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2015 National Parade
Saturday Morning Message: Thankful for TAPS

November 26, 2016

Good Morning,

Because it is Thanksgiving weekend, this Saturday Morning Message features a list of resources TAPS provides that I am thankful for as a survivor. Since a list of all the programs would make this message too long, I've only included some of the programs, but you can learn about all TAPS programs at http://www.taps.org.

The picture today is from the TAPS website showing a survivor participating in one of the events at a Seminar. Although we haven't announced the 2017 schedule at this time, visit the TAPS Events Calendar to see the list whenever you would like. Seminars, Good Grief Camps and Retreats are special places that offer the opportunity to connect with other survivors in person. You may want to make plans to attend the 23rd Annual TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp scheduled May 26 - May 29 in Arlington, Virginia. This Seminar is special as it happens over Memorial Day weekend, so there are many events planned in the D.C. area to which TAPS survivors can attend in addition to the workshops and support groups inside the hotel.

Connecting with others in your local area can be very comforting. TAPS has started Care Groups in several different states. When you go to the TAPS website, you can find the Care Group locations provided by TAPS as well as a list of other resources near you. 

Exercise can be very helpful for survivors. If you want to focus on your overall health and wellness, check out our new Inner Warrior program. Inner Warrior events for 2017 will be announced soon. If you like to run or walk, look at Team TAPS. This program was started by two survivors, Marie Campbell and Lori Hunter. The story of how these two women began the runs and a list of the upcoming events can be found at www.teamtaps.org

The Online Community connects survivors throughout the year right from their own living rooms. There are a variety of Yahoo email groups as well as chats. Some are for specific survivor groups and others are for all survivors. Survivors need to be signed in before they can access the Online Community. To do that, go to the top right of the TAPS website and click on "Online Community" to sign up or log in. This year, new video chats are also available in addition to the text chats. You can always find a list of upcoming chats at the end of the Saturday Morning Message

Another interesting program is teams4taps. This is a way survivors can attend the favorite sports event of their fallen loved one. There are a wide variety of sporting events for survivors. To see pictures of these events and to learn more, go to www.taps.org/teams4taps.

The TAPS Resource Library includes many other programs and services for which we are thankful. I hope this special edition of the Saturday Morning Message is helpful to you. We are thankful for all the ways TAPS provides comfort and care to our TAPS family. 

THANK YOU TAPS! 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

Next week, the Saturday Morning Message will feature this question: What has made you most thankful on your grief journey? This question is the same one from last week, and I will publish all responses in the Dec. 3 edition of the message. It could be something in your life or a TAPS program that has made a difference as you walk this path. 

♫  Song for the Week 

My daughter, Bethany, sister of Bryon, knew there was a section about songs that goes out to survivors each week. She sent me her favorite, which is "I Chase Butterflies" by Alan Pederson. 

Upcoming Video and Text Chats

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs  

Midwest Online Support Group Video Chat  
Date: Thursday, December 01, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 10 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Andy Weiss  

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat  
Date: Thursday, December 01, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carla Stumpf-Patton 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 at1-800-959-8277.  

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Ladies at TAPS Retreat
TAPS is Always Here For You

November 21, 2016

The holidays are a festive time, filled with joyous occasions and family gatherings. But when your family circle has been broken by death, each holiday is a reminder of the empty spot at the table, the hole in your heart.

As we set the dishes and count the silverware for Thanksgiving, we are acutely aware of the empty places at the family table. We try to find something, anything, to be thankful for. We hold our breath and hope this day goes quickly. We sit in the dark and doubt we can endure too long.

But there are things you can do to help ease the bruise that grief leaves on our soul. TAPS has brought together tried and true tips, survivor stories and other resources to help you through this season. Visit www.taps.org/HolidayGriefTips to get holiday support when you need it. Even if you think you have lost the light, TAPS is here to shine the light of hope during this difficult season.

Here are 9 tips Frank Campbell shared with our survivors this weekend at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seminar.  We hope they will help you feel a little stronger as you face the season ahead knowing your TAPS family is always there for you.

9 Grief Tips to help make it through the holiday season:

  1. Make a plan -- anticipation is often worse than the holiday itself.
  2. Acknowledge your loved one's presence and absence.
  3. Say yes to at least one invitation.
  4. Allow others to help.
  5. Avoid taking on too much.
  6. Involve the kids in the holidays and traditions.
  7. Take care of yourself.
  8. Take each holiday one at a time and each year at a time. New traditions don't have to be repeated either.
  9. Hold tight to the knowledge that love doesn't end in death.

Please remember that TAPS is available to you 24/7 through our National Military Survivor Helpline at 800-959-8277. You can always reach out to us this holiday season if you're feeling lonely, struggling with your grief, have questions or just need to talk to someone. We understand that grief does not follow a normal schedule, and we're here to answer your call, whether it's 2 p.m. or 2 a.m.

We are here for you.  

With care, 

Your TAPS Family 

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National Military Survivor Seminar Heroes banner
Saturday Morning Message: Changing Anger to Pride

November 19, 2016

Good Morning,

Last week's question asked how to turn the anger that comes with grief into more of a focus on the pride for our loved one's service. This is a tricky question as it asks us to focus on ourselves, and that is something many of us are not taught to do. First, we must find strategies to help reduce the anger. This is where looking in the TAPS Magazine archives can be helpful. 

In an article written by Susan R. Blankenship and Rebecca I. Porter, titled "Physical Reactions to Loss and Grief: It Isn't All in Your Head (or Your Heart)," the authors offer some ways to help reduce the stress of grief:

  • "Diaphragmatic breathing: Imagine a string pulling you straight up from your abdomen as you slowly inhale through the nose, and slowly exhale through the mouth.
  • Biofeedback training: Learn to control involuntary body responses such as heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Dedicated Worry Time: Set a timer for a specific period of time to worry; when the buzzer sounds, get up and do something positive for yourself.
  • Regular exercise: Make exercise a priority, especially aerobic exercise or brisk walking, just to get your body moving.
  • Appreciation of nature: Lie in the sun and feel the warmth, walk among the leaves, make a snowman.
  • Relaxation: Use tapes or CDs to enhance relaxation."

In addition to these ideas, I would like to add listening to music. Andy, father of Danny, makes a playlist on Spotify of the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages   along with a few other songs special to him. The playlist is free and called "Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance." He has also started a new playlist for the holiday songs survivors sent called "TAPS Holiday Music While we Grieve" You can continue to send in your favorite holiday songs in addition to songs that remind you of your loved one. 

Survivors have sent in their approaches to releasing the anger they sometimes feel in grief. I hope you can find comfort from their responses. Thank you to all who responded this week as well as those who read the message. 

Would you like to share a question or read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. It can be helpful to read about how others cope. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them. 

In addition to the ideas shared below, we can also honor our loved ones by communicating with each other through writing. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another. I encourage you to reply to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing carol.lane@taps.org. In order to have your reply included in the week's Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send them to me by Tuesday of the following week. This week's question is located below my signature. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

This Thursday is Thanksgiving, so there will be a short Saturday Morning Message on Nov. 26. Therefore, I am going to pose a question that can be answered anytime from today until Nov. 29. The question is: What has made you most thankful on your grief journey? I look forward to your responses. 

 Song for the Week 

Michele, mother of Stephen, sent the song of the week along with her comments. Michele wrote, "My son, Stephen, was such an old soul. I always said he was born in the wrong era. One of my wonderful memories was seeing him come up the driveway on a nice, sunny, warm day, with the biggest smile on his face, his windows down in his SUV, playing "Ain't that a Kick in the Head" sung by Dean Martin. He really liked listening to him in addition to Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. It was hard listening to Dean's song without shedding tears, but now it is a memory that warms my heart." 

Karl, father of Tre, sent this song to be added to the holiday list. Karl wrote, "My favorite Christmas song is "O Holy Night" sung by the Vienna Boys Choir. Purely angelic." 

Answers from Survivors 

From Karl, father of Tre: Wow! I have the same problem. I go from sad to angry and back again. I think the anger was something felt because I did not get the cooperation that would have saved his life. Sometimes, I'm just angry at him for leaving me. Everytime I hear of another soldier being killed over there, I am angry and so saddened. I take it quite personally now. His sixth-year angelversary is coming up on the 28th, and I STILL do not celebrate Thanksgiving. I run away somewhere every year.

It probably sounds crazy, but I started going to casinos. I also went on a cruise the second year when his angelversary was actually Thanksgiving Day. I got off the ship in Mexico by myself. I went up into an observation tower and cried. The lights, noise and all the people in the casinos take my mind off the holiday and the "dreadful" day. I prefer to be around strangers because they don't know my situation, and I feel I can pretend to be somebody else. You know, somebody who hasn't lost a child. I can then fake it, sort of. If I go around family I just think of him as a boy playing with his cousins and I see them growing up. I love them but just can't be around them at this time. I love driving through the mountains or walking on the beach - anywhere but home with my thoughts.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Anger: the feeling that is hard to control and hard to point a finger at when you are trying to figure out your loss. You may be angry at God. How could God do this? You could be angry at the military. How could they let this happen? You could be angry at anything while looking for the answer as to WHY.

You need to remember the life your son lived. Do not concentrate on the day he died; it takes away from his life. Bring Eric back into your life by telling stories, remembering all he did from a tot to a grown man. Let others tell about the Eric they knew. You would be surprised at what they say.

The anger gets you nowhere. There is no answer to WHY. And the truth is you don't need the answer - you need to remember his love.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: When I first read the question, I thought, I haven't been angry. Then, I thought again. I have been angry. Angry that it happened. It didn't have to, you know. I've been angry that Caleb isn't here with us and he should be. Angry at God? At times, yes, and I've let him know. I don't know what happened to this mom's son. I know what happened with Caleb - as much as we can know. Even if I've been angry, I'm still so proud of my son, proud of the man he became, proud of the way he lived his life. I don't know her situation, so I can't say how to stop being angry. My heart goes out to her, though. I've been angry at times, but not for long. When I have been, I talk to God about it. Cry to him. I've shouted at him, but I  take it to him. That has helped me to deal with any anger. Then there is peace.

Upcoming Video and Text Chats

General Support Chat
Date: Tuesday, November 22, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
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 at1-800-959-8277.  

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Dozier, Amy on a path to the beach
From Grief to Gratitude

~ Amy Dozier, Survivor

November 16, 2016

After experiencing loss, I found myself full of negative emotions, especially on days like today - an angelversary - that remind me of that particular loss. I felt desperately cheated out of more time, doubtful that life could be back to "normal" again, and an overwhelming sense of loneliness. I thought no one understood my fleeting emotions. Over time, I learned that all of these feelings were actually just the right ones to feel at the time and that I actually have the power to do something productive with them. 

One of the greatest lessons I've learned on my grief journey is how to focus less on what I've lost and more on what I've gained from the loved one who is no longer here. It's also important for me to focus on what still remains in my life. Some days, it feels like a long stretch to be thankful for these seemingly harsh lessons thrown my way in life, but it's a necessary part of healing as I turn grief into gratitude.

Dozier, Amy's GrandparentsToday, I did just that! I woke up remembering both of my grandparents who served in the Marines and later in the Navy, and who died. At first, I worried about how the negative emotions of their loss might creep into my day. I focused on how sad everyone in the family might be, especially those who choose to remain a bit more silent in their grief. Instead of sadly replaying my grandparents' burial at sea in my head over and over again, I reframed my thoughts into those of happier times out on their boat, eating saltines with canned squirt cheese as we bounced up and down in the waves. And then I went to one of their favorite places, the beach, and jogged 4.5 miles along the coastline. As I ran, I felt thankful for the memories and for my ability to keep moving forward in their honor. 

What started as a sad moment in my morning changed drastically with a bit of thanks, you know, for the little while. I allowed myself to ride that roller coaster for a moment, but then transformed my thought process to a more positive one. The memories flowed through me, bringing peace and laughter. As I looked out at the ocean I could taste those cheese crackers and hear my grandma laughing. Oh, how I loved that moment. And while very small actions were taken on my part, they proved to have a huge impact on my day. For that, I am truly grateful. 

I would love to hear how you turn your grief into gratitude. Share a comment below with your TAPS family.

Amy Dozier is the surviving wife of Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Kilian Dozier and surviving granddaughter of Lt. Cmdr. Ed & Ginny Campbell

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Teen Grief
Five Tips for Your Teen’s Grief

~ Renee Monczynski, TAPS Young Adult Coordinator, Survivor

November 14, 2016

We often hear that we all grieve differently. Teenagers are no different. Do you remember being a teenager? Are you attempting to survive raising a teenager? I remember the first, and I’m currently attempting the second. Being a teenager means they are no longer considered a child anymore, yet they are not an adult either. Society has expectations of how your teen should act, look and be. At the same time, everything inside them is changing on a structural, mental and even emotional level. When we add grieving the loss of a loved one to this mix, all of a sudden, up is down, left is backward and right is non-existent.

What I have found is that some of the tips I was given (read: learned the hard way) along my journey actually work with my 15-year-old daughter as well. I encourage you to read these five tips and start a conversation with your teenager about how to apply these to their own lives. You can use the tips in your grief journey, too. Even though you’re each grieving a different version of the same person, there are ways for you to come together in your common mourning and grow together.

There is no right or wrong way for your teen to grieve, but we encourage you to share these five tips with your teen to keep their mind, body and soul healthy during such a tumultuous period of time. 

  1. Move toward your grief. Yes, this sounds awkward and uncomfortable because most people have not been taught how to deal with painful emotions. Think of when a friend has been in pain and all you wanted to do was take it away, yet you knew they were the only one who could heal themselves. Well, now it is your turn to heal. So, turn toward those raw, throbbing, aching emotions and take charge of you.
  2. Forgiveness. There is so much weight associated with this one word. Death does not wipe the slate clean of your loved one who lived a human existence. Expectations and plans were set. Milestones will now happen without them. Cars will be taught to be driven, brides will be walked down an aisle, graduation ceremonies across the country will happen without them. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Forgiveness does not mean you condone the actions of the other or understand why they were taken too soon, it means you are no longer willing to carry the anger or blame.
  3. Manage your own expectations. Let yourself cry. Let yourself laugh. Feel it all. Crying speaks for us when we have no words for our pain, sorrow or grief. Others may find that crying is not the way they express their wordless feelings; and that is perfectly OK. To laugh is to have a whole-body experience of joy and fun. And life is lived somewhere in between these two expressions. Allow yourself to feel the full spectrum of being human.
  4. Feed your body. It may sound odd to say this because we find ourselves eating every day for existence. The difference is purposefully eating to nourish your body. If we drink water and eat properly then things like making decisions become easier because your brain can concentrate on the task at hand and not be distracted by basic needs of nourishment and hydration. Drink water. Eat good food.
  5. Give yourself a break. Whether it’s meditation, going to the gym, running, sitting in a hammock curled up with a good book – get out of your head and into your body. Stretch and move your muscles. Start with 10 minutes a day. Give yourself a break – a purposeful break.

To learn more about the new TAPS Young Adult Program, please contact Renee Monczynski, Young Adult Coordinator, at youthprograms@taps.org.

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2015 National Seminar Army Tattoo Band
Saturday Morning Message: Winter Songs

November 12, 2016

Good Morning,

This week, survivors sent winter songs that express their connection to their loved ones during this season. It seemed this  picture taken at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar in May is particularly appropriate since one of the songs sent by a survivor is "Little Drummer Boy." Seeing how the band members interact with a young survivor is touching and is reminiscent of this song. 

Another interesting note is that two survivors sent the same song, but sung by different people. Isn't that how grief works? Everyone walks a path on their own, but we can share some emotions together. That is what makes us a family. 

All of the songs are wonderful, and I want to thank those who sent them as well as those who will be reading this message and listening. I know that I enjoyed each song as well as the memory written about each one. 

In order to keep the Saturday Morning Message fresh, I am always looking for more questions. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed in the Saturday Morning Message, you can email me at carol.lane@taps.org. In addition to replies that are placed in the message, I also look for thoughts you have. You can write to me anytime just to communicate or to share your thoughts on what could make the Saturday Morning Message more supportive. Responders always enjoy reading what you liked about their writing. I make sure your thoughts are passed to the survivor. Replies to the weekly question are best sent to me by Tuesday afternoon. You are an important part of this message and I look forward to your questions or any ideas you may have. 

Other than this week, which is a message about winter songs, each Saturday Morning Message includes a section called "Song for the Week." If you have a song that is special to you or reminds you of your loved one, please send it along with a sentence or two about what makes this song distinctive. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

Linda, mother of Eric, wrote, "I have a question for the Saturday Morning Message. I am proud and angry all at the same time. I understand it's one of the phases of grief, but mine has not wavered nor decreased at all." Linda's question for this week is: How can I stop being angry and focus more on the pride my son felt while serving?  I know that others have faced this dilemma and can help with these emotions by sharing what they have done to alleviate this feeling. We look forward to your responses. 

Answers from Survivors with Song 

From Adra, mother of Kyle: "Everything is different now. Beautiful things are bittersweet. Little things sometimes mean more. I don't dance, I rarely sing. Yet, the peace I feel is deeper. Some of my relationships are deeper and more meaningful. Music was such an important part of our lives together." The songs for this season Adra sent are "Little Drummer Boy" sung by Bob Seger and "Go Rest High on that Mountain" sung by Vince Gill. "As a little boy, Kyle would well up with tears over 'Little Drummer Boy.' So, my life isn't full in the way it was before, but I'm doing the best I can."

From Amy, spouse of Jonathan: My all-time favorite holiday song is "Silent Night." Listening to the melody and the words of this song bring me a sense of calm I can't explain. It reminds me to be still, to be silent, to just be. More specifically, I enjoy the a capella version performed by Pentatonix. When I hear all five voices singing different parts, all coming together to form a harmonious blend, I'm reminded that this is life - a little chaos with the intention of beauty. I am driven by music, especially that which offers a heavenly peace to my soul.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: No matter where I went that first Christmas after Caleb went to heaven, "Silent Night" was playing. I like John Denver singing "Silent Night" especially since it was written to be played on guitar. As I listened to the words with new ears I heard the message meant for me from heaven.

"Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright." It was like Caleb was saying, "All is well, Mom."

In the silence and holiness of the moment, there was solace and assurance.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Leslie sent "All I Want for Christmas Is You" sung by LeAnn Rimes. Leslie wrote, "Five days before Christmas is Eugene's birthday. He would have been 39 this year. Six days after Christmas 2010 was the last time I saw my son. If wishes could be granted we would all like our soldiers back." She also sent "Christmas Canon" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

From James, father of Andrew: I have always considered "Feliz Navidad," written and sung by Jose Feliciano, to be one of the best "feel good" songs ever. Don't you just smile when you hear it? How can you not purely enjoy the "Ahaaa!" thrown in at the middle of the song? And it sincerely expresses a desire to share a simple wish: a wish for you individually and for everyone collectively. A wish, given from the purest place - "from the bottom of my heart." The simple message of this song meshes so well with the honest and deeply sincere wishes that those at TAPS feel, believe and express unto others. Like TAPS, this song uniquely stands out from all others for how and what it expresses and accomplishes. Also, like TAPS, it can provide a little boost just by being there and it can also be transformational, again, for you individually and for everyone collectively.

Upcoming Video and Text Chats

Parent Chat  
Date: Monday, November 14, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson  

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, November 15, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs  

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat  
Date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carla Stumpf-Patton 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 at1-800-959-8277. 

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Linda Ambard by the Philadelphia HOPE sign
Saturday Morning Message: Living Life to Fullest

November 5, 2016

Good Morning,

As you read answers from survivors, living life after the loss of a loved one is not easy, but we all take up the challenge in different ways. The picture today comes from the recent TAPS Magazine article by Linda Ambard, spouse of Air Force Maj. Philip Ambard, titled "The Journey of Hope Never Ends." In this article, Linda talks about looking at things that she wanted to accomplish and what she has learned about grief. This article is included this week as an example of how a survivor has dealt with change in her life. TAPS has many programs and resources to help survivors find a way to contribute to others while helping themselves. The program that seems to fit with this week's question is the TAPS Peer Mentor Program. If you are at least 18 months beyond the death of your loved one and find you are ready to listen in a caring way to another survivor, this might be just right for you. This week's message is one that is full of hope.

Would you like to share a question or read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. You can also submit favorite songs that are meaningful to you. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.

In addition to the ideas shared below, we can also honor our loved ones by communicating with each other through writing. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another. I encourage you to reply to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing carol.lane@taps.org. In order to have your reply included in the week's Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send them to me by Tuesday of the following week. You can also write how a survivor response has touched you. I will be glad to share your words with the contributor. Of course, only your first name will be sent. This week's question is located below my signature. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

As the season of winter begins, a TAPS staff member suggested this as an idea for a question: What is your favorite winter or holiday song? Please include a short paragraph about why this song is special. 

♫ Song for the Week 

Merry, mother of Wesley, sent the song this week. Merry wrote, " I have a song that I think Wes would have loved. It pretty much describes how he felt about himself and his friends. It's "Ordinary Average Guy," sung by Joe Walsh and the Eagles. Two radio hosts here in my hometown use it for their theme song and I think Wes would have loved knowing them, too. They are hilarious but don't take any guff,  just like Wes. I think at some times, although he served his country valiantly, he just considered himself ordinary. 

Answers from Survivors 

From Thais, mother of Dwayne: I work in sales. I don't think of it as my job. I make it my gift to others to see that they get just what they hope and dream for their personal and family holiday.  This my way of coping. I go home - no fuss, no muss. I just think back on the smiles that happened during my day. This continues through New Year's Day.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Do I feel I live my life to the fullest? That is a tricky question. Given that my son is missing, I will answer this way. I do live my life to the fullest. I met a man who we both believe was heaven sent. Neither of us were looking for a soulmate, but we found each other. Our extended family gave my surviving son two stepbrothers and one stepsister, along with their spouses and growing families. We have nine grandkids so far.

The tricky part to answer is that if Eugene lived, how would things be different?

From Donna, mother of Eric: For my new normal, many days I can now live to the fullest. Compared to the old me, it doesn't seem like I live much at all.  

Like Mary, I'm at my best when with other Gold Star moms. I feel accepted, understood and not judged for anything I feel, whether it be happy, sad or mad. I read a blog on Facebook about things learned since losing a child. One of the things the author wrote about was how she had an instant, permanent connection to every Gold Star mom she met. I find this to be my sentiments exactly.

My next best days are spent volunteering for my favorite local veterans organization. It seems to me that helping veterans is the best way to honor my son. I'm not a veteran, but they invite me to join them for every event. I just went quail hunting with them and learned I'm great at skeet shooting.  

I believe I'm here to continue my son's memory, so any day I get to give a speech or discuss him or he is honored by a group I feel is a good - hard, but good - day.

My new normal days other than the ones above seem to just be existing.

From Cheryl, mother of Jack: I feel like I am living my life to the fullest. I go through the gambit of emotions, but I choose to embrace them. Here are some things I do or what my life is like:

I wake up early. I like to drink a cup of coffee, read a devotion and look at a few things on the iPad, like email or Facebook, and play Words with Friends.

Then I get out and walk or run with my dog, Bear. He appreciates me getting him out and that makes me happy.

I do have to admit I anticipate getting up, excited to see what the day has in store for me. I have been working at a childcare center but was laid off because they are closing. I was feeling down, but I started thinking of things that I hadn't been able to do because I was at work. For example, my 19-year-old grandson will be going into the Navy on Dec. 7. He works nearby and he can come over for lunch.

I started thinking of things I need to do to get my house back in order. I have chosen to do the things I do. Are they easy? No. I embrace life. I know my son did and he helped me to see that.

I choose to go and find ways to help people "up" along the way. I give a cheerful word, a hug, a helping hand - whatever it is. You know it will help me, too.

I hope that you can find the best way to live your life to the fullest. I have tried different ways, but I am doing what is my path. Our children were serving so we could live a full life. I believe that. I can hear Jack's words in my ears as he looked at us and said, "I am doing what I feel needs to be done so you can have your freedom to live your life here."

So live your life.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: I'm having a hard time with Saturday's question about living life to the fullest. From Mary's example, it seems like it's really asking if there is a time or place where you feel most comfortable, at ease or able to be yourself.

The question itself is about living life to the fullest. How do I answer that? Life to its fullest. Is the definition of fullest being complete, nothing omitted? That is not where my life has been since Caleb has been gone. I live each day the best I can, but there is always that missing part. The closest I can come to saying "life to the fullest" is being with my children. They are the treasures of my life. But, I find it hard to think of using the words "life to the fullest."

Merry, mother of Wesley: It took me several months to even think about a happy future. And then when I started thinking that way, my thoughts would always bounce back and forth from how I could possibly have a good life to yes, I can live and love again. Then, there was an advertisement on the TAPS website about a fun run for moms with a message, "Take back the life your loved one wants you to live." 

I'm learning slowly to take back the life Wes would want me to live. Wes would never take credit or thanks for the contributions he gave to our country. He would always say, "Mom, don't even thank me. You don't know what you are saying." Well, yes, I do as I can go about my daily routine out and about in the community and sit cozily at a Starbucks drinking my favorite beverage while soldiers are in 110 degree heat working to secure our safety. 

Upcoming Video and Text Chats

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, November 08, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower Chat  
Date: Wednesday, November 09, 2016 
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 at1-800-959-8277.  

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Autumn leaves from Carol Lane's garden
Saturday Morning Message: Holiday Adjustments

October 29, 2016

Good Morning,

The holiday season officially starts with Halloween, so today's picture is from my yard with the leaves turning color. Many people have a hard time with the holidays that occur in December. Today survivors shared what they have done to help them go through this season. In addition, you might want to read an article written by Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D, CHT, CT, GMS in a past TAPS magazine titled Handling the Holidays which may be valuable. It includes short ideas on getting through the holidays while you are grieving. Remember that whatever you do is the right thing for you and your family. 

Questions are the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. In order to keep the message fresh, I am looking for more questions. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed in the Saturday Morning Message, you can email me at carol.lane@taps.org. In addition to replies that are placed in the message, I also look for thoughts you have. You can write to me anytime just to communicate or if you have creative ideas on how to make the Saturday Morning Message more supportive. Replies to the weekly question are best sent to me by Tuesday afternoon. You are an important part of this message, and I look forward to the questions and ideas you share. 

One suggestion from a survivor was to include a song of the week, which is now a regular weekly section. If you have a song that is special to you or reminds you of your loved one, please send it along with a sentence or two about what makes this song distinctive. 

One of our contributors, Andy, father of Danny,  makes a playlist on Spotify of the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages along with a few other songs special to him. The playlist is free and called "Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance." This can be wonderful for listening while you are on the computer or exercising. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

Mary, mother of Nicholas, sent the question this week. She asks, "Since the loss of your loved one, do you feel like you are living your life to the fullest and how or when have you felt that way?"

Mary sent a few examples, "For me it is at events with other Gold Star Moms where I feel like I can be myself, laugh,challenge myself and feel safe because I know that the other moms really understand. We are all walking in the same shoes. Maybe different style shoes or different sizes but we are there for one another.

Last year I was blessed to attend the TAPS Moms Retreat in Charleston. One of my favorite memories that still brings a smile to my face is when my kayaking partner and I were sailing along under a sun filled blue sky giggling and feeling like our sons were pushing us along. We were both Marine Moms both sharing the exact same date our sons were killed in Iraq." It will be great to read about other's experiences. 

♫ Song for the Week 

From Belinda, mother of Benjamin: My son passed away Dec. 26, 2015. He was my only son and my hero. I have prayed for God to let me dream of him but to no avail. But, God did something better, because He loves me so much. He gave me a vision of two men walking who I could only see from the back. One had his arm around the shoulder of the other and they were talking. One man had on a long flowing tunic-like garment and his hair was a little long. The other was wearing pants, a shirt and had a military style haircut. Yes, it was Jesus and Benjamin. Benjamin had the same shirt on he wore the very last time I saw him. 

That is why this song by Guy Penrod & Sarah Darling means so much to me. It is "Knowing What I Know About Heaven".  I hope you listen to it on YouTube. 

Answers from Survivors 

From Diane, mother of Caleb: This journey is different for everyone. I have friends who didn't put up any Christmas decorations for seven years after their loved one passed. Some still don't. I put Christmas decorations up the first Christmas after Caleb went to heaven, because I just had to. Caleb loves Christmas. He was the one who always helped put up the lights and decorations. I always had our home fully decorated, especially if I knew he was going to be able to spend it at home. The last time we spent time together was Christmas. Two months later he was in heaven. I will say, I couldn't put our faithful family ornaments on the tree for a couple of years. I didn't send any cards that first year. A new family tradition started that first year. Instead of putting our tree in our family room where it always stood, I put it up in our living room. It was too hard thinking of putting it in our family room. Everybody seems to be OK with it in its new location. As for conveying a message that there will come a day, I'd say only that person will know when, if and how much he/she can do for the holidays and whatever it is - much, little or none --  it is OK. Christmas to me is the reason I know I will see Caleb again, so I decorate with joy and tears mixed together.

From Robert, father of Louis: We did everything we previously did from the first year except mail cards. That was rough and took me three years to face. Vivian just started sending cards again last year, the 11th year.

We couldn't let our grandkids know that there are no more holidays. For the first years it was pretty grim after everyone left, but we did it and survived. I can say that there is rarely ever the sense of anticipation that we had before that awful day.

All that being said, I wish you all the best for the season. Remember, it's mostly what's good for you.

From Donna, mother of Eric: Last year was our 4th Christmas without our Eric. I decorated for the first time. I'm not in that same mood this year, so I probably won't. But maybe next year, I will. I will just take it one holiday at a time and decide what I want to do.

I don't think I will send Christmas cards ever again. The thought of not having Eric's name on our cards is a big no.

I have a cousin who sends me an ornament for Eric each year. I usually place these on the table runner during December. Last year, they went on the tree, of course.  

My advice is do exactly what you want to do. Don't let anyone tell you it's wrong to not decorate or it's wrong to decorate and celebrate. Each person grieves differently. I went small last year, with only a tree and a few things that Eric loved like his nutcrackers. Then, when the holidays were over and I was crushed by another Christmas without him, it wasn't too much to put away.

Of course, my situation is different from most. Eric was an only child, single and had no kids.  If I had other children or grandchildren, I would probably do some decorating for them - maybe.

We left for most holidays the first two years. That seemed better for me, but not for my husband.

Time doesn't heal all things, but it does let us learn to cope.

From Merry, mother of Wesley: It has taken time to even approach the thought, but returning to the joy of the season has developed over time. One year I only got out one tiny tree that was given to me years before and only put small decorations on it. That was my one and only contribution to Christmas. Now, I think about going through all of them and maybe getting them out.  

The one thing I do every year and have done every year is to place a vintage 5-bulb candelabra in each front facing window of my home. I've done that for 25 years and that I can handle. I think the first years, that was the only decorating I did. It goes up the day after Thanksgiving.  

I will put out any of Wes's decorations I find this year. It's not quite as painful this year and it will be a nice remembrance that will make me smile.

Upcoming Chats

All Relationships Video Chat  
Date: Tuesday, November 01, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 10 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Peer Mentor  

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, November 01, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs  

Midwest Online Support Group Video Chat  
Date: Thursday, November 03, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 10 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Andy Weiss  

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat  
Date: Thursday, November 03, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carla Stumpf-Patton and Kim Suggs  

Special Chat: UK Meet and Greet Chat  
Date: Friday, November 04, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 10 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Peer Mentor

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 at1-800-959-8277.  

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2016 Oshkosh Army Ten Miler Team
Oshkosh Defense Honors Fallen Heroes with Team TAPS at Army Ten Miler

October 25, 2016

On October 9th, a team of ten athletes from Oshkosh Defense ran with Team TAPS at the 32nd Annual Army 10-Miler race in Washington D.C.  The Oshkosh Team each were paired with a fallen hero and wore an honor race bib with the soldier's name and photo. The team ran in memory of their hero as a tribute to their family and as a way to remind others of the sacrifices our service members and military families make for our country.  Team athletes were encouraged to reach out to the families of their hero; some were even able to meet their hero's family in person at the TAPS Remembrance and Celebration Pasta Dinner the night before the race.

For these runners, this was less about the run and competition; but, more importantly, the weekend experience was about humbly and proudly wearing their hero's photo on their TAPS jersey - carrying on their story and legacy, sharing it with those on the course. 

"Our Oshkosh team members are honored to join the TAPS team this year for the Army Ten Miler," said Jenn Christiansen, Vice President of Business Development for Oshkosh Defense.  "Each of them is running for a hero who will never be forgotten, and in support of their loved ones who carry the heavy burden of their loss." 

"We are honored by the on-going support of Oshkosh Defense and their amazing employees, helping us honor those who have lost loved ones to military service, regardless of circumstance.  Having Oshkosh athletes join us alongside the over 135 runners of Team TAPS in this year's race, was inspiring," said Bonnie Carroll, founder and President of TAPS.  "Their commitment, excitement and the funds and awareness they raised supports hundreds of our TAPS families.  We are deeply and forever grateful."

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Peer Mentor Support
Peer Mentoring: The Next Step

~ Don Lipstein, Peer Mentor Program, Survivor

October 23, 2016

Have you ever wondered, “Where do I go from here?” I was there four years ago, 18 months after my oldest son, Joshua, died by suicide. “What am I supposed to do with the lessons I have learned along this journey?” I really wanted to find a way to honor his life of service, but I didn’t have to look too far. I was already connecting with other survivors through TAPS. Many of them, I spoke to on a regular basis.

The TAPS Peer Mentor Program offered me that next step I was in search of. I already enjoyed listening to other survivors share their loved ones through their heartfelt stories. This was what brought me joy — and fear at the same time. They trusted me and knew I was safe in sharing their deepest thoughts. My fear came from not wanting to instill any more trauma for them by words or actions I may have chosen.

Once I joined the program and became trained as a TAPS Peer Mentor, I gained the confidence that I could be a good source of support for others newer in their grief journey. What better way to honor my son’s service than to be there for others who have dealt with the same tragedy that I had to live through. I became a guiding light with a warranty, which TAPS stands beside.

Some say that a military death from any cause can, and often does, create post-traumatic stress for the survivors left behind. TAPS finds many valuable ways to turn this stress into growth. Over the past four years that I have been involved with the Peer Mentor Program, I have been convinced that there is no better way to experience post-traumatic growth than taking this step in your journey to be the light for others’ darkness.

If you think you are ready to give back and are looking for the next positive step forward in your journey, please consider becoming a TAPS Peer Mentor. Visit www.taps.org/BecomeAPeerMentor to learn more.

 

This blog is copyrighted by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). These blog posts may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any means, electronic or otherwise, without prior written approval. It is permissible for an individual reader to view, reproduce or store a copy of this article, provided it is used only for their own personal and non-commercial use. Uses beyond that allowed by the “Fair Use” limitations (sections 107 and 108) of the U.S. Copyright law require permission from TAPS. Please contact blog@taps.org to request permission. All other rights reserved.

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