouse of Marine Lieutenant Colonel David S. Greene wrote a wonderful article that focuses on the feelings she had when she went to a TAPS event for the first time and found strangers who understood her emotions and became friends hugging each other for comfort.

TAPS offers seminars and retreats to provide connections with other survivors . In addition, TAPS is introducing one day events with the upcoming Camp Pendleton Family Reunion  September 14th. Whatever your comfort level, there is something for you at TAPS.

Regional seminars as well as the National Seminar over Memorial Day weekend are open to all survivors and include speakers, workshops, and some activities to share with your family or enjoy yourself. There is also a Good Grief Camp for children. In this camp, younger members of the family can participate in activities that are age appropriate and are matched with a mentor who is a military member. This provides them a companion for the weekend to help them cope with the loss. There is also one seminar each year providing support to survivors of suicide.

A retreat is created around a group activity which includes survivors who had a specific relationship to their loved one. There are two more scheduled for this year.

New this year as well are retreats for men and women no matter the relationship to their loved one. The Men's Retreat was in Montana at the end of August and  the Savannah Women's Retreat  is coming up on November 19th - 23rd.

You can always find a list of all the events at the TAPS Events Calendar.

If you are interested in what other survivors wrote about their experiences at a TAPS event, read Attending TAPS Events: Encouragement for the Newcomer.

You may find that you would like to meet others from the comfort of your own home. TAPS offers chat sessions. There are no specific discussion topics for each one. Survivors come in, catch up with each other, ask a question, or just read the conversation.  It is another way to connect that many find supportive. Stay as long as you like. This week there are three chats for survivors. If you are unclear how to come into a chat, please feel free to send me an email.

Several weeks ago there was a question about working at or visiting a place that brings back memories of a loved one. I thought I would open this question once more and have a chance to post more replies. The question is: What are your feelings about working at or visiting a place that reminds you of your loved one? I look forward to your responses.

If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a question and would like to read strategies used by other survivors, send an email to carol.lane@taps.org and it will come directly to me.  I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn't have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful.  

Hugs,

Carol

This week's chat schedule:

Parent Chat
Date: Monday, September 8, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson

General Support Chat
This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower Chat
Date: Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kim Suggs

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at 1-800-959-8277.

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Sand picture
Feelings In the Spaces of My Heart For Which There Are No Words

~ Linda Ambard, Survivor

September 1, 2014

When Phil's candle burned out far too early, I snuffed out a part of me with him.  In the 23 years of marriage, I found a safe harbor to weather the storms in.  Before I met Phil, I didn't have laughter in my life and I yearned for a place to call home.  Marrying a military man meant that my idea of home changed from a location to a concept.  Home was wherever our family was together-it was him.  The shift in how I perceived my home made it easier to move often as we zig zagged all over the country.  The multiple moves made it easy to overlook the gradual shifting of how I invested in friendships and people, too.  The idea of home being a person and the shift in my friendships are the crux of my struggles three years from when my grief process began.

I stand on shifting sands. The past three years have given me a quiet confidence in my decision-making capabilities and it has given me a clear vision as to what matters in my life.  The sparks have ignited and propel me forward as I find purpose and positive growth in writing, educating, and speaking on military issues and the military family.  My faith stands unshaken and true, but as I look at the girl peering back in the mirror I recognize that there are essential questions that are unanswered.  My assumptive world view of growing old with someone, facing retirement together, and even thinking I would die before him are shattered.  I thought I knew how my life was going to play out; Phil's death obliterated my concept of future and my concept of where I fit.  The broken pieces trouble me.  Will life always feel this lonely?  Will laughter ever genuinely dominate my life again?  And….the hardest question of all, where do I belong?

Where do I belong?  I do not feel like I fit in any where.  I didn't consider how small my circles had become.  The longer Phil and I were married, and the more moves we made, the smaller our circles became.  I never realized how shallow my connections with other people were until Phil was killed and I realized that my friendships lacked depth in large part because I failed to nurture them by investing time, energy, and personal information.  I didn't have 911 friends-the type of friends that can read and sense how a person feels even if that person can fool everyone else.  I didn't have friendships outside of Phil where they would know the true feelings and would call me out with the "bull crap" meter.  My life had become Phil's life and vice versa.  He was my circle of one. 

Because my circle was one deep, Phil's life consumed me and took over.  His life-style became mine.  I lived on military bases, worked on military bases, went to church on military bases, sent my children to military schools, shopped in the Base Exchange and commissary, went to military events, and did the duties expected of a military spouse.  While initially the military life was foreign to me, the lifestyle became familiar and comfortable.  At some point, I stopped recognizing the civilian lifestyles as being normal.  I didn't think about the shift, but as I became immersed and comfortable in the military culture that included lingo, rank, structure, discipline, physicality, living arrangements, rules, and even a time system foreign to many, my civilian life was eclipsed.  While I never wore Phil's rank in terms of entitlement, his choice became my choice. 

Part of the cost of that choice was that my civilian roots and connections became very shallow.  I still do not know when that shift happened, but at Phil's death I realized that I no longer had deep connections with people.  In my shyness and in my frequent military moves, I learned to unintentionally keep people at arm's length.  Sure, I could make quick connections one on one with most people, but I only let people in so far.  I hid behind a mask of aloofness and shyness.  I truly invested every facet of my being into my Phil.  When his unexpected and unplanned death occurred, it ruptured all that I knew.  Not only was my soft place to land gone, the one person who knew me well enough to see beyond my outward masks was gone; my home, my people, my culture were severed.

As a military spouse, I was told that I had one year to figure out where I wanted to move (I have since found out that it can be waived for up to three years).  How do I know where I want to live?  I haven't lived in Boise, ID since 1979.  I am too old to go and live with my mamma and too young to go and live with my adult children who live all over the world as part of the military.  Part of the reason I work as a civilian military worker is that I am not ready to give up the camaraderie and familiarity of my adult life.  I am not ready to sever the one thing I still know.

While I have figured out that I will never be an east coast girl, I haven't figured out the rest of it.  I no longer fit with military families.  I don't fit in with married couples in terms of hanging out.  I feel uncomfortable hanging out in single's groups and even civilian groups because I am lacking the skills and the comfort level to absorb those cultures or places.     I am lonely and adrift.  I have found great satisfaction with work, running, and school, but where do I fit.  In the spaces between the holes in my heart, there is a longing to find a place-my place.  While I stand on shifting sands, I search for solid footing.  I do not think that I am unique in feeling this displacement.  In fact, I believe that many retiring military people quietly suffer the same feelings of displacement and longing for the culture that became second nature.  I do believe that after 30 years of living and being a part of the military community made this part of the grief process harder.  There are no words, but there is a quiet prayer, a silent longing, and an unspoken hope for something more-a place where I belong.

 

 

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Woods - Autumn
Saturday Morning Message: Life Changes

August 30, 2014

Good Morning,

For many of us, the seasonal changes, give cause to reflect. Pausing to consider your life can be helpful to everyone, but especially those of us who are trying to adjust to a "new normal". This week's responses show that our loved ones will always be in our hearts, although the direction of our lives may have changed. Each of us is different and we will react in our own way, but by communicating with each other, we see the similarities and celebrate the differences as well. That is one of the joys of being with the TAPS family. There is no judgment and no time lines of healing. We do it at our own pace. Thanks to those who wrote to share this week and always to those of you who read the Saturday Message.

Survivors who may not have been to a TAPS seminar or retreat might be wondering what they are like. For those of us who have attended at least one, for next week's Saturday Message, let's share: What is the best thing that you did at a TAPS seminar or retreat? I look forward to your replies.

If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a question and would like to read strategies used by other survivors, send an email to carol.lane@taps.org and it will come directly to me.  I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn't have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful.

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Tammie, mother of Gregory:  My life has changed in many ways since Gregory departed from this life. I have become more conscious of how fragile and short life is. I am grateful every day for everything, I don't sweat the little things, but find the positive and hold on to what is good and meaningful.  I don't take anything for granted, but am thankful. Thankful for the beauty of loving memories of Gregory. I find myself talking more to people about my loss hoping that by sharing it shows the importance of spending time with your loved ones and to be thankful for family. At the end of the day all we have is each other. It is so vital to our happiness and joy that we share and create beautiful life lasting memories. Hold your love ones close to your heart and cherish every moment shared. These memories are forever beautiful and priceless!

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: My life changed the minute the doctor said those words, "We did everything we could, but we couldn't save him...."

There's a permanent hole in my heart. However, some wonderful things have happened since then. I met a girl my son dated secretly who I now consider a daughter. I love her and her daughter who calls me Bubbe Leslie. I moved to a wonderful apartment complex that Eugene picked out before he died.  This is where I met the love of my life and married him. He and his entire family are fabulous. Also, my other son had a baby girl who is a delight.

I have moved on with my life in many ways. I can even say my life improved. But there will always be that ache and the wish that he were here.

From Barbara, mother of David: Since the death of my son, David, I feel is that there is now an underlying sadness in my life that I never had before.   Things that used to be important are no longer important.  It is hard to be motivated at work regarding new technologies, ideas, etc.  It just doesn't seem important anymore.  I have begun to be more charitable mostly by donating money.  One day, perhaps donate more time, but I am not yet ready.  Also, I don't worry about things so much.  When people are in a hurry, I wonder why. I just let life and the days happen.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: In what ways have I changed since Caleb's passing? I am not the same person I was before February 26, 2013, the day Caleb left this world. I have new friends - friends who are kind, and considerate...I had to distance myself from those who are negative, love gossip and drama. My perspective on so many things has changed. Some things that used to matter, don't matter anymore. Sometimes, I don't feel like I know myself and am having to get know this new person! I don't always know how I'm going to react to things. A friend of mine likened this new 'me' to being an adolescent again...where we didn't know who we were or what we wanted or where we were going! I think that is pretty accurate!

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: I feel I have changed in a number of ways since the death of our son, Blake. In some ways for the better and others not. I find some emotions are temporary and I am coming back to normal after almost four years. Here are some of the ways I can see a difference in myself:

  1. Thinking clearly and focusing on what I need to be focused on.
  2. Using my imagination.
  3. I can listen to the local news, but have trouble with the world news.
  4. A lot of things I used to do for fun were of no interest to me, but the interest in things like listening to music, singing, sewing, crafting, going to festivals are returning a little along the way.

I have also found myself wanting to do things I never would have done before like:

  1. Head up an annual run to raise scholarship money to help local children better themselves.
  2. I've gotten up the courage to do things like go on the radio and TV to promote the race.
  3. I read and research much more than in the past. Many things are in areas I never thought to do before.
  4. My prayer life has increased far more than in the past even though I've always been a church goer.

The list goes on and on. I feel as if I'm evolving into a new and hopefully better me.

General Support Chat
This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat
Date: Thursday, September 04, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Kim Suggs and Carla Stumpf-Patton

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at 1-800-959-8277.

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Picture of Tommy and Joe
Marriage and Death - A Semper Fi Story

~ Bob Bagosy, Survivor

August 25, 2014

The week of August 9th started out great with the marriage of my youngest son David to Janica in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. The day was perfect with blue skies, no rain and low temperatures. The wedding took place on Oak Mountain. A lift carried us to the top where sixty people welcomed the bride and groom. My Bagosy family attended and consisted of my wife Iris, myself, my daughters Stacy and Kristin and their husbands, my son Michael, my nephews Chris and Alex, as well as numerous aunts and uncles.

The wedding reception was one of the best I have ever attended but my heart ached for the one son who was missing, SGT Tommy Bagosy, USMC. As David and Michael, who was the best man, were in the process of having the wedding photos taken, I felt a sharp pain in my heart - missing from this picture was Tommy. I decided before the wedding that I would not mention Tommy since the day belonged to David and Janica. After all it has been four years since Tommy took his own life and perhaps it was best not to mention. My son Michael, as the best man, gave the toast for the bride and groom. During the toast, he mentioned Tommy in words that he spoke before his death "to appreciate the good times sometimes you need to have gone through the bad times". I was moved that Tommy was quoted, and a tear ran down my face. As the reception continued I noticed a table alone in the corner with a place setting for one with a nametag. As I approached the table, I saw on the nametag the name Tom Bagosy spelled out. At the sight of that I had to leave the reception for a moment because several more tears began running down my face. My sons had not forgotten their brother Tommy. As the reception continued I gathered my Bagosy family around the table set for Tommy, and we toasted Tommy.

On August 12th my Bagosy family traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to attend the burial of my father, PFC Joseph A. Bagosy, USMC 1942-1945, and my stepmother. The day was full of heavy rain - fitting for a burial of a Marine. The Gunny Sergeant in charge of the burial detail said that it was a day that only Marines could love. By the time we reached the Caldarium the rain became a monsoon and despite our umbrellas we all became soaked, yet the Marine detail conducting honors stood in the heavy rain in their dress blues. The bugler played TAPS while the detail fired the 21-gun salute.  The flag was presented by the Gunny to my older brother on bended knee and shook all our hands. Then we walked to the wall where the two urns were placed in the crypt. A prayer was said by the Navy Chaplin and the burial was completed. As the family left I stood alone and sang the Marine Corps Hymn; it was a final tribute to an old breed Marine.

After I returned home I received in the mail a copy of my father's Marine Corps records from his service during WW2. I read that my father enlisted on December 26, 1941 and went to Parris Island on January 2, 1942.  He served with the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal from August 7th to December 9th. He had over eight bouts of malaria; he was evacuated to Australia and returned to the US in May of 1943. His final discharge was Honorable with a disability on June 5, 1945. He was disabled with Psychoneurosis, which today is called PTSD. In his lifetime he never told the family of his PTSD but for the rest of his life he received a disability check from the VA.   

So my week started with my son getting married and ended with my father being buried with honor.

Semper Fi to my two Marines!

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Saturday Morning
Saturday Morning Message: Ways to Memorialize our Loved Ones

August 23, 2014

"Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality." - Emily Dickinson

Good Morning,

When we love someone they live on  in our hearts, and also through what we may do in memory of them. Doing something in memory of your loved one allows the name to be spoken and gives a chance for others to hear about the life of this person you hold close. Through foundations, memorials as well as TAPS events, chats, or even by sending a reply to the Saturday Message you share your loved one.  I want to thank those who wrote replies for today's message.

For other ideas on what survivors have done to honor their loved one, read Bonds with the Deceased Don't Have to End by Gloria C. Horsley, PhD, MFT, RN, and Heidi Horsley, PsyD, MSW, MS from a past TAPS magazine. It is a wonderful article with some interesting ideas.

Another place to surround yourself with those who are eager to hear stories of your loved one, keep the memory alive, and help to support TAPS is by looking over TAPS EVENTS - Fundraising to see if there is anything of interest to you. The running events that are happening for the rest of this year are: Navy-Air Force Half Marathon and the Navy 5 Miler and the Air Force Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K and 5K in September, the Army Ten Miler and the Marine Corps Marathon, 10k, and Kids Run in October.

Next week's question came from Sarah G. The question is: In what ways have you have changed since your loved one's death? Perhaps there is something on which you spend more time or an organization that has attracted you to become involved. I look forward to your answers.

If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a question and would like to read strategies used by other survivors, send an email to carol.lane@taps.org and it will come directly to me.  I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn't have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful.

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Andrea, spouse of Joe: On Aug 2nd this year, my daughter and I hosted the first annual The Dash 5K in memory of my husband / her dad. At the event we had happy and goofy pictures of my husband in many places so everyone would remember why they were there that day and smile at all the pictures.  He was such a happy man always making people smile and laugh. At every mile marker  there was  a silly picture and at the finish line we had a big picture of him doing a thumbs up. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day. We also had a BBQ which is something he was known for. He always BBQed for everyone all the time. It was one of his pleasures. We raffled off gifts as well as  had t- shirts made for the event. We carefully planned it out to represent who he was and we definitely pulled it off. It was a lot of work, but well worth it in the end. We were then able to give back to others that need it as well.  Our plan is to do it every year around the time of his birthday in June.   I hope my story gives someone else some inspiration to do the same. It really did help my family and me a lot.

From Rebecca, mother of Griffin:  I thank current and past soldiers for their service by giving them a US Flag or US Army Flag. I carry them in my car. Giving of the flag really means a lot to their heart and mine. Since I can't crochet things for Griff, I give crocheted camouflage scarves to survivors and active military. This tag goes on everything crocheted in Griff's memory: "Wraps of love in honor of Sgt. Griff." I crocheted a baby afghan in camouflage & cream for a close high school friend who is now an Army soldier and his wife. Also I made a red, white, and blue afghan for the VA Center where I am fortunate to receive compassionate counseling. There are also crocheted scarves, Afghans, lunch mats, and coasters to give away to people who've been kind and compassionate. These are the ways I honor my much loved missed son Griff.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: These are some of the things I have done to honor Eugene so far:

 

  1. Organ Donation: Eugene died suddenly and unexpectedly.  I didn't get to donate his major organs, but I did donate his bones, skin and corneas.  He died in the morning. By the evening, two received the gift of sight and 48 others were either saved or enhanced. I have spoken to groups about organ and tissue donation.  It's easy to sign up at the DMV.  You are then put on national registry making carrying a card obsolete.
  2. I built a bench at the military cemetery to honor Eugene.
  3. Future grandkids' names will start with the first letter of his first or middle name to honor him.

He is forever in our hearts.

 

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: There are a number of things we've done.  The biggest one is an annual walk/run to raise money for a scholarship fund started in Blake's name. Since Blake was into physical fitness, I felt the race done on a wooded country road instead of a paved one would fit the event better as well. I felt I no longer can do for my Blake, but I can help others in his name. So far we have given out six scholarships to needy kids that are trying to better themselves. I feel since Blake was always studying to better himself, this would be pleasing to him. My husband has made a memorial garden around a tree that was planted in his memory. We plan on doing something special in his memory at our church where he was raised. I have talked to our priest about it and he was going to research ideas I had and get back with me. There are countless things we can do. I think the main thing is to do something to help make life better for others in the name of your loved one or like I say take something horrible and turn it into something good for others. We can't do anything about the past, but we can bring sunshine into others' lives with a helping hand.

From Christine, mother of Adam: I sometimes go to the last place that I saw my Adam.We had eaten at a Chinese buffet.  He had arrived after me and had parked next to me. This was the 2nd day after he was discharged from the hospital. Sometimes I stop and pick up something to eat to go. I always look at the two parking spaces where we last hugged.

From Anne, mother of Michael: What have I done since I lost our sweet son, Michael?  Well, for one thing I never stop doing things to honor him and I love keeping his memory alive, because I feel he is always with all of us.  I started the Osprey Memorial Foundation after we lost our son in hopes of raising enough money to build a monument to honor eight men who were testing the Osprey helicopter in 2000 and  died in two separate air crashes. I fulfilled my dream with lots of perseverance! The Osprey Memorial is now in the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, VA.  I also became a peer mentor for TAPS for quite a few years to help other mothers with their loss and pain. To help ourselves we have to come out of ourselves.

General Support Chat
This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at 1-800-959-8277. 

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Linda's picture
Three Years After Phil was Killed

~ Linda Ambard, Survivor

August 18, 2014

When Phil was killed, I felt like I was all alone and that somehow I no longer fit in the world I had been a part of since I was 21.  It had been many years since I was the center of gossip, but from the early moments less than a week after the funeral, people Phil had worked with were making bets about how long it would take for me to date and remarry.  Someone considered it funny enough to tell me about it.  Other people shied away from me perhaps feeling like Phil's death was contagious.  Maybe they didn't know what to say.  Many didn't.  Many people came and remembered Phil's life at his funeral, but I never heard from them again.  As time has marched on, and Phil's death is not such a raw event, I have become better at laughing off the inappropriate behavior and remarks, yet the pain lingers as a muted dull ache of wanting the life I thought I was going to have.

Three years after Phil was killed, I've realized that I, like most, had a skewed perception of grief.  I thought grief was finite and people could "get over the loss".  I suppose I thought that someone else who could fill the void could replace people somehow.  Yes, I had experienced death before Phil, but most of my losses followed a predictable pattern; the end either came from death at an old age or the loss was someone not close enough to create a lifetime of "what ifs" or missed family events. 

People step up willingly and provide a shroud of support in the immediate aftermath of traumatic death-any death.  They step up to provide food and a physical support.  They are willing to listen and they are willing be the hands that reach to the broken spirited griever, but people (and I am no different) quickly reach the end to their capacity to give.  It isn't that they do not want to be a good friend, but all of us have life responsibilities and the need to connect with people who bring life into our own hearts.  This time limit usually is six months for those that are the closest to those who grieve.

When caregiving fatigue kicks in, people begin to look for life to resume in what is perceived a normal way.  At this point, things may be said and done that hurt a person who is grieving, while it isn't the intention of others, many just simply do not know what to say or do. While a person would never tell another person to get over being happy, it is exactly the opposite with those who still cry, talk about the loss, or mourn in any manner six months-12 months-whatever that number is. 

I've had people in my life suggest  sleeping with someone, getting drunk to forget, self-medicating, etc. as a way of forgetting the pain.  While those things may work temporarily, I've been smart enough to realize all to soon that the pain would come rushing back and the pain would be even worse if it carried the elements of guilt, self-loathing, or delayed grief.  A person must simply continue to step and breathe one minute at a time until the pain is blunted enough that a person can grow and find meaning or remember the person lost not as the event that took their life, but as a collection of happy memories and shared events.

Another element of this journey which shifted in my paradigms is I once said to my minister that I was waiting for God to bless me like he blessed Job after all of his losses.  God did indeed bless Job after his loss, BUT as my minister pointed out, people are not replaceable.  God allowed Job to find love again and to reestablish his business again, but Job still bore the scars of having lost his family.

At this point in my journey, I still think about Phil.  There are days that will always bring with them the weight of darkness.  I can't control those days or basic time frames, but most days I am confident I am doing what I need to be doing.  I honor Phil and the love we shared even as I take small faltering steps forward.  I have begun to believe in myself and in my future without my Phil but that progress in no way means that I am "over it". 

My future does not mean replacing or forgetting Phil and what he meant to me.  It simply means learning to live as Linda instead of as the Linda/Phil team.  This future means developing a new future-one that I never wanted-because it is what he would have wanted. 

He even told me that in our last face to face conversation.  Phil wanted that what if talk right before he deployed.  I wanted none of it.  I made jokes about Raul the pool boy.  I do not know any person named Raul and I certainly do not have a pool.  He got exasperated and asked me a question that compels me forward in hope and in confidence.  He turned to me and asked, "If you died first, would you want me to be happy again?"  Why, yes, yes I would.  Phil wanted happiness for me because he loved me that much.  Perhaps the people who want us to get over it love us that much.  

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