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Carol's Dog 1
Saturday Morning Message: Pet Support

April 22, 2017

Good Morning,

Carol's Dog 2Sharing your space with a pet can be very rewarding. Just having your pet cuddle up next to you when you are feeling down can be uplifting. Pets help us in so many ways. This week, I thought I would write to tell you about my two dogs, Fiona and Henry. Fiona is the dog on the carpet, and Henry is the one on the couch. They are both Scotties who are more like humans than animals. They sit by me when I watch television or moderate the TAPS chats. Fiona even lies beside me in the computer room when I write the Saturday Morning Message and answer emails. They let me know when it is time to take a break and get a cup of coffee by barking at me to let them out. In the summer, I take my coffee outside to sit on the porch with them for a little while. They have been doing that for a long time, and I don't know what I would do without them. 

TAPS has always had a therapy dog at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp, and I am sure there will be at least one there this year. They are always surrounded by a group of survivors as they cuddle up with those who need their support. 

On the TAPS Facebook page recently, there was an article about a puppy being trained by a mortician to help people who are grieving in Austin, Texas. Here is a video that explains how this dog is supporting the bereaved: "Puppy Helps People Grieve Through Tough Times." 

Dogs aren't the only animals to help those who grieve. Klinger is a horse owned by the United States Army and works with the Cassion Platoon of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). He works to help those who are grieving. There is a wonderful children's book written about him titled "Klinger, A Story of Honor and Hope," by Betsy Beard and illustrated by Shelley Johannes. 

I am looking for more questions in order to keep the Saturday Morning Message fresh. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed in the Saturday Morning Message, you can email me at online@taps.org. I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. In addition to replies that are placed in the message, I also look for thoughts you have. You can write to me anytime just to communicate or if you have thoughts on what could make the Saturday Morning Message more helpful. Replies to the weekly question are best sent to me by Tuesday afternoon. You are an important part of this message, and I look forward to your questions or any ideas you may have. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

The question this week is philosophical. It comes from Annette, mother of Joseph, who asks, "How has your outlook on your own death changed since the loss of your loved one?" She adds, "At the National Seminar last year, more than one person said to me, 'I am not afraid of death'. I feel the same way since losing Joe and wonder what others feel. I also find I am more certain of an afterlife." There is no right or wrong answer to this question. We look forward to reading what others think. 

   Song for the Week 

Caryn, mother of Nathan and spouse of Micheal, sent the song this week, which is "Standing By" sung by Pentatonix. Caryn wrote, "I love this song. It says, to me, that love is eternal. As I wait to be with them, they too are standing by waiting for me!" 

Answer from Survivor 

Betty's Dogs From Betty, mother of Michael: Upon the news of my son Michael's death, our terrier-mix dog followed me everywhere in my home. She stared at me with her piercing eyes as if trying to understand my abject sorrow. Her occasional nudges for attention seemed to be a demonstration that she wanted to share some of my heartache, but I was unwilling to lend her any. It seemed nothing could appease the pain of loss.

Several months later, we were finally able to bring Michael's 85-pound "puppy," Athena, into our home. She is a piece of him that we cherish every day. One morning as I was walking our menagerie of three dogs along our country road and praying to God, I looked at Athena's wagging tail and thought about how happy she was in her new home. No sooner had that thought transpired when I felt the Lord reassuring me of how happy Michael was in his new home.  

It took a wagging tail to bring me peace and proper perspective.

Upcoming Video and Text Chats 

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Illness Loss Chat 
Date: Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kim Suggs

Video Chat for Men 
Date: Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Time: 9 PM - 10 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Don Lipstein

Women's Empowerment Video Chat 
Date: Thursday, April 27, 2017
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Peer Mentor

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

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at1-800-959-8277.  

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Dreamcatcher
Saturday Morning Message: Marking Days of Remembrance

April 15, 2017

Good Morning,

There were many responses to the question about what survivors do on special days like birthdays and angelversaries. By sharing what we do, we're able to give ideas to other survivors - and that is why the Saturday Morning Message was created. Caryn, mother of Nathan and spouse of Micheal, sent this picture of the dream catcher she will add to her son's collection next week on his birthday. Since it is so close to his birthday, I thought it would be a great opening picture. You will read more about the way she commemorates special days in the Answers from Survivors section of today's Saturday Morning Message.

I also found a helpful article in the TAPS Magazine archives, written by Betsy Beard, mother of Bradley, titled "Anniversary Blues: Handling the Most Dreaded Day of the Year." Here are a few of her ideas, but you may want to read more suggestions from the article to help on those days that are difficult for you:

  • "Plan a memorial ceremony. The creation of memorial rituals can be part of the ongoing healing process, and these remembrances can take many forms. In the first weeks of loss, rituals helped to carry us through the pain-filled days and brought some meaning and stability to our otherwise chaotic lives.
  • Take a personal day off work to sleep and rest. Grieving is hard work and takes its toll on your mind, body and spirit. Do what you need to do to care for yourself. You will be better able to function in the future when you take to time to be kind to yourself.
  • Engage in one of your loved one's favorite activities. It could be watching the latest movie, going bowling, boating, gaming, hiking or even skydiving.
  • Visit and tend to the gravesite. Some survivors bring chairs, food, books, and music and spend the day there. One tradition is to scatter rose petals over the grave. Another is to pour their favorite drink there or 'share' it with them." 

Would you like to read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. You can also submit favorite songs that are meaningful to you. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope. 

We can also honor our loved ones by communicating with each other through writing. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another. I encourage you to respond to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing online@taps.org. I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. In order to have your reply included in the week's Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send them to me by Tuesday of the following week. This week's question is located below my signature. Thank you to everyone who reads or sends comments. 

Hugs,
Carol 

DandylionQuestion for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message

This week we are going to have an update on our pets. Bonnie Jo, mother of Andrew, wrote, "My cat, named Dandylion, is there for me every day and wakes me up with a tap on the forehead or nose because she thinks it is time to get up and have chicken stew. How can anyone wake up depressed with an adorable orange feline tapping on her nose?" Bonnie's question is: How have your pets helped or how do they help you on a daily basis?

♫ Song for the Week

Linda, mother of Gene, sent the song this week, which is "Turn My Grief to Grace." Linda wrote, "The words of this song touched my heart. Many inappropriate things were said to me by family and friends who truly wanted to offer me comfort.There was one person who hugged me really tight and simply said, 'I am going to pray for peace and comfort for you and your family.' That truly helped me. Not the 'He is in a better place, or time will heal your pains.' Just those simple words: prayers for peace and comfort. Those were the very things I needed. Comfort for my breaking heart and peace to help me make it on these days I feel I may fall. When I heard 'Turn My Grief to Grace,' I felt comfort. I feel that the line 'Come what may, I won't fade away, but I know I might change' is a true statement. So on the days when the grief gets me at my lowest, I pray that my grief will turn to grace. 

I now work on many projects to help veterans and families of the fallen. One example is the Warriors Walk at Fort Stewart, Georgia, which has trees planted in honor of the fallen heroes. We decorate all of the trees in coordination with Wreaths Across America. By grace I am able to give. Giving beats grieving every time." 

Answers from Survivors

From Caryn, mother of Nathan and spouse of Micheal: Over the years, my daughter and I have adapted how we spend those special days to adjust to her children growing up. They seemed so young when their uncle and grandpa died. Now, one is in the Army about to deploy and another is off to college already. Next year, both her son and Nate's son will be off to college. 

We still visit the national cemetery and the national park where we planted a Douglas Fir on my son's first birthday after his death. In the evenings on those special days, I also burn special candles. And I still try to add to Nathan's dream catcher collection each year on his birthday.

Balloon Release CemeteryFrom Eunah, mother of Eben: We gathered at the cemetery three weeks ago on Saturday, March 25, for the first anniversary of Eben's death. I brought a bundle of red and yellow balloons - Marine Corps colors - and gave one to every person in our group of family and friends. We took a little time to write personal messages on each balloon before sending them to him. It was peaceful to watch them fly into the distance. 

From Diane, mother of Caleb: In my journey, I have found I don't do the exact same thing on every "remembrance" day. One year for Caleb's birthday, I lit a candle for his 26 years of lighting up our lives (these were taper candles or bigger). I just had to do it. Another year, I invited some special people to the cemetery, and we put messages in red, white and blue balloons and sent them off. This year, I baked cinnamon rolls for Caleb's birthday, remembering the year he said, "Mom, could I have cinnamon rolls instead of a cake for my birthday?" Now, there is one thing I do on his birthday every year - I have tuna on flatbread from Subway and drink a bottle of Hank's Root Beer. I remember going to Subway with Caleb, and he'd get tuna on flatbread. Hank's Root Beer was his favorite. Ultimately, I follow my heart and do what makes me feel closer to Caleb. No matter how the days of remembrance are marked, they begin with tears and a longing for this wonderful son. Missing him never gets easier. 

From Adra, mother of Kyle: Oh, the dreaded days that mark another day my son, Kyle, is not with us. My key to coping with these days is to plan ahead. The first year, some days took me by surprise. I found myself inexplicably incapacitated on days that I hadn't expected to hit me so hard. My birthday, for example, blindsided me. I realized with the first angelversary that "the day" was only one of several days of remembrance surrounding Kyle's death. I found that I walked the days prior and the days after almost like an internal pilgrimage. Five days before Kyle was ...  Then there was the day we planned Kyle's funeral, the day of the funeral, the day we watched the sunset over the bald cypress at the lake, the day we got the autopsy results, the last day we saw the grandkids, and on and on. 

It wasn't just the typical days like Christmas and Thanksgiving, it was the days surrounding the days, too. So I planned on not working on the days I knew would be the hardest and planned trips to beautiful places. For example, on the first Christmas, we took the trip to the Grand Canyon that we had always intended to take as a family. Grand CanyonWe keep a small flag flying at Kyle's gravesite, which we change out every season when it starts to look ratty. We took one of Kyle's flags with us, and at sunset, at one of the most beautiful places on earth, we flew Kyle's flag over the canyon, into the red, gold and purple of the fading light. We then presented the flag to a family member who went there with us. Doing these things keeps the best of Kyle close to my heart and helps me to find some peace. 

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. I think this one expresses what I'm trying to say more eloquently than I am able.

Upcoming Video and Text Chats

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs  

Peer Mentor Video Chat  
Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2017 
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Don Lipstein  

Survivors of Suicide Loss Video and Audio Chat  
Date: Thursday, April 20, 2017 
Time: 9 PM - 10 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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Month of the Military Child
5 Ways to Honor Your Surviving Military Child

April 14, 2017

~ By Jonathan Kirkendall, MA, LPC

April is Month of the Military Child. And too often, our surviving military children don't feel like they are part of this community of kids any longer. Here are some ideas for how to honor your surviving military children this month (and every month) to help them know they are part of this family and worth celebrating.

1. Let them know that April is Month of the Military Child. This month was established to underscore the important role children and youth play in the Armed Forces community. This month reminds us that for every active duty member, there is a family that stands behind him or her.

2. Talk to them about their loved one. Sometimes, people are afraid that if they bring up a loved one who has died, it will make the person sad - but in fact, giving a child an opportunity to talk about their loved one is often a life-giving gift.

Use the loved one's name - that teaches the child that this is not a taboo subject. The good people at The Dougy Center write, "Sharing a memory has a similar effect. It also reminds the child that the person who died will continue to 'live on' and impact the lives of those left behind."

Ask them to tell you about their loved one. Don't know where to start? Ask them about a favorite memory.

3. Create a memory box with your child. This is something we do at TAPS Good Grief Camp, and it's appropriate for kids of all ages. Sitting with them as they create a keeper of memories, figuring out how to personalize the outside and what to put on the inside, helps a child give meaning to what has happened. YouthLight provides helpful directions for making a memory box and other activities.

4. Let them grieve without judgment. Don't tell them how to feel. Don't tell them to move on. Don't tell them you know how they feel. It is so healing to let them describe what they are going through. You can double the healing impact by reflecting it back to them: "It sounds like you're having a hard time…" "It sounds like you really miss her…" "You sound angry that you have to go through all these changes…"

5. Help them take a break from grief. Play, party, dance and sing. Kids need to take a break from the overwhelming feelings of grief in order to heal. How much fun it would be for a surviving military kid to hear you say, "April is the Month of the Military Child, and you know what? We're going to go have fun on Saturday and see that movie you've been wanting to see and then go out to eat, just to celebrate you!"

What ideas do you have? Let us know how you celebrate your military kid this month in the comments below.

From the pen of…

Jonathan Kirkendall has been with TAPS since 2006 when his nephew was deployed to Iraq. Looking for a meaningful way to support the troops, he contacted TAPS and two weeks later found himself leading a group of 11-year-olds at the 2006 National Military Survivor Seminar. He now serves as the Manager of Youth Programs.

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Events for TAPS Kids
Variety of Events Available for Surviving Military Children

April 14, 2017

TAPS Youth Programs has many great events to support surviving military children in 2017. At each of these events, children are paired with military mentors - active duty, reserve or National Guard service members or recent veterans who volunteer their time to create bonds with surviving military children and help them learn coping skills. We hope your child will join us at a TAPS Youth Programs event this summer. Find a full calendar of our events at www.taps.org/events.

In addition to TAPS Good Grief Camps, Campouts, Family Retreats and Adventures, there are a variety of events that are available to surviving military children throughout the year. Here's a comprehensive list of events for TAPS kids:

Military Grief Camps for TAPS Kids

  • Camp Corral: Camp Corral events are held across the nation for children of the fallen with multiple camp dates from June through August. These camps teach the skills needed to build on the seven C's of resilience: competence, confidence, character, connection, contribution, coping and control. Register for Camp Corral here.

  • Knights of Heroes: Held in Colorado Springs in late June, this camp is for surviving children, ages 11 to 17. The goal of this event is to teach children to be responsible, proactive, boundless and bold and to exercise leadership. Register for Knights of Heroes here.

  • Camp Hometown Heroes: Week-long empathy camps provide healing, hope and friendship for surviving military children and siblings, ages 7 to 17. This summer camp is located in southeastern Wisconsin. Register for Camp Hometown Heroes here.

  • Camp Hands of Hope: Held twice each year in South Carolina, Camp Hands of Hope is open to children, ages 5 to 18, and their parent or guardian. While there isn't specific programming for military loss, this camp does welcome those who have suffered the loss of a service member. Register for Camp Hands of Hope here.

  • Snowball Express: Snowball Express is a four-day event in December in Dallas, Texas. This event is open to children, ages 5 to 19, and their parent or guardian. Smaller events, called Snowflake events, are held across the country for a day of reconnecting with other families from Snowball Express. Register for Snowball Express here.

  • No Barriers: Surviving military teens, ages 14 to 18, can attend these expedition-style events in June and July that build resilience and leadership skills. Register for No Barriers here.

Non-Military Grief Camps for TAPS Kids

  • Hole in the Wall: Held in Ashford, Connecticut, these week-long camps center on safety, camaraderie, possibility and appreciation for children, ages 7 to 15. Also part of Hole in the Wall, Hero's Journey is a seven-day wilderness adventure program that teaches self-reliance, positive communication and teamwork for teens, ages 16 to 18. Find out more about Hole in the Wall here.

  • Comfort Zone Camp: Each month, a three-day camp is held for children, ages 7 to 17, who have experienced the loss of a parent, sibling or primary caregiver. This program is based on providing age-appropriate support through the work of trained grief specialists. Find out more about Comfort Zone Camp here.

  • Camp Solace: Located in Lake Tahoe, this weekend-long camp hosts children who are grieving the loss of a loved one. This event is hosted by Solace Tree, a grief support organization. Find out more about Solace Tree here.

  • Camp Forget-Me-Not: Any school-age child who has lost a loved one, regardless of the relationship to the deceased, is eligible for Camp Forget-Me-Not. It is held at various locations across the country. Find out more about Camp Forget-Me-Not here.

  • A Camp to Remember: Affiliated with the Tamarack Grief Center in western Montana, this event provides children with a four-day camp in some of the most beautiful areas of Big Sky Country. There are also camps available for teens. Tamarack Grief Center often supports TAPS at camps and campouts and through trainings for staff. Find out more about A Camp to Remember here.

  • Camp Erin: Camp Erin is offered in many locations across the United States and Canada for ages 6 to 17 throughout the summer. At these camps and retreats for teens, grief and loss is met with love, acceptance and programming to bring hope and healing. Find out more about Camp Erin here.

  • Kanakuk Kamps: Located in Missouri, these camps have a long-standing history of providing children of military families the chance to experience the impactful nature of Kanakuk. Various camps are held for children in different groups ranging from 6 to 18 years. There are also camps for the whole family. Find out more about Kanakuk Kamps here.

  • Culver Academy Camp: In this high challenge-high support environment, children will learn leadership skills and improve personal confidence. Camps are for ages 9 to 14 and 14 to 18. Both camps are located in Culver, Indiana. Find out more about Culver Academy's Summer Camp here.

  • Outward Bound: Teens from 14 to 18 can find personal growth and leadership skills through these expedition-style adventures, located throughout the country. A component of these adventures is for grieving teens and young adults. Find out more about Outward Bound here.

  • Camp Hope: Camp Hope is staffed by volunteers who have experienced loss in their own lives and can connect easily with children, ages 6 to 17. Find out more about Camp Hope here.

  • Camp Good Grief: Provided by Loma Linda University Children's Hospital, this camp is held in various locations in Southern California for children, ages 10 to 16, who have lost a parent or sibling. Find out more about Camp Good Grief here.

  • Circle Camps: These five-day camps in Nebraska, West Virginia and New Hampshire are for girls, ages 9 to 12. There is also a teen program for ages 13 and 14 and a Counselor in Training program for camper alumnae, ages 15 to 16. Find out more about Circle Camps here.

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Glenn Weaver
6 Ways The Brotherly Bond Still Exists

~ Glenn Weaver, Survivor

April 13, 2017

[Editor's Note] When a sibling dies, we lose our first friend. The person we were meant to grow old with is no longer here physically, and it can feel so lonely. But the relationship still exists. Here are six ways that help surviving sibling Glenn Weaver still connect with his brother Todd.

1. Baseball.

Todd was an amazing athlete...and I wasn't. He played all sports, but baseball was one of his favorites (come to think of it, he wasn't good at anything equestrian, but that's a story unto itself…). I used to watch his American Legion and high school games in Virginia. A year or so before he died, he was playing catch with my boys in our backyard, throwing them pop-flys. My boys were 8, 9 and 12 at the time and were amazed at how high Todd could throw the ball - so much higher than dad. Now my boys are playing high school ball themselves and watching them reminds me of Todd. They've kept that part of Todd alive for me. 

2. '90s Music.

Todd came of age in the late '90s, listening to bands like Green Day, Foo Fighters and Gin Blossoms. I already had a young family by then and really wasn't paying attention to popular music, but I remember what Todd was listening to. Now I have a late '90s rock and alternative playlist that I enjoy, especially when working on my car in the garage.

3. Beer.

Todd loved sneaking beer. He convinced my parents to set up a ping pong table so he could have these secret beer pong games with his high school buds. I don't think my parents noticed all the bottle caps glued under the table until years later. I can't enjoy a beer today without thinking about that. 

4. Monkeys.

When he was little, Todd loved making monkey faces. He was a real clown, and, as the youngest of four, he just loved all the attention his antics would bring. When my youngest was about that age he started collecting stuffed and plush monkeys. Over the years, he ended up with quite a collection and also started making funny monkey faces. Seeing a plush monkey or thinking about those monkey faces my youngest used to make reminds me of Todd and especially helps bring back the memories from our younger years.

5. Afghanistan.

I've deployed to Afghanistan four times since Todd was killed there in 2010. I've spent almost three years in Kabul, Qandahar, Asadabad and various other places around the country. My work in Afghanistan keeps me connected with Todd. I've wondered whether that's healthy, as my kids are all in their teens or older now, but it's just what I have to do. I'm in eastern Afghanistan now and will be here through October. Perhaps this will be the last time. 

6. TAPS.

TAPS has become an important part of my life. I'm a peer mentor, have been to every National Military Survivor Seminar since Todd died, attended a few siblings retreats and led the TAPS Wisconsin Care Group for over a year. Connecting with other survivors, especially siblings of similar circumstances, keeps my relationship with Todd strong. He died just as we were getting to know each other as men, rather than being in that annoying older brother-younger brother relationship. That was hard. I know Todd would be glad I'm contributing to TAPS. He would want me to support other military survivors. Being a part of TAPS keeps that connection alive.

In what ways do you keep your connection with your loved one alive? Share the ways you still connect in the comments below.


From the pen of…

Glenn Weaver is the surviving older sibling of Army 1st Lt. Todd Weaver, who was killed in Afghanistan in September 2010. Glenn served in the United States Army from 1990 to 1993 in the 3rd Infantry Division and later served in the Virginia Army National Guard. He is currently assigned to Afghanistan with the United States Foreign Service. Glenn is the oldest of four siblings.

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Healthy Foods
Saturday Morning Message: Eating While Grieving

April 8, 2017

Good Morning,

Food is something needed for the body, but the desire for food often changes when people are grieving. Some find that nothing tastes good, and others eat foods that are not good for them. There are two articles from the TAPS Magazine archives that give some good advice on how to give your body needed nutrients when you're experiencing the emotions of grief. 

In "To Your Health: Eating to Live of Living to Eat?," Victoria H. Hawk, MPH, RD, CDE,gives tips on making sure your nutritional needs are met. She wrote:

"Take into account that you will have good days and bad days during your grief journey. Planning ahead for healthy, appetizing meals on the bad days is essential.

  • Have a supply of shelf-stable convenience foods on hand - items that are ready to eat with minimal preparation such as soups, frozen meals, and meal replacement shakes.
  • Buy foods that are quick and easy to prepare - bagged pre-washed vegetables, frozen vegetables, packages of pre-cooked brown rice, pre-cooked grilled chicken breasts, canned tuna, eggs, canned beans, chicken broth, and whole grain pasta.
  • Cook larger quantities of foods on good days and store some in the refrigerator or freezer for days when you are not able to cook.
  • Freeze foods in small portions that are easy to re-heat in the microwave oven."

Ruth W. Crocker, Ph.D., surviving spouse of Cpt. David R. Crocker Jr.,  shared her ideas in the article"Nutrition and Stress Finding Strength for Your Grieving Body." She suggested eating "wholesome foods in small quantities: whatever is appealing. Choose fresh vegetables and fruits; whole grains; easily digestible proteins like eggs, fish and poultry; nuts and seeds; low-fat dairy products." As food becomes more appealing, "choose protein, vegetables and complex carbohydrates like whole grains first. Then enjoy a small amount of sweetness, preferably something like a baked apple or a fruit custard made with low-fat milk. Eat slowly and mindfully, thinking of nourishment rather than the need to fill an empty place in the heart." 

These articles give great ideas about taking care of your body's physical needs while you are also working with the emotional side of grief. In that way, you can keep your body healthy. 

Would you like to share a question or read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. You can also submit favorite songs that are meaningful to you. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope. 

We can also honor our loved ones by communicating with each other through writing. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another. I encourage you to respond to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing online@taps.org. I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. In order to have your reply included in the week's Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send them to me by Tuesday of the following week. This week's question is located below my signature. Thank you to everyone who reads or sends comments.

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

This week's question came from two survivors,Kay, spouse of Kenny, and Linda, mother of Gene. They both were approaching upcoming difficult dates like birthdays, angelversaries or, in the case of spouses, wedding anniversaries. Their question is: How do other survivors mark days of remembrance? Your reply may help other survivors "celebrate the life" of their loved one.

  Song for the Week

Adra, mother of Kyle, sent the song for this week. Adra wrote, "My husband's family are Native Americans with Creek citizenship. I'll never forget seeing Kyle's obituary in the Muskogee Creek News; I was so grateful they published it. As with many Creeks, my husband's family is closely connected to the Cherokee. I'd like to share a Cherokee version of a song that meant a lot to Kyle. When we cleaned up Kyle's apartment after he passed, I found many journals. The first one I opened, which was by his computer and recording equipment, had lyrics and chords to "Amazing Grace" on the first page. Here's the Cherokee version of "Amazing Grace." It brings me peace even though I weep for us all."

Upcoming Video and Text Chats 

Parent Chat  
Date: Monday, April 10, 2017 
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson  

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2017 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs  

West Coast Online Care Group  
Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2017 
Time: 11 PM - 12 AM Eastern, 8 PM Pacific 
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Peer Mentor  

Honoring the Memory and New Relationship Video Chat  
Date: Wednesday, April 12, 2017 
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Peer Mentor  

Widow, Widower, Fiancée and Significant Other Chat  
Date: Wednesday, April 12, 2017 
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Kim Suggs  

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


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

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Byron Lane
Saturday Morning Message: Favorite Photos and Introductions

April 1, 2017

Good Morning,

This week, survivors sent pictures of their loved ones and wrote a bit about the picture, so I thought I would share a picture of my son, Bryon. He was a helicopter crew chief for the Marines. A friend took this picture when they were in the air, and it shows how much he loved what he was doing. I will remember that smile and the excitement in his voice when he called to tell me about his latest venture. 

The photos today show how much each of these outstanding young people were loved and how much they are missed. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this week's Saturday Morning Message and all those who read it. 

Questions are the  backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. I am always looking for more. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed in the Saturday Morning Message, you can email me at online@taps.org. I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. In addition to replies that are placed in the message, I also look for songs that are meaningful to you and any thoughts you have that might make this weekly message more helpful. Replies to the weekly question are best sent to me by Tuesday afternoon. You are an important part of this message, and I look forward to your questions or any ideas you may have. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

This week's question came from Bonnie, mother of Andrew. The question this week is: What is your favorite food you like in the spring? Give a little explanation about why you like it. Bonnie wrote, "I am not just speaking about food for our bodies but also about food for our hearts. Remember that planning and preparing food is a gift that gives back, so it is feeding your needs. I love to cook and do so almost every day except for pizza nights, yum! However, since I lost my son and my husband, the cooking has changed for me. I still cook but often do not really enjoy it. I wind up feeding my neighbors and friends often as there is only so much you can or want to freeze. They actually do not mind at all!" 

  Song for the Week 

Diane, mother of Caleb, sent "You'll Be There" by George Strait for this week's song. Diane wrote, "A few days ago I was having a really hard day. I saw a sticky note with something written on it. It was the name of this song. I must've heard it at some time and wrote the title down. I looked on YouTube and listened. It was just what I needed. A line of the song says, 'I'll see you on the other side … It might be a long, hard ride, but I'm gonna take it.' I know I'll see Caleb again. This certainly is a long hard ride - but I'm gonna take it." 

Answers from Survivors  

Kyle son of AdraFrom Adra, mother of Kyle: When Kyle completed basic training, I took this photo. I see in his eyes an awareness of what was before him. I see his pride and determination to serve our nation. He knew he would be headed to Afghanistan to support a fighting unit. I feel so proud of him when I see this photo. 

Andrew, son of BonnieFrom Bonnie, mother of Andrew: Here is one of my favorite photos of my son, Andy, on his first tour in Afghanistan. I did not see it until he died but was told how much he loved his "kids," as he called them, and he helped set up a clinic and school. He is the one in the middle with the huge medical bag. He got their attention first by taking this photo and having some fun, but they had no idea that inoculations, shots and dental checks were the next thing on the day's schedule! I miss him so much. 

Dave, son of KarenFrom Karen, mother of David: This is one of my favorite photos of my beautiful son, David, and I together. This was taken on Oct. 8, 2008, on his wedding day in Cancun, Mexico.The happiness in his smile and his embrace and love for me is definitely evident. Sadly, on Oct. 18, 2013, he took his life at age 32. Oh, what I wouldn't give to hug him. 

Benjamin, son of Belinda From Belinda, mother of Benjamin: I have a lot of photos of Benjamin that I love to look at, but this one reminds me of him before the demons of post-traumatic stress started chasing him. 

From Diane, mother of Caleb: I have a picture on the refrigerator of Caleb. He is probably in the second grade, and it was during Christmas. The children have coats on, and it looks like they are lining up, probably for the Christmas program at church. The little boy beside Caleb is directing him to look away - but Caleb is looking at me, a twinkle in his eye, as if to say, "I know where I'm going, but I'm looking at my mom right now." I love the picture because it speaks to me of his love and devotion to those he loved - always with a smile. Sigh. 

Caleb, son of DianeFrom Leslie, mother of Eugene: The first picture is my son at 10. He was a tough kid to raise, especially as a single parent. He had an IQ of 173 and just had different ideas about everything. This is one of the few photos of him relaxed near the beach. He had no idea the photo was being taken, otherwise there would have been a funny face or he would have put his hand up. The Navy knew what to do with him, and he was most happy in the Intelligence field. The second picture was taken two months before he passed; he was 33. A happy young man! 

Upcoming Video and Text Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2017
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs 

Midwest Online Care Group 
Date: Thursday, April 06, 2017
Time: 8 PM - 9:30 PM Eastern, 7 PM Central
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Andy Weiss 

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, April 06, 2017
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carla Stumpf-Patton and Kim Suggs 

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

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at1-800-959-8277.  

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Red Rose - Blurred
Saturday Morning Message: Replying to Comments About Your Grief Journey

March 25, 2017

Good Morning,

This week's question had so many responses that I am going to keep my comments short, but I wanted to send you a picture of a rose, my favorite flower, and have you read this poem, "Don't Tell Me That You Understand," written by Joanetta Hendel and sent by Karl, father of Tre. Karl wrote, "I sent my family and friends this great poem I found hoping it would help."  The last lines of the poem are the perfect short words to say to those people who think you should be somehow over your grief. "Just hold my hand and let me cry, and say, 'My friend, I care.'"

Would you like to read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. You can also submit favorite songs that are meaningful to you. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope. If you would like to send a message communicating your thoughts to one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them. I encourage you to reply to the question of the week by emailing your response to online@taps.org. I directly receive all emails sent to this address. In order to have your reply included in the week's Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send them to me by Tuesday of the following week. This week's question is located below my signature. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message.

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

Adra, mother of Kyle, sent this question: Do you have a favorite photograph of your loved one?  Write a short paragraph about the picture.  This will be a great way to introduce our loved ones. 

  Song for the Week 

Anne, mother of Michael, sent the song this week, which is "My Buddy." Anne wrote, "This song is so meaningful to me. I lost my husband, John, on June 6, 2015. He was a Purple Heart Korean War veteran, and his nickname was Buddy. We were married 59 years, and he was my Buddy and my best friend. I hope you enjoy hearing the words to this song as much as I do. It is a very old song, and the sentiments fit my feelings!" 

Answers from Survivors 

From Timothy, father of Thomas: This has helped me, and perhaps it will mean something to you. Grief, at least to me, is the same road traveled differently by each person who has been made to drudge its dreary path. We all have to find our own way, our own route, our own speed on the road of grief. There are no guidelines, no warning signs, no directional indicators. Only a difficult, tiring, often heart-wrenching and woefully misunderstood journey for those who must traverse the road of grief. And though the scenery may change, or our perception of the scenery may change, the road is still the same - the road of grief. No stop signs, no yield signs and no final destination. Only the road. There are no traffic cops, so no one can, or should, attempt to direct another's journey. Only those undertaking the journey are qualified to determine their path. Grieve your own way, make allowances for those who mean well but miss the mark, accept help from those who truly offer help and remember that only you can walk this road. At your own pace, on your own path, on your own terms. God bless and give you peace.

Belinda, mother of Benjamin: First of all, unless you've been through what we have you can't understand, but here is what I'd say: There is no time limit with grief. When it first comes, it's a great big bag we carry on our backs, and over time the bag gets smaller and smaller but it never goes away. We just learn to live with it. Benjamin is always on my mind and in my heart until the day I see him again in eternity.

From Dan, father of John: I still struggle with the question about our children from people I meet for the first time. Most often, these occur in business settings and are not the time or place to get into the very heavy topic of the loss of a child. I still remember the first time someone asked a very innocent question, after John died, of how many children I have and how old they are. Not wanting to rip off the painful scab to the hole in my heart, I paused and then only mentioned our oldest daughter, Ashley. I have grown through my grief to now be able to answer that we have a boy and girl and that Ashley is 29 and John would have been 27. It has taken six years to get to this point, but each time I feel the pain and anxiety well up. Now, when I meet someone new, I avoid asking them questions about family and children so I can avoid having to answer them back.

From Diane, spouse of William: It still surprises me that even after this time, with most of the people I know thinking I should be over my grief, it still can sneak up on me. Grief is a journey. I will never be "over it," it is just a lifelong journey. But I know I get to go to an event in Colorado Springs in a few weeks, and I can reach out to our community for support.

From Kitty, mother of John: I am getting on with life with a tremendous hole in my heart.  Have you lost a child? It's like you've lost a part of yourself. You can hardly think or breathe for that matter. I happened to have loved my son very much. Besides, it's not the natural order of life for a child to precede the parents. I'm not living in the past; I just haven't found my "new normal" yet without my son. It would help me if I knew that you were praying for my "new normal." Would you pray for me? Thanks.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: I'll never forget the first time someone said that to me - it had only been a year. I was speechless and so hurt. It is now four years since my son's death. I just tell people, "Four years is like four minutes and forever." My son will always be a part of my life. I will talk about him all the days of my life. I carry him with me everywhere I go, and he is part of everything I do. There is no "getting over it." I will never get over it. That's just the way it is. The amount of grief is in proportion to the amount of love (someone said that and I felt it was so true). I love my son with my whole life. So no, I won't ever be over it. Get on with life? Move on? I do - every day. I get out of bed. I put one foot in front of the other and move, one step at a time. Some days are better than others. That's just the way it is. It doesn't bother me anymore when people utter such useless clichés. This is the journey we are on. It is difficult every single day. It will all be better one day - the day I see Caleb again in heaven. Until then, I know I will miss him something terribly - all the days of my life.

From Karl, father of Tre: I have lost MANY so-called friends since my son's passing. I guess I have just accepted the ignorance of others. So it's all relevant. I've had people say to me, "Well, your son had no business in Afghanistan." Now, I just write it off as ignorance.

From Rebecca, mother of Griff: My reply would be honest: "My son is always going to be in my heart, in my life. There is no getting over my son Griff's future that would have been. I am always grieving and will never not be grieving. The emptiness and guilt will never go away. The longer Griff is in Heaven, the more I miss him - the more depressed I feel. My son is my purpose in life. There is no getting over his journey to Heaven. What you said to me is hurtful."

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: I would say, "I am sorry that you have lost your patience for my tragedy. The loss of a child is something you never get over. You have good and bad days while learning to live a new normal without them. If listening to me about my child is too much for you, then please take my number out of your phone."

From Merry, mother of Wesley: Amazingly, I have never had a remark made to me that offended me, however, I was extremely careful where I went and with whom I had contact. If I encounter a statement now that would let me know the person talking has no idea of the grief and loss journey, this is probably what I would do: There is a radio program that has a soundbite in its introduction of a woman saying, "Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth?" I've often thought that if I encountered someone making an inappropriate comment, I would change the wording in a nice way to say, "Do you understand the words coming out of your mouth?" Hopefully, I would build a bridge and not make the situation worse, although I can sometimes react too soon.

Upcoming Video and Text Chats 

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, March 28, 2017 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

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

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at1-800-959-8277.

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Service Member Medals
Requesting Your Service Member’s Military Records

March 20, 2017

~ Jen Harlow, TAPS Casework Director

While military records are used to establish benefits and entitlements, they also tell the story of our heroes' military careers, capturing important events, dates and locations of service. These cherished treasures of our loved ones' service can be comforting in a time when grief has our emotions swirling and we don't feel like there's much we can control.

Memories help us feel like our loved ones' legacies live on, so displaying these military records, awards and decorations can be a healing experience. Many families choose to reach out and ask for copies of the records, awards and decorations for historical, genealogical and memorial safekeeping.

The National Personnel Records Center, located at the U.S. National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri, holds the historical records of nearly 100 million veterans. Full military records may be requested by the Next of Kin. The process and cost for replacement medals differs among service branches.

Each service branch has its own definition of Next of Kin who may request records: 

  • In the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, Next of Kin refers to the un-remarried surviving spouse, child, parent or sibling.
  • The Army defines Next of Kin as the surviving spouse, eldest child, parent, eldest sibling or eldest grandchild. 

If you are not the Next of Kin, you can request certain records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). If you do not meet the definitions listed, you are considered to be a member of the general public and have access to records that can be released without violation of the Privacy Act. General public requests include the following: name, service number (not the Social Security number), rank, dates of service, awards and decorations and place of entrance and separation.

Replacement or duplicate medals and decorations may be ordered online. Generally, there is no cost; however, if a service or cost is associated, the requester will be notified.

The TAPS Casework department is available to answer questions on how to request records. Reach out to us at casework@taps.org or call 800-959-8277.

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Traveling With TAPS
5 Things to Pack for the Grief Journey

~ Erin Jacobson, Survivor

March 19, 2017

Whenever we travel to a new location, there are elements of both uncertainty and promise. We try to pack our bags in anticipation of planned activities, weather and terrain. The grief journey takes us to unknown places, and while we don't know all that we will encounter, we can be mindful to pack some things to help us on the journey ahead.

  1. Self-care: We pack our toiletries to help us take care of our appearance, health and physical needs. So too on the grief journey we need to be mindful to take care of ourselves. Be aware of your needs. Do you need time alone? Or do you feel like being around others? Are you overwhelmed about making a decision? Do you need a break from the day? Tell others if and how they can support you. Grief is exhausting. Take time to sleep and rest. Make food choices that will help fuel your body for the long road ahead.
  2. Memories: When we travel, we make sure to pack our favorite clothes, the most comfortable pajamas - even some fuzzy slippers are nice. These are some comforts of home. So too, we bring our loved ones with us on the grief journey as we remember them. They are a part of our former selves. Take time to remember your loved one's laugh, smile and hug. Share stories of your loved one with others who understand this journey, or make a sacred space where you can go to intentionally remember him or her.
  3. Compassion: For our trips, we often bring with us the "what if" items - a nice outfit in case we go out, an umbrella because what if it rains? or spare band-aids in case of any falls or cuts along the way. Trips don't always go as planned. There will be delays, unexpected weather and events that didn't meet our expectations. Grief has its ups and downs and unexpected moments. Compassion for ourselves gives us the flexibility and the attitude to cope with the unexpected.
  4. Presence: A camera helps us document our presence on the journey. It takes a snapshot of a moment in time. In grief, we honor our loved ones by being "in the moment" with our grief. Make time to be still and take in your surroundings. Take a walk at dawn or sunset as a time to reflect and regroup, and take in the beauty. Take grief one moment at a time.
  5. Open mind: Our passport enables us to have adventures worldwide. A zest for adventure helps us open our hearts to our grief and to others who are grieving. When we become adventurous and open to experiences, we can be there for others, sharing our travels and honoring our loved ones. Take a step out of your comfort zone to experience something new. Attend an event you think your loved one would have loved as a way to honor him or her and yourself.

Every grief journey is unique and every sojourner has his or her incomparable story. Traveling together makes the adventure a positive and healing experience.

Are you interested in sharing the journey with others?
Pack your grief gear and plan to attend an event with your TAPS family this year. Find out more here.


From the pen of…

Erin Jacobson, Director of Survivor Programs, has been with TAPS since 2011 after her fiancé, Army Ranger, Cpl. Jason Kessler was killed in Iraq. She is currently getting her Master's Degree in Nonprofit Leadership, has a Bachelor's Degree in Counseling and has completed post-baccalaureate studies in Art History and Fine Arts.

 

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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