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Carol's Garden
Saturday Morning Message: Vacation Ideas

March 21, 2015

Good Morning,

This picture is from our garden in the fall. I chose it, because the light is shining through the darkness to the path below. That is what TAPS does when we are in the depths of grief. It shows a way toward the light as we learn to celebrate the lives of our loved ones.

This week's question was about remembering and honoring our loved ones when we are ready to think about vacations Betsy, mother of Bradley, wrote a great article in the new TAPS magazine titled, "Vacations, Who Needs 'Em?" She wrote thoughts to ponder when deciding about a vacation this year. If you think a trip connecting with other survivors may be what you desire, click on this link for a list of TAPS events including seminars and retreats located in different areas of our great country. Seminars are open to all survivors and include workshops and activities which help connect you to others for support while participating in the experience at your individual comfort level. Retreats are recommended for those over a year beyond the loss. They are for specific survivor groups and have a level of physical activity. The level of activity varies and is listed under each event. Traveling with others who have known grief may be a comforting vacation choice. Today, survivors shared with us some places they go or would like to go to honor their loved one. Thanks to all who responded and those who read the Saturday Morning Message.

Recently there was a helicopter training accident that took the lives of seven Marines and four National Guard Soldiers. At times like these, you might find emotions coming to the surface especially when others come to you to offer support or give their opinion. For next week let's share how events like these influence our own grief journey?

I invite you to respond to this week's question or share a topic you would like to ask the group by sending a message to carol.lane@taps.org. I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. Sometimes writing to someone can be helpful.

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

Our song for the week highlights the vacation theme and was sent in by Carla, sister of Alan. She wrote, "This year is the first that we celebrated my brother's birthday on March 7th without him.  I felt that I should share the song my family chose for his funeral "Country Roads" by John Denver". Alan was a country boy who knew how to have the best time with a mountain bike, tree stand, or fishing pole just to name a few." Thanks to Carla for sharing this song with us.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: Having been raised in South Georgia, Blake loved the warm sunny days where he could do outdoor activities. He loved to go fishing at a friend's pond or anywhere he could. He was good at it, too. As a child he had a love for soccer and baseball. Driving past the ball fields always tugs at my heart as the memories flow back to his childhood days. As an adult, Blake and his wife, Kate, enjoyed looking for sea glass on the beach near their Virginia Beach home, something I've never done, but would like to do some day.

From Sarah, spouse of David: The first place that comes to mind is not actually a geographic place, but it really evoked the memory of my husband when I arrived there. It was an old New England sporting goods store! I randomly wandered in to it with the kids one day while visiting upstate New York. When I first stepped inside, the smell of the oil stained creaking wooden floors and woolen clothing grabbed my senses. Then there was the sight of the dusty, musty display cases filled with fishing reels and tackle. Rifles were mounted on the walls among stuffed deer heads and mallard decoys. Leather boots and gloves smelled so good! More fishing gear and wildlife art hung on the walls. All of it brought instant recognition of my Dave! Overwhelming waves of grief arose simultaneously with feelings of joy, because I could feel him in the space. It embodied so much of who he was and why I loved him. It was a great opportunity to share with my kids and relate to them that this was a place he would love. Dave would have eventually taken them to a store like this, so they would know how he grew up and what was important to him in his youth. Perhaps he did lead us there and it was not such a random visit?

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Where would I like to go in Gene's memory? I would go to the last place he was stationed, Yokosuka, Japan. He loved Japan and the Japanese.

From Roseanne, mother of Chris:  My other children and I often dine where Chris liked to eat. He was a food junky enjoying all cuisines. We do honor him by dining in those same restaurants from Thai to Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Italian, etc. We each take a turn and share a memory about Chris while waiting for our meal. On occasion we may share a dessert as Chris's specialty  was baking from scratch.

On the travel side, Chris loved camping from hiking the Appalachian Trail to fishing in the Adirondacks, exploring nature to its fullest. He often invited me for an overnight. I always declined, because I don't sleep in a tent, on the ground, or on a cot. However, I am now going to try to  honor him by staying one night in the woods in the Poconos on the Appalachian Trail. I don't know if I will get any sleep, be warm, or have a decent meal, let alone try and make a campfire, but I am going with my other son and we will make the attempt. Chris has all the best of camping equipment and when looking it over I just can't part with it, so I made a conscious decision to use it even if it is just once. Chris sacrificed a lot by serving his country well, so I will sacrifice this for him. If I come back with a bunch of mosquito bites or red marks on my skin, I will be having a serious talk with Chris up in heaven. I know he is at peace and am just trying to find that peace myself.

This week's chat schedule:

General Support
Date: Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11:00 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Daytime General Support Chat
Date: Thursday, March 26, 2015
Time: 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kellie Hazlett

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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Telos, Courage
Our Partners in Courage

March 17, 2015

Courage Caps is an extraordinary partnership that is made possible by support from Telos Corporation and TAPS Board Chairman John Wood. TAPS is grateful to work with Telos and Monumental Sports and Entertainment Foundation for this program, which raises funds and awareness and creates meaningful opportunities for our TAPS families.

With funding from Telos, Courage Caps are created and made available for purchase with all of the proceeds coming to TAPS to support the families of America's fallen heroes. The team from Monumental Sports and Entertainment Foundation works to design, promote and sell Courage Caps gear to Caps fans. The sponsor, the foundation, the players, team leadership, broadcasters, and everyone involved with Courage Caps on and off the ice have been wonderful. This partnership is a win for all involved.

Special thanks to John Wood, Allison Wallace, Elizabeth Pace, and Kelly Compton and for their continued support of this program.

Courage Caps are on sale now: Click here to purchase yours.

GO CAPS! Thank you from all of us at TAPS!

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Weaver Painting
Saturday Morning Message: TAPS Support

March 14, 2015

Good Morning,

The winter this year has many of us dreaming of warm weather and the beach, so this picture was chosen to warm your spirits. It is a painting created by Jeanne, mother of Todd, who wrote, "This painting was the last in my series related to Todd's life and sacrifice. The title is 'The Treasure Within'. The moon shell symbolizes eternal life. It was my first gift and it came from the sea. This was important to me, spiritually, as it was found at the edge of the cleansing water and has led me on an awesome journey which brought, and continues to bring me, grace and peace. Each of us finds their own will to go on. This was mine and I cannot imagine where I would be today if I had looked past that little shell." Read the entire article found in TAPS Magazine, "Losing Todd, A Mother's Journey". Thanks to Jeanne for sharing this comforting painting with us.

When our children were young, we took a vacation to the coast of Maine every summer. Now we still do it with our daughter and her husband. When I am there, I can feel Bryon still around us in the warm sunshine. There was a BLOG article on the TAPS website recently titled "Vacationing" by Sarah Greene. In it, she talks about the trips she and her children are making her husband talked about, but never got the chance to visit. Next week let's share the places you have been or would like to go in memory of your loved one.

There were several survivors who sent favorite songs after last week's message was ready to go out. For the next few weeks a song will be included. Please feel free to send in songs meaningful to you and we can continue to have a song of the week. This week's song goes along with the vacation discussion. It came from Leslie, mother of Eugene. It includes both "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "It's a Wonderful World". The video shows fun on a Hawaiian beach. Close your eyes and listen to this heartwarming music.

Survivors wrote this week describing the meaningful things TAPS has done for them. When I first contacted TAPS, I was amazed at the people who reached out to me when I was in deep grief after the death of my son, Bryon. There were so many ways to contact other survivors from home. There were chats, message boards, Yahoo groups, and shared email with several others from all over the country.  I was encouraged by so many to attend my first seminar which was  heartwarming. Other survivors came up, listened to my story, and gave me hugs when I needed to know someone understood. Gradually, I was able to reach out to others. Thank you to TAPS and to those who send replies to the Saturday Morning Message as well as those who read it each week.

I invite you to respond to this week's question or share a topic you would like to ask the group by sending a message to carol.lane@taps.org.  I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. Sometimes writing to someone can be helpful.

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Merry, mother of Wesley: The best thing about TAPS is the availability of help and the understanding from people in leadership as well as connecting with others that have had to walk down the dark path of loss.

From Helen, mother of Andrew: I enjoy the Saturday morning message very much.

From Caryn, mother of Nathan: I like that TAPS is always there for whatever your needs may be. They don't forget about you over time like so many others do, because they've been there wherever you are in your grief. You welcome their kindness. TAPS has many avenues and if at some point you would like to offer your understanding to others, TAPS is always ready to assist you to get ready with training to help you assist others. There is never an end to those needing what we receive from TAPS.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: The best thing about TAPS is that it exists. I don't know where I would have been if it weren't for the intervention and support. In addition, these weekly "answers" are so important in keeping my thoughts and feelings in line with life.

From Rebecca, mother of Griff: The best I like about TAPS is the people you meet at the Suicide Survivor Seminar. Griff's spirit and I go to each year. We can all be ourselves with all of our feelings, with no feelings needing to be pent up inside. TAPS online groups are safe places where our typed feelings are met with compassion, caring, and understanding. They are both judgement free zones.

This week's chat schedule:

General Support 
Date: Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11:00 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss 
Date: Thursday, March 19, 2015
Time: 9:00 PM - 11:00 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 at 1-800-959-8277. 

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Wilderness Lakes Hills
Saturday Morning Message: Uplifting Songs

March 7, 2015

Good Morning, 

This beautiful mountain scene is one chosen while I listened to the uplifting songs which survivors sent in answer to last week's question. My favorite is "The Dance" by Garth Brooks. It speaks to those who had a loved one leave. It emphasizes it is better not to know what will happen and enjoy the life shared. This is the message TAPS brings when talking about celebrating the lives of our loved ones. I hope you enjoy listening to the songs sent in this week as much as I did. Thanks so much to  those who contributed to this message as well as those who read it.

I included Claire's thoughts about this song as well as the beautiful version of it on YouTube she found.

From Claire, in tribute to her father, William, and lost loved ones: This song focuses on celebrating the quality of time and moments you share with your friends and family and not the quantity of that time even the briefness of it. There is so much to appreciate and cherish. The sweetness of life is worth enduring the sorrows.

TAPS has many ways to reach out to survivors. For next week, let's discuss: What is the thing you like best about TAPS? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

I invite you to respond to this week's question or share a topic you would like to ask the group by sending a message to carol.lane@taps.org.  I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. Sometimes writing to someone can be helpful. 

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Annie, mother of Michael: "The Few, the Proud, with Wings" is one of my favorite songs. It was written by a Marine Carl Jones and was dedicated in memory of my son Michael and his friends who were killed with him on the Osprey helicopter.

From Pat, father of Kelly: There are two songs that have a meaning to us. Kelly was a musician and a songwriter. He played the guitar. The first song that he played was "Knocking on Heaven's Door". He always played this song to his mother and now when we hear it we both look at each other and know he is thinking about us as we are always thinking about our son and our hero. The other song is "American Soldier". The words to this song reflect the reason Kelly went into the Army.  We actually had this song played at his funeral. 

From Merry, mother of Wesley:  I've begun to include a local station in my daily routine.  I would say they play songs from 1900 to 1965 or so.  Music has been a very integral part of my life.  I've begun to sing again and it really helps get me through my work hours at my sewing machine or driving on errands.  I seem to know quite a few of the songs and can sing along. My mother had perfect pitch, played the organ in my home town, and played piano for my dad's barbershop quartet. I wonder if she had music playing all the time, because I know so many of the tunes.

I don't have a particular song other than a song my dad used to sing to all of us and his grandchildren.  "Little Birdy in the Tree" which only has four lines to it.  The little grandkids used to sing "Pretty Baby" at all our gatherings and made up a dance to it.  Our extended family had a couple theme songs - "The Animal Fair "- don't ask me why. It stuck. Just a couple thoughts - hilarious to remember. 

From Lynn, mother of Blake: The first time I heard this song I couldn't help but turn up the radio.  I began tapping my hands on my lap and swinging my head to the beat. The more I listened the bigger my smile. Happy tears filled my eyes. It was as though my son, Blake, was sending a love letter from his heart to my ears. The song is from One Republic titled, "I Lived". I looked up the lyrics to clearly read the words written in the song. It has inspired me, and its meaning resonated with hope and love everlasting. Each and every time I hear this song, I thank Blake for finding a way to remind me. My son LIVED and through all the joy and all of life's challenges to remember to continue living mine. To the fullest, with hope. 

From Terri, mother of Matt: "The Hurt and The Healer" by Mercy Me reminds me that God knows how much pain I have been in, but that He will heal my broken heart.  Truly a beautiful song. All their songs are. I literally had to pull over the first time I heard this song after Matt died. God bless you each as we walk another week without the people we love so much.

From Tim, father of Thomas: My favorite uplifting song is "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood. I have always been moved by its words of patriotic inspiration, and have performed it on many occasions. This song is also bittersweet. My son, Thomas, and I often performed Karaoke when he was home on leave, sometimes singing together. Thomas visited home the week before his last deployment. On Saturday night, we went out to our favorite Karaoke spot to get some last minute father/son time together. As the night wound to an end, a request came out for us to perform "God Bless the USA". We closed the Karaoke session by performing that song together, arms around each other's shoulders, singing for each other more than for the crowd, tears streaming down both of our cheeks. That was the last song Thomas and I would perform together.

Thomas left for Ft. Campbell the next morning, and soon deployed to Afghanistan. Just three short months later, we were visited by the Casualty Assistance Officers. Thomas had been killed in action the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, 2011. I will always cherish that memory and that song, but I doubt I'll ever be strong enough to perform it in public again.

This week's chat schedule:

Parent 
Date: Monday, March 9, 2015
Time: 9:00 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson

General Support
Open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11:00 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower 
Date: Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Time: 9:00 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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Courage 3
Kicking Off Our 21st Year - TAPS 2015 Winter in Review

March 3, 2015

Happy March, America’s Family.

We are thinking spring here as much as possible in D.C. after the latest ice storm. It has been a cold winter here, but there’s been so much to warm our hearts this past month as the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) geared up for our twenty-first year of caring for the families of America’s fallen heroes.

Our staff has put together an awesome schedule for 2015. We hope to see many of you at our TAPS Seminars, Retreats, Camp outs, and Team TAPS race events across the country this year. To check out the full list of events, visit the TAPS Calendar of Events page.

USNA 1

The journey began on the chilly final day of January, when TAPS went anchors aweigh to the United States Naval Academy (USNA). Nearly fifty surviving children of America’s fallen military heroes took part in “A Day in the Life of a Midshipman.” The children, ranging from four to nineteen years old, learned about leading and mentoring others, overcoming adversity, and being physically fit from third-year Midshipmen (Mids). The Mids hosted the event as part of the Academy’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day service project. The first of its kind, this Good Grief Camp was held on the campus of a service academy. It was a tremendous success and an absolutely fun-filled day for kids, staff, and Midshipmen.

USNA 2

The kids had a terrific time exercising with the Mids and forming connections with a generation who themselves share the unique legacy of service and sacrifice with our young survivors. The Mids were extraordinary with their young charges, with both an instinctual sensitivity to each child’s grief and an unswerving energy that helped keep the kids entertained. We heard, “Awesome!” quite a bit from our smallest reviewers when describing their experience.

We hope to continue this partnership between the USNA and TAPS in the future as it provides young survivors with the military connection so many feel they lose after the death of their loved one in service to our nation.

Gasparilla 2

As we rolled in to February, TAPS Retreats got underway with the first parents gathering of the year in Tampa. Forty parents of fallen service members came together in Tampa Bay, Florida, the weekend of February 19-21 to remember the love and celebrate the lives of their children who died while serving our country.

The retreat included the physical challenges of a low ropes course, raft building, and the Gasparilla Distance Classic with Team TAPS. The race is part of the famous Gasparilla celebration held annually in Tampa. Parents walked or ran in the 5K to honor their sons and daughters and made it part of a fundraiser for Team TAPS in order to help support additional TAPS programs like this retreat.

MedalSpeaking of running . . . TAPS is marking the fifteenth anniversary of Team TAPS in 2015 with a virtual run and commemorative medal. We know for many, taking part in a race is a fitness goal. So, we’re making it easy this year for you to join our team and earn some extra race bling. With the Team TAPS Fifteeth Anniversary Virtual Run, you set the distance, you set the time, you decide the ideal weather, and you set the location. Make it a group effort, an organizational fun run, or enjoy the relaxing solitude of a good jog/walk. This is your race. Just sign up and your registration fee goes to help the TAPS mission to support families of the fallen. For details and to register, go to Team TAPS Fifteenth Anniversary Virtual Run.

Courage 1

Just because we’re dreaming of warmer weather, doesn’t mean we’re missing out on winter fun. Team4TAPS unleashed Courage on ice in just the last week with the Washington Capitals Courage Caps Campaign. More than 150 children and adults, connected by TAPS, took part in a skating party on February 24 at Kettler Capitals Iceplex hosted by the team and Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation. Families enjoyed time on the ice with Washington Capitals players John Carlson, Jack Hillen, Matt Niskanen, and Brooks Orpik; all of whom took the time to sign autographs, guide kids around the rink, and learn about the heroes we honor.

The event kicked off the 2014-15 Courage Caps campaign, presented by Telos Corporation, for its fourth-consecutive season. TAPS is the beneficiary of Courage Caps. TAPS will receive 100% of the proceeds raised through sales of Courage Caps and Courage shirts. You can buy your Courage gear beginning this week online on the Washington Capitals website, at the Washington Capitals Team Store at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, and at the Team Store and at stands throughout Verizon Center during Capitals home games.

Now the journey continues on in to March with the Alaska Widows Retreat, Charleston Moms Retreat, TAPS Honor Guard Gala, and San Antonio Regional Seminar and Good Grief Camp. It’s going to be an amazing year.

Oh, and don’t forget to register for the National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp in Washington, D.C., this Memorial Day. The deadline for flight assistance is March 13.

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Ambard, Linda - Celebrate Life
Today Is My Day

~ Linda Ambard, Survivor

March 3, 2015

So many people spend their lives in quiet desperation thinking of one day - someday. I was no different and, at times, I am still stuck in the rut of day-to-day responsibilities and routines. Mired in the frenetic pace and wanting more, never quite reaching that elusive someday, is exactly where I was when Phil was killed. I was happy sitting on the sidelines waiting, but I knew something was missing for me and for my life.

When Phil married me, he married a family. We were too poor to have magical vacations or meals out without our children. Our fun was family fun. There was no point wanting what we couldn't afford, but when we finally reached that place where we could have vacations together, we were stuck in the thought of "one day we will." One day we'll go to Venice. One day we'll have the honeymoon we never took. But Phil's days ended long before anyone could have thought and the opportunity to live that dream is gone.

Phil's death ended every dream I had for the future I envisioned with the two of us. It ended the opportunity for the someday. Langston Hughes wrote, "Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." With no dreams, what was there to work for? To get me through the day for? To live for?

Part of learning to live without Phil has been finding the will to dream and hope again. I spent my days from the time I was twenty-one and became a mother for the first time, dreaming for others. I didn't consider what I wanted. Other than running, my eyes were focused on survival and that proverbial thought of "one day when we are retired." Developing new dreams when one stands alone is difficult at best. This struggle is ongoing, but as part of living and loving life, I simply must dream again.

I have three simple dreams. The first is to watch all of my children get married and find happiness. A parent worries and wants better for her children. I have little control over this dream, thus I must quietly hope.

The second dream is running The Great Wall of China Marathon. That dream is within my grasp. May 2016 is my projected date. Yes, there are other ways I could spend my money, and, yes, perhaps there are be less painful ways to go to China, but my dream includes running. Yesterday, I signed up for the travel agency's newsletter to remind me when I can act on my dream. To make a dream come true, action is required.

The last dream is the most difficult of all because it involves being vulnerable, opening up, and letting go of what once was. While Phil's death shattered my dreams of our future together, it gave way to dreaming of a different future. One of learning to love again and establishing a future with another person. It is terrifying and this dream seems far beyond my reach. But I do know that if I do not reach for this dream, I have limited myself.

It is breath taking to even imagine a future with someone other than Phil, but I know that it would crush Phil if I stopped living and loving because of his death. He would want this for me. He told me so in our last face to face conversation. "Linda, would you want me to be happy again if you died first?" Why yes, yes I would.

This dream is easier said than done, but as part of living my dreams, I am reaching. I no longer sit in quiet complacency. I act on the dreams that I have the power to achieve and when I reach my dreams, I find more. I am no longer the broken winged bird that cannot fly. Someday is today.

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Huey - blog post
Vacationing

~ Sarah Greene, Survivor

March 2, 2015

I have felt the pull to visit places and take vacations that my husband talked about but never got the chance to visit. I want to visit these places for several reasons: to honor him, feel close to him, fulfill his vision of seeing the parts of the world, and see the world for myself. Alaska was highest on his destination wish list, so that will be a must. We used to say, "When the kids are up and out, we are going to rent an RV and travel cross country." Sadly, I am now at that point in my life, and although I may not get to do that, I will see many other things and I will think of him everywhere I go.

On the first anniversary of his death, I took my kids on a mini vacation to the beach to learn to surf. I hesitated to do this activity because I did not want my kids to think I was disrespecting their dad by indulging in a fun day at the beach. But I explained that their dad would want us to "get out there" and enjoy life and do new things. I said we could do these things for him since he was not here to do them; it would be a way to honor him, and he would truly want us to have fun. They seemed to be fine with this explanation and excited for the day at the beach. 

On that beautiful, yet emotionally heavy, July day, we paddled out into the unknown. I tried to relax although my thoughts were in a different place. I did my best to show my enjoyment and grief conquering determination. My kids tumbled in the waves and smiled as they struggled to get on their boards. We tried and failed repeatedly. The surf was strong and overpowering. And it was loud. However, once we were out beyond the breakers, I heard another hauntingly familiar sound off in the distance. It became louder and nearer. Then it was upon us.

Directly overhead, only a few hundred feet above us, was the exact type of military helicopter my husband used to fly. We were nowhere near a military base and not in any known flight path for aircraft like this. I could not believe what I was seeing. Without thinking, I smiled and waved, bobbing up and down. The surf instructor must have looked on in puzzlement but I lost track of why we were there. The salty ocean waves washed my tears as they came in torrents. I choked on my words as I said "Daddy sent a helicopter to say "Hi" and he is so glad we are doing something fun on this day. My kids were thrilled, smiling, and waving too. 

The next attempts at riding waves were more successful. Each of us managed to get up on the board at some point and ride a wave in. Perhaps, it was the lift from seeing that familiar symbol, or the rush of remembering and knowing, but more importantly we were out doing what he would want us to do. We were living. I am so glad we did not stay at home that day or we never would have gotten that sign from above.

I will say that in the years since my husband died, there has been a learning curve on how to travel again with kids. The first trips were difficult. At first, I remember constantly thinking "he should be here" and worrying about security in hotel rooms, etc. I hated requesting a table for three at restaurants. Also, it was hard to enjoy the trips because I was event planner, security guard, tour guide, food provider, shelter provider, transportation provider, etc. With the insult of missing my husband and all of the responsibility, there was little room for relaxing or enjoying. I have a distinct memory of a trip to visit Gettysburg Battlefields. It was late in the day, we were all tired, and the only hotel I could find was in a bad part of town. Some of the people hanging around the pool were drunk and disorderly. We checked in, I discreetly told my kids the room number and asked them not to say it out loud for security reasons. As we walked along the corridor by the pool, my pre-teen daughter announced, "We're in room 226, right, Mom?" Haha.

Since then, we have been on some great memory-making trips, and they have been very rewarding and healing. It takes time to find your comfort zone and if you like control, I would advise taking small trips close to home to start the "traveling again" phase. Even in a smaller family unit, it is worth seeing the wonders of the world together. Maybe, someday, I will convince my kids to join me on an RV excursion.

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Rope Hammock
Saturday Morning Message: To Leave or Stay

February 28, 2015

Good Morning,

This week a survivor asked how others felt about leaving or staying in the home once shared with their loved one. For me, it wasn't the home, but rather my workplace that became the problem. I am a retired elementary school teacher who was working at the time in the school both my children had attended. After the trauma of losing Bryon, I had a very hard time teaching there. When a job came up in one of the other schools in our town, I applied for it and went there. My life was much more settled after that move.

The replies this week covered a variety of thoughts from survivors talking about why they made the decisions they did and I thank those who wrote and also those who read this message. When we share our thoughts or read about how others cope, we heal together.  

The discussion topic for next week: Do you have a special song that is uplifting? Tell us what it is and why is it important to you?

I invite you to respond to this week's question or share a topic you would like to ask the group by sending a message to carol.lane@taps.org.  I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. Sometimes writing to someone can be helpful.

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Annette, mother of Joe: This is a dilemma that I think about often.  How can we ever leave the house that Joe grew up in?  He is everywhere inside and out.  He planted so many shrubs and trees for me since his high school years. How do I sell my house and let someone else possibly decide to change the landscaping?  The pool he swam in is here.  His room is still full of all his belongings from childhood on.  Right now our house is often full as our daughter lives in New York City, so is at our house many weekends with our son-in-law and grandson. They will be buying a home in the suburbs soon and will not come as often.  Nicholas, her son, will get involved in sports and go to school, so they will not be as flexible. I foresee a time when we will be at their home more than they are at ours.   This house is big, costly, and the time will come when we have to make the big decision.  In my heart I know Joe is with us wherever we are and that I am focusing on the physical. For now I will just live in the moment where I am.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: I left my home of twenty-six years very shortly after Eugene died. I know he wanted me to change residences, because he sent emails with advertisements for smaller places just before he passed. I had to leave. There were too many memories both good and bad. I couldn't look at his room even though for several years it was only used for his visits. I must say I did move to one of the places he strongly suggested, but had never seen in person. I have a much better life here. His memories are in my heart. I have some of his photos about my home. I met a super guy,married, and moved in with him. It's a whole new life that still includes my son, but I now have tons of additional people in my life. I can't change what is, but I know that my son is smiling down from heaven about my choices.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake:  Leaving our home has never been something we've thought about due to our loss. In the beginning leaving town to get away for a while was something we felt the need to do often, but it was mostly to run from all the people we'd meet with their constant questions and comments. Our home is full of many memories of our children's childhood. Blake was two when we moved in and we've lived in the same house for over thirty years so, yes, there are many memories. I look at them as a little bittersweet at times, but now that time has continued to move forward I find them making me feel warm and fuzzy inside as I think back to the good old days. I cherish the good memories of my children and our lives with them as they all went from stage to stage working their way to adulthood. When we have our family time with our remaining children and their families, we find ourselves sitting out on the patio talking about all the good times we've had here. I feel we are blessed to have them. We've planted a memorial tree with a bleeding heart from Blake's wife, Kate, near one corner of the patio. We feel connected to him somehow and feel like he's still with us only in a different way. I'm glad we didn't leave our home for another house somewhere else. The bond with our children feels closer here than I would expect elsewhere. I try to look at the memories of the good old day as a special gift from God himself. They help keep me going lots of times when I otherwise would be fighting the blues and missing him! Hope this will help some newcomers to the journey think before acting on something like making a major move. I feel certain it was the best thing for us and am grateful that we did stay.

From Karl, father of Tre: As for me, I had to leave. I lived in a Navy town and seeing all the young men in uniform saddened me before it brought comfort.  His bed is in the guest room in the new house though and I have good memories of the other house which was the place where the men in uniform came, where I had to plan a funeral, and where all the people and the press came to speak of his passing.  I guess there are different circumstances for different people. The military family that bought the house seem to really love it. They were already renting and living in it, so I asked them if I could go to the room and say good-bye.  They agreed.  I know he would love the new house more than I do and I have a bench out back overlooking the pond that I imagine him sitting in.  Sometimes I still drive past the other house and sigh. I say if only....

From Roseanne, mother of Christopher: Chris bought his condo in 2008. He was proud of his accomplishments. He had the entire family, thirteen in total over for Thanksgiving dinner and for other smaller occasions. His culinary skills were unmatched to most others. He loved food and cooking from scratch. I feel much comfort in cooking with his knives, eating off of his plates, drinking from his glasses, etc. I feel I am honoring him by using his prized things. I bought self adhesive letters and put on the back of his chairs courage, honor, loyalty and duty. I also purchased one of these rub offs on a side cabinet in Chris's  kitchen that says, "The love of family is life's greatest blessing".  My sister-in-law made a comment that her girls, Chris's cousins, didn't feel comfortable coming over to their dead cousin's house. I forgive them for their thoughts. For they are not thinking clearly.

I feel just the opposite. I am honored to be in his house to live out his legacy. My thoughts are that Chris is with me in the kitchen when I most need help in making a dish. Every room has a similar story. I find peace here knowing that Chris is at peace. I live here half the year and at my house the other half.

This week's chat schedule:

General Support
Open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11:00 PM Eastern
7:30 - 10:00 PM Central
6:30 -   9:00 PM Mountain
5:30 -   8:00 PM Pacific
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, March 5, 2015
Time: 9:00 PM - 11:00 PM Eastern
8:00 PM - 10:00 PM Central
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Mountain
6:00PM - 8:00 PM Pacific
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 at 1-800-959-8277. 

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Rachael Hill - Feb. 2015
Working Through the Hard Times

~ Rachael Hill, Survivor

February 24, 2015

It's been a while since I wrote my last blog…not because I didn't have anything to share, but because I found myself in a place I didn't know how to get out of. Our move last summer took a lot more out of me than I had anticipated and I just wasn't handling it well. I found myself doing all the things I said I would never do. I laid on the couch all day, I gained weight, and I lost all motivation. Ultimately, I just wasn't adjusting well.

 

So what do we do when those times roll in that we don't know how to get out of? It's almost scary how those feelings can so quickly spiral out of control to the point where before you know it, you're so down that you're not sure how you will get up again. Then what? For me, there was a point when I realized it was becoming unhealthy and I knew I had to make some changes.

 

First, I started exercising again. I enlisted a friend and we started going to the gym together. Before moving I worked as a group fitness instructor, and I don't think I ever realized how important that was for me. It was one hour where I didn't have to think about what was going on in my life. One hour to focus on my class and without even realizing it, focus on me. Exercising can be a huge energy booster, but the hard part is getting yourself going. The key is finding something you enjoy, or someone you enjoy doing it with.

 

I have found that being around people is a huge booster for me as well. It can be hard to make myself do this though because often times when I am feeling really down, I honestly don't want to be around people at all. On the flip side, I know that people are a huge factor in keeping me uplifted, so it's a bit of a double-edged sword. That was one of the hardest things with this move in that I didn't know anyone here. I met people, but it takes a while to go from "acquaintances" to "friends," and that has been tough for me. Civilian life is different than military life. Not good or bad…just different.

 

Finally, having something on the calendar to look forward to is a huge asset. We have done a lot of traveling since my husband died, but after our move (which included driving 4,300 miles in sixteen days) I was done travelling. What I didn't realize though was that without having something on the calendar, I didn't feel like I had a whole lot to look forward to. I felt like I was just going through the motions of each day and it wasn't really getting me anywhere. These trips give me something to be excited about. It doesn't even have to be anything big, but just something fun to look forward to and to work towards.

 

I think we all go through these down periods at times, don't we? Something happens that throws our lives out of sync and sometimes it's hard to get everything back. Since losing my husband, I have found that it is often easier for things to get thrown off and harder to get myself back together again. Harder, but not impossible. It just takes a little more effort on my part to be aware of what is going on and to realize the steps that I need to take to get myself back on track. Grief is hard. Living this life without my husband is hard. It's hard and can take a lot of work at times, but I know that the work is worth it in order to continue living the way I want to live, which is to simply be happy.

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Red Rose - Blurred
Saturday Morning Message: Dreams

February 21, 2015

Good Morning, 

This week's question was about dreams. There were so many beautiful responses to this question including one about a time when a survivor felt the closeness of her loved one, that I will keep my comments to a minimum today.

Bob, father of Louis, asked for our ideas about this question: We can't imagine leaving the house all our kids grew up in. Sometimes it's sad, but we cherish all the memories this house holds. Several friends of ours in similar circumstances had to leave their homes, because the memories hurt too much. What do others think? I love getting questions from our survivors, so I invite you to respond to this week's question or share a topic you would like to ask the group by sending a message to carol.lane@taps.org.  I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. Sometimes writing to someone can be helpful.

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Bob, father of Louis: In the beginning I had several dreams in which I would see Lou at a distance, but when I got there he was gone. Several years later I felt his presence in a few dreams. It almost seemed as if I were hugging him.

Lynn, mother of Blake:  I had dreams much more in the beginning. I wrote one of them down to remember. In the dream, I was at my parent's house sitting poolside with my mom, Blake, and his brother. We did that a lot when my boys were much younger and my mother, their grandmother, was still alive. In this dream, we were all splashing each other and laughing until we had laughing tears with not a care or a worry in the world.  When I woke, I felt so calm and at peace. It was a gift of a time when we were together, loving life and each other.  I thought, thank you Blake for helping me remember. There were experiences, too. Several experiences that occurred during the first year. I thought I was going crazy, because of my grief. They seemed surreal. I was told by a friend to embrace these experiences. I did and I am grateful that they happened. I choose to look at them as visits that reassured me my son is near and he's ok. I miss them now. I haven't had those types of dreams or experiences for a couple of years now, and I miss them although I know in my heart he is and always will be close. I may not feel that intensity, and I suppose it's a sweet sorrow. Maybe letting go in some sort of way.  But for all the sorrow and sadness, I accept it, because I would not exchange the love he gave for any seconds of never being able to have such a gift as Blake in my life.

From Valerie, spouse of Steven: It's been 11 years since Agent Orange took Bouncer from us. It almost seems impossible that it has been so long ago.Our son who was 6 years old when his dad died is now 18. He just went out and bought his first used car. All by himself as I was sick with the flu and could not be out there with him. He came home with a 1990 Toyota Celica. He actually did an outstanding job picking up this car. I am so proud of him.  As I watched him look underneath the car at the muffler and exhaust system I found myself talking to my husband. There's our little man all grown up becoming the man we knew that he would. I asked him if he was as proud of him as I was and if he wished I had done anything different. I then felt this warm happy comfort come over me. I do feel it was his way of telling me that we had done well. My son says he doesn't remember his dad so much. But everyday I see his dad shine through him in so many ways it's almost scary!  I thank God everyday for giving us our son to watch him blossom into his own man with his dad at his side.

Mary, mother of Nick: About one year after my son  was killed in Iraq...I had a very vivid dream.  Really, I believe it was more like a "dream visit." I was in a very dark and depressed state of mind as Nick was my only child and I couldn't see any reason for continuing on with life and him not being a part of it. He was my whole world.The circumstances of his death made it that I was not able to see him one last time and I was having a very difficult time. This may sound strange to some of you, but I really felt like Nick came to visit me to let me know he was ok.

I was asleep.....but kept waking up and feeling like I was dying.I felt myself somehow struggling to get out of my body and down on to the floor.I started crawling down the hall into the guest room. Nick was already there wearing his black and yellow surfer shirt and shorts with a huge smile. He had 2 other young men with him. I started crying when I saw him  and he  kneeled down on the floor and wrapped his arms around me in the tightest hug ever and said, "Mom...Mom...I'm here and I'm Ok. I love you!!  I want you to meet my 2 buddies".He then said to his buddies "This is my Mom". I was crying and telling him how much I loved and missed him.He then said, "Mom.I know and I'm so sorry...but you can't stay. It's not your time...you have to go back!"

I didn't want to leave him, but when I woke up I had a feeling of peace and calm.

 Everything was so vivid and real and even though this dream took place several years ago...I still remember it very clearly.....unlike other ones that are fuzzy and vague the next day.

From Mary, mother of Blake: I've only have one dream that Blake was actually in. Holidays always hit hard and this past year was no different. However a couple days after Christmas I couldn't help fight bittersweet tears as I told my husband that I had seen Blake in my dream! All that stood out about the dream was that Blake appeared out of the blue, ran to me, gave me a big hug, smiled at me, said "I love you mama" then disappeared in a flash. In my dream his appearance was short and sweet and when I think of the dream I can still feel his wonderful arms around me as he gave me his hug and hear his voice and the words he said to me. I think about that dream a lot. It gives me comfort each and every time I do. Mama loves you too Blake!

From Ruth, mother of James:

I had a dream the other day, the noon day sun had slipped away.
Clouds and stars flew overhead. I knew I could not slip into bed.
I waited for you to come into view.
A tear reminded me of the morning dew.
My heart beat fast as I watched the clouds dimming as evening fell.
The stars sparkled so bright, I knew you had something important to tell.
I heard the laughter of a little boy, and there you were out to play.
I watched you grow before my eyes laughing and romping throughout the day.
Suddenly a uniform was on and my soldier son was off to war.
Proud of our nation you promised to come back to my door.
You kept your promise as I knew you would.
Our door was open and all was good.
I am home mom, not as the young man who went away.
But I am here to love you everyday.
You whispered good night and kissed my cheek.
You left me feeling very weak.
I know you love me and you are always with me....
Not as I want, but as it will be.

This week's chat schedule:

General Support
Open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
7:30 - 10:00 PM Central
6:30 -   9:00 PM Mountain
5:30 -   8:00 PM Pacific
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Daytime General Support Chat 
Date: Thursday, February 26, 2015
Time: 1 PM - 2:30 PM Eastern
12PM - 1:30 PM Central
11 AM - 12:30 PM Mountain
10 AM - 11:30 AM Pacific
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kellie Hazlett

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.

 

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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