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Hands
Forgiveness

~ Linda Ambard, Survivor

April 27, 2015

How does a person forgive the unforgivable? Almost four years ago, my Phil was taken from me in the very worst way possible, by someone he liked and trusted. With the death of Phil, I lost everything I had built for my life and future. I assumed we would grow old together, welcome grandchildren together, and even bury parents together. I expected It be able to say goodbye when the time came. I never thought I would be a young widow.

Sometimes, forgiveness of such an unfair and egregious crime seems far beyond my capabilities.

Forgiveness isn't something I can see happening in one decision. There isn't just one thing I can do to fully forgive. It is simply a process. Some days I feel further along the process than I was yesterday, and sometimes it feels like I will never be able to say that I'll be able to forgive. There are no magic wands, but I figured out early on that it was too easy to fill up my life with anger and pity parties that didn't give me back what I really wanted. The more I stood steeped in anger that was often misplaced, the longer I found hatred and bitterness creeping into my heart, robbing me of joy and life. I want life. If I relinquish my heart to anger, bitterness, and living in the past, then my soul was lost that day with Phil.

My faith has changed too. I prayed each and every day for Phil to come home safely. Many other people prayed with me. When Phil's broken body came home, I had a choice. I could be angry with God, or I could shift my understanding of faith.  It is my belief that the person who killed Phil had a choice, and he chose evil. I really believe that Phil was received into heaven on that day. I hope that the angels were there in the room ministering to Phil and the other eight as evil played out that day.

Archbishop Tutu once said, "Without forgiveness there is no hope.  Forgiving is giving up that the past can be any different." Those are powerful words. There is no amount of anger that will bring back my Phil. Many trauma survivors get stuck in the wanting of revenge. The heart is consumed by anger and pain. A person is changed. Forgiveness is not about restoring trust or forgetting; it is about the decision to not live in the purgatory of doubt and anger over what cannot be fixed no matter how much I want it. I do not have the answers, but I do know that I want my life to stand for more than anger, bitterness, and darkness. I want my life to shine and matter for those whose lives ended that day-far too soon.

I can't say I have fully forgiven, but it is something that I continue to work toward one small step at a time.

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Writing Pen
Saturday Morning Message: Progress and Discovery Continued..

April 25, 2015

Good Morning,

I have always liked chatting with people, but after my son died, I found that keeping in touch with other survivors was very uplifting to me. I don't live in an area with many military bases, so connecting with other survivors through TAPS and keeping in touch was progress for me. It helped me know that I was not alone. I used that discovery to start the Saturday Morning Message--it joined me with survivors from all over the country even though we did not live close enough to visit in person.

As I was reading the replies to the question for the past two weeks, I thought about writing and the qualities it has to help us on this journey called grief. I found two articles from the TAPS magazine that were helpful to me in this process. They were: "How Writing Helped Me Heal" by Julie Schrock, Surviving mom of Corporal Max Donahue and "Healing Through Writing" by Artis Henderson, Surviving spouse of CW2 Miles Henderson. While reading the second article, which listed ways to start your own writing practice, I thought about adding a writing group separate from the Saturday Morning Message for those who like to write longer pieces. Normally, writers read what they have written to each other in local groups. Since we live far away, you could send your piece to me and I would put it in a group email. Then you could read each of the entries and send your thoughts back to me and I would forward them to the author. The piece you send does not have to answer the Saturday Morning Message question…..it will just be your thoughts on the journey. We could decide to do it weekly or monthly. What do you think? If you would like to start something like this, send me an email at carol.lane@taps.org.  The Saturday Morning Message will continue as it always has.

Would  you like to see how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have?  It is often helpful to read how others cope.  I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages.  You can also send in a song that is meaningful to you.

In addition to the ideas shared below, we can also honor our loved ones by sharing 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 sending it directly to carol.lane@taps.org 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 Message

This week's question came from Claire, daughter of William, who noticed the many responses on the TAPS Facebook page when the article "Helping a Grandparent Who Is Grieving" was posted. She thought this week's question could be, "have you noticed how your extended family grieves the loss of your loved one or how you have helped extended family through their grief?"  

 

♫ Song for the Week

From Thomas and Virginia, parents of Patrick: I love the song "I Drive Your Truck" by Lee Brice. It is so Patrick. He had a pickup truck, he loved his ratty old ball caps and always had a half empty bottle of gatorade rolling around in the floorboards. Even though we gave Patrick's truck to his wife's brother, I still think of him as I drive my truck....I have shed a lot of tears in that truck.  I know he would punch me in the arm if he saw the tears running down my face! 

 

Answers from Survivors: How has your personality changed or what have you discovered about yourself on your grief journey?

A survivor sent in a poem that she would like to share with you. You can find it by clicking on "I Shall Not Cry Return" by Ellen Gates

From Diane, mother of Caleb: I have always been a people pleaser. On this grief journey, I am less that person. There are certain people I cannot be around--those who are toxic and enjoy gossip and drama-- which means certain 'friends'  are not part of my life now. I just don't have the energy.  Priorities have changed. There are so many things that are not important now. I know I am not the same person I was; actually, I am still discovering this 'new' person!

From Sarah, spouse of David: Everything about me changed after my loss!  My world view turned upside down and became unrecognizable and I was surprised my loss affected every aspect of my life: the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.  I tried hard to protect this tectonic shift in my life from outwardly being detected. However, I could not keep the changes from being discovered and let my "new normal" surface. I  now embrace my new normal and I feel like I am always evolving. We humans are all a work in progress, thankfully! In the past, I was compassionate, but I feel more so now. I was much more of a control freak before my loss. I have become much more spiritual. I have learned to "let it go" and I try to laugh more. I still struggle with certain issues related to my loss, especially if it is something that affects my kids. However, I am grateful each day for the opportunity to try better and be better.  I take a lot of comfort in a quote I saw on Pintrest: "A part of me went with him when he died, but a part of him remains with me as I live". This quote helps remind me that my husband's memory lives on in my heart, where he will be treasured the rest of my days!

From Georgianna, mother of Jamie: I have discovered how much more I can trust in God with my faith. I have discovered a new maturity within myself, as my son's mother, to know the peace of him is with me at all times. I have also discovered how to recognize emotions of grief and not to eat on those emotions to make myself feel better. I have discovered that my mind is starting to clear and I am beginning to lift my head up again. These discoveries didn't happen overnight. It started a new walk in my life as soon as I got the phone call. March 17, 2014 started a new walk in my life. Each day is an opportunity to be beautiful like the rainbow on the horizon. There is so so much more to be discovered. So, within the first year that I have worked to keep myself healthy, I cannot thank TAPS enough for being there.  I continue to look forward to meeting new lifelong friends to grow even healthier.

From Kelly, sister of Sam: Honestly, I don't recognize the person I was on December 13, 2011. I feel like Sam's death changed my whole perspective on life. Now, I choose to live for us both. I try to fill my life with people and experiences that both make me happy and I know he would love. I think this new me has always been inside, but losing Sam made me dig deep to find her. And I think Sam would be proud of that accomplishment.

From Claire, daughter of William: We focus so much on what a loss takes from us.  Loss is depletion, subtraction, an emptying.  Yet, months and years down the grief road we can often see what has also been added having survived the loss. Where something was missing, something filled in.  Coming out of back to back tragic experiences - the experience of 9/11, the service connected death of my father, the loss of colleagues in war - over a decade later, I know I would not be the same person I am now without those hard episodes of my reality show . . . and I rather like who I've become. "God enlarged me in my time of distress." Psalm 4:1

I'm a person who has learned:

  1. To not sweat the small stuff; the small stuff are the problems I'd rather have actually compared to the big stuff.
  2. To enjoy the small things in life; the small things are often what we remember most and therefore are really the big things.
  3. To not take things personally; not everything is about me.
  4. To think before reacting; allow myself to see the second and third order effects of my words or deeds before engaging.
  5. To lead with kindness as much as possible; everyone has their own crosses they are bearing and mine should never be an excuse to treat someone poorly.
  6. To not be afraid to assert myself firmly when necessary; sometimes a situation requires a heavier hand.
  7. To not lose my cool much; when I do get firm, people know I am serious.
  8. Yelling is not an effective means to make a point; concise, clear, even toned directions are better heard.
  9. To assume the best in people; not everyone has a hidden agenda. Even if they are doing something the wrong way; everyone deserves a positive learning experience.
  10. Forgiving and forgetting are not the same thing; it's ok to separate myself from situations or individuals completely for my own sake.
  11. Time is the most precious commodity; there's no lottery that wins days back or a paycheck that will supplement hours whiled away.
  12. To never stop talking about those I've lost no matter what others think; my dad IS my dad. He always will be. His location changed, not his position.
 

Upcoming Chats

 General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Time: 8:30 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 at 1-800-959-8277.

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Butterfly
Saturday Morning Message: Progress and Discovery

April 18, 2015

Good Morning,

A butterfly comes out of a cocoon keeping its life as a caterpillar in its body, but adding something new - wings. Walking the journey of grief can be like that. We will always keep our loved ones in our heart, but we discover new abilities which we didn't know we possessed. This week survivors share how they have changed. They wrote honest and thoughtful responses about their emotions and how events affect them on this journey called grief. I am going to keep my comments short this week and give you more time to read their thoughts.

Would you like to see how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have?  It is often helpful to read how others cope. I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. You can also send in a song that is meaningful to you.

In addition to the ideas shared below, we can also honor our loved ones by sharing 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 me at carol.lane@taps.org. 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 Message

There was an overwhelming response to this week's question.  As we could not fit them all into one BLOG, we will continue the discussion for another week. If you haven't sent your thoughts yet, please feel free to send them along. The questions is: When you to look at the progress you have made since the loss of your loved one, how has your personality changed or what have you discovered about yourself?

 

♫ Song for the Week

Roseanne, mother of Chris, sent the song this week which is "My Way" sung by Frank Sinatra. It is a song about looking back at your life, realizing that there were some difficult times, but that you lived it your way.

 

Answers from Survivors: How has your personality changed or what have you discovered about yourself on your grief journey?

From Donn, father of Todd:  Some days, I reflect more on what has not changed about me since Todd was killed almost five years ago, rather than what has changed.  His death forced me to rise above myself, not just to support our family Todd left behind, but to decide how I could reshape and improve my own life to make sure his sacrifice had one worthy advocate in his dad.  I wear a Gold Star pin every day no matter what I wear. We retired earlier than I really wanted to in order to find time to volunteer with several veteran organizations to impact our military and those who have served.  When I meet new people, very often they are able to "meet" Todd and other fallen heroes and learn what they all mean to our country. This experience has taught me to find ways to fight back my tears when talking to many groups about military courage and sacrifice. Todd's mom, Jeanne, and I have looked at every day as a gift much more so than we did before September 9, 2010.  Part of each day is dedicated to remembering and honoring Todd. We also try to move fully forward daily with our family toward making sure Todd-- and all those others who have sacrificed so much--see me not as a victim, but as a proud parent who is stronger for having Todd, his siblings and their families as Jeanne and I remember and share.

From Donna, mother of Rob: My outlook on life is so very different.  I feel as if I am this elephant in the room and no one knows what to say to me. I am drowning and it takes everything I have to stay above water. I'm not as outgoing and excited as I was before my son died. I don't have the energy that I used to have.  I am trying to find the new norm, and trying to be positive. I find that I have a hard time making decisions. What happens if I make the wrong decision? One change is that I try to read the Bible almost every night.  I'm closer to God than I ever was before losing Rob.

Recently a puppy was given to me on my birthday. My husband at first said we have two other dogs we don't need another one.  We tried her for a week and in that week I was on the floor while she was attacking me and all I could do was laugh.  My husband said we are keeping her. He said he hasn't heard me laugh like that since our son died.  He thinks our son brought her into our life, so I would remember what happiness was again. When I am crying, Ginger, the dog, comes, bites my nose, and kisses my tears.  She is so full of life and excited about everything and that is why she is in our lives.  

I'm looking for the answer, because I don't know the new norm yet. I don't think I will ever be happy, as I was when my son was alive.  I'm sitting here today waiting for his phone call because he always called me. I feel loneliness and isolation. I hide my feelings, because I don't want people to think, "Wow, she is not over it yet?" I will never be over the death of my son. I WANT HIM BACK. I want the way life was before he died. We did so much as a family. Just recently I have started reaching out to TAPS.  A friend asked me, "Why are you going to Washington D.C.?  Won't that just make you relive your son's death?  Don't you just get so tired of all of the things they do?" I didn't know what to say. I told her that I wanted to honor my son, but I truly don't know. I am just drawn to TAPS.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: It's over 4 years since my son passed. I have good days and some not so good days. Not a day goes by that I don't think of my son. There are more good days as time has passed. I try hard to think how he lived and not think about his death. That's progress.

It really took the wrongful death trial to really start to make 'progress' for me. Nothing sounded right and I desperately needed answers. Although extremely difficult to go through the legal process I did get my answers. I felt my son could rest in peace now that I knew exactly what happened to him. It was closure of a sort. I also found that my other son has the same issues, so he is medically watched carefully.

How has my personality changed.... I really try not to "sweat the small stuff" and not to let anyone engage me in doing so. I basically try to enjoy my time. I also make more time for family and friends.  I am big on organ donation and speak my mind about registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles which is a national registry supported by even the most religious.

What I have discovered is that I am stronger than I thought I was.

From Roseanne, mother of Chris: To understand how my personality has changed, I first want to tell you about my personality and traits. I am a very outgoing person. I will go up to people and talk with them; I talk a lot, too much, without knowing them. I am a take charge, let's get it done now person.

Since Chris's passing just a short sixteen months ago, I've noticed I've changed not by choice, but rather by trauma. I couldn't say this until now, because my thinking is, "Why did Chris's death change me for the better?" I was or wanted to always be in control--whether it be planning a party, a road trip, arranging things in the house, etc. After all I was a meeting planner for a pharmaceutical  company back in the day.

I've come to learn I am not in control. God is in control.

I've come to learn to listen and see the many benefits to that. I've come to learn to think before I react. It's OK to pause, hear, listen and react to other people's opinions. Chris often said to me, "Mom, if you just stop and think you can use a compass or you can pitch a tent." Well you got to me Chris. This now is a tribute to you. I am learning patience is a virtue that is so challenging for me to master. I sit in silence every evening and reflect on my day, still feeling the pain, but I thank God and Chris for looking after us in our earthly bodies. I do feel a sense of peace and calmness. I can honestly say that Chris is working through me. He knew how high strung I was at times, and now I've discovered that it's OK to take a step back. At the end of the day it will all work out.

 

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Daytime General Support Chat 
Date: Thursday, April 23, 2015
Time: 1 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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Carol's Rock
Saturday Morning Message: Ways to Honor Loved Ones

April 11, 2015

Good Morning,

Finding a way to honor our loved ones can seem overwhelming at first. If you start with something you enjoy, it makes the task less daunting and you may find that in addition to tears, it brings memories helping to celebrate the life of the one we hold so close.

The picture this week I have posted before, but it is an answer to this week's question about honoring our loved ones.  It is from the garden by our house that we made to honor our son, Bryon. The small deer to the right is one he bought us with his own paycheck.

The words on the stone are:

No Farewell Words were spoken,
No time to say good-bye,
You were gone before we knew it,
And only God knows why.

Would you like to see 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 how others cope.

In addition to the ideas shared below, we can also honor our loved ones by sharing 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 sending an email to carol.lane@taps.org. 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 Message:

Recently on the TAPS Facebook page, there was this quote from C. S. Lewis:  "Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny." This week's question asks you to look at the progress you have made since the loss of your loved one.  How has your personality changed or what have you discovered about yourself on your grief journey?

 

Song for the Week:

 Deb, mother of Beth: The River by Garth Brooks reminds me of Beth as well as  all our loved ones.  They were following their dreams, not sitting on the shore and watching life go by, fighting to stay between the shores until their river went dry.

 

Answers from Survivors: How do other survivors honor their loved ones?

From Heather, mother of Alex: We honor our son Alex by lightning a candle beside his picture. In the beginning we had his portrait on a table surrounded with a few plants from his funeral and a large candle which we lit at dinner time until bedtime every evening. Now we have his portrait over the fireplace and we light a candle which is on the mantle directly under. We do many other things to honor Alex, but we have been lighting a candle every evening since his funeral.

From Rebecca, mother of Griff: In Griffs' memory and honor, I crochet scarves, hats, afghans, lunch placemats, and coasters to give away. It says "Wraps of Love  In Memory of Sgt. Griff".  There is also a heart on the label sewn into everything.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake:  I don't think any of us can forget how helpless and dependent on others we were at the beginning of our journeys! It takes quite a while to get ourselves back together after being knocked with such a hard blow. Some things we did early on were wear survival bracelets, like our son did in honor of a lost shipmate of his when he served in Iraq. We planted a tree in our backyard in Blake's honor and later added a bleeding heart plant from my daughter-in-law. Each spring it shoots up and seems to hug the tree as if it were Blake and Kate instead of two plants. In time we have made a nice little garden under the tree we originally planted. Some from our community sent money for us to start a scholarship fund in his name. In time as I got a little stronger, at least where I could think straight again, I looked into having a run to support the scholarship fund to keep it going. We have had two runs so far and been blessed to be able to give out nine scholarships thus far. My goal is to continue to have the fund raiser each year as long as God blesses me with the health to do so, at that time my hope is that my other children will continue the event.

 

Upcoming Chats:

Parent Chat 
Date: Monday, April 13, 2015
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, April 16, 2015
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 at 1-800-959-8277.

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2013 National Parade
Saturday Morning Message: Making Friends at a TAPS Event

April 4, 2015

Good Morning,

Coming to a TAPS event alone can make us wonder how "we will fit in, how we will be treated, and what the event will be like". That was the question last week and many have written to say they will be waiting for this week's answers. Some who answered this question talked about attending a TAPS event and others addressed going out socially after the loss. In the Spring 2014 edition of the TAPS Magazine, there is an article, "Attending TAPS Events: Encouragement for the Newcomer", dealing with exactly this question. The article has answers from other survivors adding more ideas to the ones in this week's message. Thanks to all who responded to this week's question and those who read the Saturday Morning Message.

The discussion topic for next week came from some newer survivors: What are some ways other survivors honor their loved ones? Since those who most often ask the question are new to the journey, what are some things you have done that don't take a lot of emotional energy?

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

⇛The newest way to keep in touch with the TAPS Online community is through Twitter. We will be posting times for chats and other Online community events that might interest you.  You can find us by clicking on this link - TAPS_Chat. If you don't have a Twitter account, you can make one through this link.

From TAPS Survivors:

Mary-Ann, mother of Blake sent the song for this week. Kate Smith was a radio and TV personality in the United States particularly known for her rendition of God Bless America composed by Irving Berlin. In a walk back in history, Mary-Ann sent this link which includes an introduction of the song by an announcer as well as the song's introduction sung by Kate Smith which is not usually included when singing the song in modern times.

From Rebecca, mother of Griff: You will not be alone. When I went to my first TAPS seminar, I was greeted with warmth and many hugs. You can sit anywhere you want and soon realize that we all have one thing in common. Our hearts hurt, because our much loved servicemembers are not on earth anymore...but in Heaven's Military. When you register online, please write your concerns about sitting by yourself and eating alone. There is only understanding at the seminars. We are never alone, because we are free to express all of our feelings.

From Christine, mother of Adam: Everyone was so nice. I went to eat and ordered it to go. Even the waiter asked me if I was sure I didn't want to stay. The picture I had of Adam was so  crumbled, but they really worked on it and had a  button for me the next day. Everyone tried to get me to at least stay for lunch, but I was panicking. I was the last one to enter this whole room. I sat beside a mentor, and she was so nice. Very loving room full of people.

From Ruth, mother of James: This is such a hard time...  you don't know how people will react to you... somehow you suddenly feel like everyone is staring and whispering.... you feel so different....  you worry about someone seeing a tear in your eye....  I found that I had to put all of these things in a box...  an empty box that sat on my dresser and still remains there.  I don't use it as often these days, but in the first steps of my journey it was opened a lot.  The bottom of the box has a picture of my son attached to it.

Walking into a room for the first time is hard, but I found that if I went up to a group of people I found so much love and warmth.  Each time I would go into a room, I would imagine what was going to happen, but I could hear my son saying, "Mom, these are your friends.  Let them embrace you.  Let them know that you are still my mother and you still want to talk about me, to learn new things about me and know that they will never forget your little blond haired boy.  Most of all remember that they too will need your love and support when they suffer a loss.  It is always good to repay a kindness."   

Each time I would go out I would open my box.  It seems as though the young boy that I loved so much was pushing me forward...  I know that he would not want me to put myself into a box, so I cherish the time that I spend with others.  You see I feel as though my son is sharing the wings that he has earned in heaven to lift me up and inspire me to go on....

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: I was a single parent for many years and always felt awkward coming to an event alone. I found that you just sit with a group and start talking. People are usually very nice. I found after I lost my son, people didn't know what to say. A big smile from me usually broke the ice. Sometimes I would add that Eugene would have enjoyed the wedding or whatever. That relaxes people as well.

From Merry, mother of Wesley: The only event from TAPS I've attended was at Fort Carson last year.  I would have to say, I never felt alone or unaccounted for even though I did not know anyone.  Paul took me by the hand and made sure I was immediately in contact with a friend of his family.  My mentor, Angelika was there in the evening, but I can't remember if she was there during the day.

The break-out session was good although I did not know anyone in that group either.  I felt we were all in the same boat and have a story to tell.  My personality points me in a direction that keeps me alone at times, but I'm not intimidated to step up and introduce myself.  I am not sure everyone feels that comfortable in groups where they do not know people.

This week's chat schedule:

General Support 
Date: Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11:00 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower 
Date: Wednesday, April 08, 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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Carol's Photo of the Beach
Saturday Morning Message: Thoughts on the Journey

March 28, 2015

Good Morning,

Last week we were asked to share how events like the recent helicopter training accident in Florida influence our own grief journey. When this happens and deep thought is needed, I go to my favorite places, the beach or the garden. These spots help quiet my mind which is often on overdrive especially when I hear something like this. 

In an article, National Bereavement Study: A Call to Action, printed in the 2013 Spring TAPS magazine, there was the following statement, "One of the recurring themes of grief is the feeling of isolation, the sensation that we are alone in the world and that no one understands what we are going through." The survivors who wrote answers this week show through their compassionate, heartwarming replies that they are ready to make sure those who are new to grief through recent events, know they are not alone. Thank you to those who wrote replies this week, those who write private emails to me, and those who read the Saturday Morning Message.

Going to a TAPS event for the first time can bring up many questions. To help a survivor who has not attended yet feel more secure, let's share our experiences to the query:  "What if I come to an event by myself?  I worry I will sit in the corner and eat all alone. How will I make friends?" I look forward to your replies.

The Saturday Morning Message is designed for survivors to be an integral part of the process. Would it be helpful to read ideas how others cope with something that has been on your mind?  You are encouraged to send your question or topic ideas for future messages to carol.lane@taps.org. I look forward to hearing from you. With TAPS you are never alone.

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

♬ The song of the week comes from Roseanne, mother of Chris: Roseanne wrote to say that "I Did It My Way" by Frank Sinatra applies to her life. She also wrote that since Chris's death, she has come to appreciate "Sounds of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel. This is the original version from 1964. Roseanne wrote, "Besides a beautiful soothing melody the words have meaning to me. Almost every verse relates something to Chris's passing. It hurts, I cry, then find some solace in the sounds of silence around his house."

From Ruth, mother of Jim: When we first lost Jim, I wasn't certain if I had anything or energy to help anyone else.  With the tragic news of losing all of these men in a helicopter accident, my mind raced through the things I could do. If I could I would embrace each survivor, give them the strength that I get from my community, give the love of my God.... oh, so many things I could do... I could send a card, give advice and listen to them, wiping away the tears. My list continued on and then I realized that my list was disorganized and I could not do all of this in one day, so I tried to reorganize what I would do. The list once again was confusing and seemed to pertain only to my situation and not to another's. Finally, I realized where I had all of my ideas and how best to make sure they were getting help. I knew just how to wrap this gift. My gift would be a support group that could lift them up, help them through, and continue on in life without their loved ones.  The best thing I can do is to send a card and enclose the most valuable gift that I have.... the number for TAPS. For you see, without TAPS, I would not have my strongest support group. I would not have someone who would listen to me any time of the day. I would not have  a mentor. I would not always have a hand to reach out to me and help me through this journey called grief. I would not have unconditional understanding and love. My gift to them would be the best gift I received..... TAPS.

Christine, mother of Adam: When I hear about accidents, I always immediately ask Adam to help them. It does bring up sad feelings.

From Jeanne, mother of Todd:  We are long time friends with the parents of one of the servicemen killed in the Eglin AFB helicopter accident. We immediately reached out to them and will continue to do so far beyond our society's normal grieving period.  At the appropriate time we will introduce them to TAPS.

Anne, mother of Michael: When I heard about the tragedy recently of eleven warriors being killed in a helicopter training accident, it immediately sent me back into the loss of my son, Michael, who was killed along with three other brave Marine warriors on a night training mission in North Carolina. My heart went out to all of the families, because I knew what they were going through. I wanted to put my arms around all of the families just to tell them how sorry I was for their loss!

From Chris, mother of Darin: We happened to be in Navarre, Florida last week when the Air Commando Ruckers completed their four hundred fifty mile trek from MacDill Air Force Base to Hurlburt Field in honor of the fallen eleven. I felt sad knowing what eleven families are experiencing and wish there was a way I could embrace them and encourage them to be a part of TAPS. I want them to know with the resources and support that is available, their raw pain can lessen and peace is possible. I also felt pride as I watched the military and private citizens gather to honor these young men. Three years ago we were at Hurlburt Field for my son's funeral. I think my son would have said, "This time it's not about me." He would have been correct. So, I put my feelings aside and honored the eleven and their families.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: Events like the recent helicopter crash that took many of our best have always affected me with a certain amount of sorrow. Since the loss of my Blake, however, it affects me harder than ever before. I revert back to having that certain kind of stomach ache like I had for months after Blake's death. I have memory flashbacks of that horrible day we got the news of our son's death and the days that followed. I literally feel the pain so much more for the loved ones of those recently killed. It truly breaks my heart both because of my loss and thinking about those new to the journey none of us planned or wanted to go on. I hope this will help others to know they aren't alone. We have one another to fall back on with the true first hand experience and understanding of what they are going through.

Roseanne, mother of Chris: That morning recently I attended daily mass. The priest asked us to pray for those who were involved in a helicopter crash in Florida. I hadn't heard. It was only 8 AM  and I hadn't seen the news yet. Regardless, I offered up my prayers for those in the crash. It wasn't until the following evening I asked my mom if she heard about a crash in Florida. She said, " Yes. It's military related."  I stopped and made a point to Google it and then my emotions started. The tears ran like a river from my eyes. Chris had talked about flying in Black Hawk 'copters. My nose was red from sniffles that wouldn't stop. Chris mentioned his experience being in a Black Hawk. My hearing was selective; it was difficult to focus. My behavior was short tempered. I kept thinking about the war.

I asked myself why...
I cried myself to sleep
I awoke thinking why am I asking why, I should be asking what..
What can I do to reach out and help.
Then I remembered TAPS.

How they are the first ones reaching out helping us all who are on this grief journey.

This week's chat schedule:

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11:00 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, April 02, 2015
Time: 9 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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Rachael Hill - Music
We All Want 'What We Ain't Got'

~ Rachael Hill, Survivor

March 27, 2015

Music has always been a huge part of my life. I come from a musical family and started taking piano lessons in first grade, but my husband was the one who opened my eyes to a whole new side of music. Whenever driving in the car, Jeff and I would always listen to a wide variety of songs and after a while, I realized that while I was listening to the notes and rhythms, he was listening to the words and would often tell me to listen to the messages they were giving. Since his death, I have taken this advice to heart and have found inspiration in so many amazing songs, and sometimes I even feel like these songs are little winks from him.

I recently heard the song “What We Ain’t Got” by Jake Owen and it immediately struck me. As I listened to it a few more times, I found myself with tears in my eyes thinking of how this song mirrored some incredible aspects of my grief. The message of the song is how some people want nicer cars or bigger houses, while others wish for people and in this case, a woman that was previously in his life. Here are a few lines from the song that truly had the most impact on me.

“All I want is what I had…I would trade it all to get her back.” I would give anything to have Jeff back and my boys’ father back in their lives. More than anything, I want the life that I had. Yes we have a nice house and I drive a nice car, but I would give it all and take back the credit card debt, the living paycheck to paycheck, and even those little things he did that always made me so crazy. It doesn’t matter, I would do it all in a heartbeat just to have him here.

“Good-bye is such a painful word…we all wish it didn’t hurt.” The hardest thing I have ever had to do is say good-bye to my husband and watch my kids hurt because they can’t give him a hug or tell him how much they love him. However, as our friend Darcie Sims used to say, “Grief is the price we pay for love.” I wish missing him didn’t have to hurt so badly, but it hurts because I love him and that makes it all worth it.

“I wanted the world until my whole world stopped…you know a love like that ain’t easily forgot.” We had a lot of big plans and even bigger dreams for our lives together, but all of that quickly came to a screeching halt. When his plane crashed, so did my world. My life was changed forever and eventually I had to find a way to make a new world in which he wasn’t physically a part of. It has taken a long time and a lot of work, but I’m getting there. We are getting there - my boys are my world and we are making it together. Jeff continues to be a part of our lives because as the song says, a love like that isn’t easily forgotten. However, the beautiful thing about it is, it doesn’t have to be forgotten. I have learned that I can be content in the present, all while missing him and missing what we had. It still hurts, but then I just remind myself again that it hurts because “Grief is the price we pay for love.”

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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. 

 

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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