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Nicole Crans
She Let Go — In Her Time

~ Nicole Crans, Survivor

September 28, 2016

Planning for my departure to the TAPS Women's Empowerment Retreat in Sedona, Arizona, I struggled with an enormous amount of fear. I kept asking myself, "Why did I sign up to go on this trip? What exactly were these people going to expect me to say and do?" The fear got so intense I began to do what I often try to do - plan.

The first day, I felt fear and worry for what was coming next. I soon discovered that all these women were just like me; they have felt an enormous amount of pain. And they had lost their fiances, spouses, children and siblings, just like me. As I began to slowly open up through stories of my beloved fiance, Brian, I realized I was among women who truly understand the pain I have experienced for the past 10 years.

I have spent the past 10 years exerting energy into helping others and focusing on my education. Everyone on the outside thought I was strong and assumed I had moved on. In my mind, I thought everything was fine too, and I even convinced myself if I followed my plans my life would turn out OK. But by forcing life to happen to me, I was not living it. Then, a year ago, my then-husband asked me for a divorce, and two weeks later my sweet Oma died. She was the woman I looked up to when I was little, and she taught me so much. She used to say, "We're all connected, some by blood, all by love."

I felt connected to the women on this trip through our loved ones who passed. And with each story that was shared, every warm embrace and every tear we shed we began to grow closer. I learned from these women, and like one woman said, our theme song is Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire." Through the week, we felt empowered by our leaders and each other.

And with this trip, I let go of my fear. Coincidentally, it was during stargazing, as we sat in a circle listening to a poem titled "She Let Go," that I felt it so strongly in my soul. The next day, I went to the same spot I had been sitting and built a cairn to symbolize the moment I let go. And as fate would have it, I felt the wind sweep across my face and a warmness in my soul. I knew it was my Brian telling me it was OK - I could let go, live my life and take care of myself.

For a long time, I felt helpless and paralyzed by my grief. Now I feel I have a new start on life. And like my roommate told me, we are blessed to have a chance to find love again and get the chance to possibly experience great loves in our lifetime again. Brian is special, and I know he will be a part of me always. The experience of grief and losing a man I thought I would spend my life with has changed me and made me the woman I am today. I love the woman I am. My heart radiates with love for all the women I met on this journey.

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2016 National Survivor Good Grief Camp
Saturday Morning Message: Coping with Emotions

September 24, 2016

Good Morning,

This week's question was about coping with the emotions of grief. Leslie, mother of Eugene, wrote, "How do I cope with the loss of my son? I don't. I have learned to live a new normal without him. I have learned to celebrate the 33 years I had with him. I choose to remember all and laugh and cry." She is so right. Since we can't change what happened, we need to see what we can do to celebrate the life of our loved one. The picture above, showing a man helping a child grieve by working on an art project, comes from the 2016 TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar. Together, they are sharing memories of their loved ones.

Some other ways to manage these emotions can be found in the TAPS Magazine archives. Here are three articles that may help:

"Self Care: Reconnecting…with myself" by Leslie McCaddon, surviving spouse of Capt. Mike McCaddon, M.D.  This is an article written by a young mother who has found ways to take care of herself so she can support her children.

"Walk This Way: Therapeutic Walking as Healing," by Lalaine Estella, surviving daughter of Francisco Estella, U.S. Navy, is an interesting article about talking about experiences while walking with a group of survivors in a safe place.

"Tips for Self-Care," by Judy Tatelbaum, LCSW,  is a list of ways to help yourself. This article is very good because along with each item on the list there is a short paragraph explaining how to do it. For mourners who are new to grief, it can be hard to read a whole article, and this one can be read a little at a time.

Then, of course, there is therapeutic writing, and that is what this Saturday Morning Message is about. Writing about grief keeps those emotions from running around and around inside your head. You can just write for yourself or send in a reply to the message.You never know how your words may help another.

Questions and replies from survivors are the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. You can help keep this message strong by sharing your thoughts about a question or sending in a question so you can read how other survivors respond. It can be helpful to learn how others cope. I encourage you to reply by emailing me at carol.lane@taps.org. In order to have your reply included in the coming week's message, it is best to send it to me by Tuesday of the following week. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message. 

Hugs,
Carol

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message

This week  was the official beginning of fall. It is a time of seasonal change. A while ago, Kim, spouse of Milton, posted this question to the TAPS chat groups. Kim wrote, "I read the quote today 'Seasons change and so do we.' How have you personally changed since the beginning of your grief journey?" I thought this was an interesting question to ask for the Saturday Morning Message. We look forward to reading your responses. 

Song for the Week

Julianna, mother of Travis, sent this song, which is her special song for her son. It is  Lee Ann Womack singing "I Hope You Dance." 

Answers from Survivors

From Diane, mother of Caleb: Coping is as different as each day. Sometimes, it helps to go through some of Caleb's things. Just seeing his handwriting or books he read helps. Other times, looking through pictures helps. Then again, there are days when I clean and rearrange Caleb's corner. Sometimes, I go to the cemetery and just stand and gaze at his spot. I sing "Child of Mine" and cry, thinking about how unreal this all is. Writing helps me cope. I write on my blog Green Pastures. There are days when I eat lunch at our VFW restaurant. There is a table next to the wall where Caleb's picture hangs. I have lunch "with" Caleb. The list goes on. Coping is what I do every day in one way or another.

From Vivian, daughter of Don: Coping with the loss of my dad has been difficult because my mom and siblings grieve privately and don't often share their mourning, memories or feelings with me. Something I expected to be communal now seems even more individual. Instead of trying to use all my grief words and thoughts on someone else, I started a regular walking routine. Not only is it good for my health, but I take the time each day to work through how I'm feeling about my loss and what I can do to focus on the positives in my life. This is my time to cry, rant, think of happy memories or just talk to my dad. I've received some obvious God winks, and I end each walk feeling a new quietness in my heart.  

Upcoming Chats

We now offer  online video chats along with our online text chats to enhance our survivor connections. Join us for our online video chats where we'll meet new TAPS friends and share our loved ones as we heal together. Visit our chat calendar for a full schedule.​


Chat Calendar - Special Topic - Video ChatTAPS Meet and Greet Video Chat  
Date: Monday, September 26, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 10 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Peer Mentor

Chat Calendar - Survivors of Illness - Video Chat
Survivors of Illness Loss Video Chat 
Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 10 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Peer Mentor 

Chat Calendar - General Support
General Support Chat

Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Chat Calendar - Women's Empowerment
Women's Empowerment Video Chat 
Date: Thursday, September 29, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 10 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Peer Mentor


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

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

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2016 Coca-Cola Volunteers
Corporate Volunteers Roll Out Red Carpet for TAPS Families

~ Craig Wilhelm, TAPS

September 19, 2016

In August, TAPS families were welcomed by "hometown sponsors" to the Atlanta Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp. Four corporations showed off their southern hospitality and rolled out the red carpet for a fun-filled weekend.

"TAPS welcomed the families of America's fallen heroes for a weekend of hope and healing here in Atlanta, and we were honored to have our friends from Home Depot, the Atlanta Falcons, UPS and Coca-Cola join us for hands-on activities," said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS Founder and President.

In anticipation of the arrival of TAPS families to Georgia, volunteers from Coca-Cola hosted a gathering at its headquarters where employees put together gift bags, complete with products and merchandise, for survivors.

During the Seminar, more than 30 Coca-Cola volunteers welcomed our families as they arrived at the Seminar and wrote encouragement and gratitude notes to all of the attendees. Some even served as mentors for our children attending the Good Grief Camp.

On Friday evening, TAPS participants attended a welcome reception. Nachos and cheese quickly turned to building and painting as Home Depot associates assisted in creating DIY serving trays. Together with Home Depot craftsmen, families assembled and painted the wooden serving trays and children's knickknacks, creating mementos they could take home and treasure as they shared memories of their loved ones.  2016 Atlanta Good Grief Camp

During Good Grief Camp, the 75 campers and their military mentors, with the help of Home Depot volunteers, crafted heart-shaped boxes, mini toolboxes, helicopters, fighter jets, sailing ships and birdhouses.

We were humbled and honored to have the incredible volunteers from UPS donate their time, efforts and a delivery truck on Sunday to make our closing ceremony balloon release a success. UPS delivered more than 150 balloons, which were released in tribute to our families' fallen heroes.  

Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders, former players and CEO Steve Cannon also attended the Saturday evening TAPS Family Dinner.

Corporate volunteers are an integral part of TAPS and provide great support to our families. If your organization is interested in volunteering at or sponsoring a TAPS event, please email volunteer@taps.org.

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Carols Painted Rock - I Hope You Dance
Saturday Morning Message: Reminders of Our Loved Ones

September 17, 2016

Good Morning,

Our loved ones are always in our hearts. This week, survivors have shared occurrences that remind them of their loved ones. It is interesting that three survivors shared songs.

I thought I would share a song that has special meaning for me. When the Song for the Week section of the Saturday Morning Message started, I included "The Dance" by Garth Brooks. My son, Bryon, loved country music, and this song is special because the words talk about missing the pain, but then missing the dance, which I feel was the life we lived with our loved ones. About a month ago, my daughter was at a craft show and found the rock shown in the photo on which the artist had painted the words "I hope You Dance." We both felt it was a God wink from Bryon telling us to continue with our lives while keeping him in our thoughts.

You never know when these moments may come. This week, Leslie, mother of  Eugene, sent this beautiful poem posted on Facebook that touched her heart:

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep 
By Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905 - 2004) 

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die. 

Please feel free to send in these special moments anytime. They will be included in future Saturday Morning Messages

Questions and the replies from survivors are the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. You can help keep this message strong by sharing your thoughts about a question or sending in a question so you can read how other survivors respond. It can be helpful to learn how others cope. I encourage you to reply by emailing me at carol.lane@taps.org. In order to have your reply included in the coming week's message, it is best to send it to me by Tuesday of the following week. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another. 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 

Patricia, mother of Kyle, wrote that Kyle would sing to her "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley. She said that song comes back to her over and over in her thoughts. Her question is: What do other survivors do to cope with the loss of their loved ones? I know we all look forward to your suggestions on how you look after yourself. 

♫  Song for the Week 

From Diane, mother of Caleb: Recently, I wrote a blog on how much I miss my son. Some days it's like he's just so far away, and even though I know he's just a breath away, it would be so fine to see his face at my door! Those thoughts brought me to the Carole King song "So Far Away." The lyrics are perfect for how I feel sometimes. 

Answers from Survivors: 

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: It seems hundreds of things remind me of our Blake, some days more than others. Anything patriotic, flags, songs, holidays, anything to do with the Navy, trumpets, school bands, soccer games, baseball games, fishing, swimming, guitar playing, Kit Kat bars, "red-cap milk," spaghetti pie and Cherry Delight, for those are a few of his favorite things. This week, I was cleaning out a closet and came across a book and tape of "Puff the Magic Dragon,"   one of his favorite childhood stories. Needless to say, I thought of him as a toddler in my lap as he'd look at the pictures and listen to the tape or my reading of the story. Seeing the altar servers at church also bring back memories of when he was an altar server. Passing by the schools he went to or the fields he played on all bring back memories of his past when life was good and my family was complete. The list is endless. 

From Kim, spouse of Milton: Since Milton's death seven years ago, I have been to several air shows. Milton was a pilot, and aviation was always an important part of his life. When I see the planes and smell the jet fuel in the air, I can almost hear his voice telling me in detail everything about each aircraft. I smile to know that he instilled a love of airplanes and aviation in me.

Upcoming Chats

We now offer online video chats along with our online text chats to enhance our survivor connections. Join us for our online video chats where we'll meet new TAPS friends and share our loved ones as we heal together. Visit our chat calendar for a full schedule.​

Chat Calendar - General SupportGeneral Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

 

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

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24/7. Please feel free to contact TAPS at 1-800-959-8277.

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911 Remembrance - American Flag draped over Pentagon
9/11: Hope Prevailed

~ Claire Henline, Survivor

September 11, 2016

"Wait. You were there on 9/11?" My young cousin astoundingly asked me that last year. Not merely because he was shocked I was in fact there, but because at his age, he was shocked he knew anyone there. He's almost 14 now. He was born in a post-9/11 world in which he learns about America's worst day via a Google search. He was caught off guard to have a tangible link to the actual day 15 years ago. He's like I was around my dad and grandfathers when I reflect now on their wartime service. They were my people first, a portal to history second.  

My cousin loves history. As a teenage boy, he's into the graphic and gore of video games and movies. As his portal though to a real event, I didn't want to share the graphic details like we might in talking about the Civil War.

How do you explain one of the worst days of your life to a kid? Isn't part of my duty here to protect him from the boogey man? When he was little if something unpleasant happened (a poopy diaper, spilled food, a broken knick knack), his toddler finger would wiggle before our faces and he'd sagely advise, "Don't, don't don't fink 'bout it." So I want to tell him, "Don't fink 'bout it." I don't want to "fink 'bout it" either. He's inheriting my world though, and that includes the vestiges of 9/11. I want him to be prepared, not scared.

We're raising kids in an era of perpetual threats. How do we do that and still show them there's perpetual hope? There is a Tibetan saying, "Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength. No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster."

I realize when my cousin looks at me, he's astounded to know I'm someone who went through 9/11 because he sees nothing of tragedy on me. That's a victory. Fifteen years after the attack, he sees a person who laughs at herself when she ducks at airplanes flying overhead. He sees a person he associates with happy memories, with compassion, strength, love and hope. That's a victory because that's everything the bad guys wanted to end here and failed to do so. To see me through my cousin's eyes is to have won.

America, as "the last, best hope of earth" didn't end on 9/11. What I want my cousin to focus on is not the evil that took lives that day, but the ideals that placed value on each of those lives regardless of race, creed, or religion - American ideals. I want him to know American values flourished that day even under attack with people stepping forward to help each other through the rubble, some sacrificing themselves to save thousands of lives, and no one died alone. There were voices on the other end of the phone hearing them, colleagues surrounding them and emergency responders who never stopped trying to reach them.

The whole spirit of a free country uplifted the lives of those in peril in the skies that day. In disaster, we found ways to amplify hope and say unequivocally, "No day shall erase you from the memory of time." No act shall erase America from her place in this world. That's the legacy of 9/11. To see the strength that came out of tragedy and remember that on that Tuesday in September, hope prevailed.

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Carol's Garden
Saturday Morning Message: Changing Residences

September 10, 2016

Good Morning,

The responses were many and varied to Elsie's question about how to sell her home when it carries so many memories, especially the trees and the garden area her son loved. Included today is a picture of part of the garden we have around our home. In addition to the trees, there is a hydrangea on the left. One thing I do each fall is cut some of the flowers and dry them. This way I can take them with me wherever I go. Taking pictures, adding them to a scrapbook and writing a short piece about why these plants are important is also a way to keep them close to your heart. You can take them out anytime you feel the need to remember those wonderful places. Reading the other ideas that were sent in this week will give additional thoughts on what to do when you have to change your residence. 

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Organizations across the country will focus their efforts this month to raise awareness about suicide and prevention. The TAPS family would like you to join us in partnership with the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, National Action Alliance, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Joining Forces and others. Together, we will provide education on both risk and protective factors and offer connections to crisis and community resources as we spread a message of hope, help and healing.

Today, is World Suicide Prevention Day. Find ways to get involved or find local events by visiting the International Association for Suicide Prevention website. At TAPS, we understand that hope saves lives and that negative messaging may increase hopelessness in those who are suffering, so we have created a #HopeHelpHeal campaign to share stories of hope and provide safe messaging tips and talking points as you determine ways to share your story of loss and finding hope. TAPS and its partner organizations also created a Suicide Prevention Public Service Announcement (PSA) to support the #HopeHelpHeal messaging.  Please share the PSA to help others know there is hope. There is help. There is healing. 

Another survivor asked me to reach out to those who struggle with the anniversary of 9/11. Please know that your TAPS family is here for all survivors. Don't hesitate to call the TAPS Helpline at 800-959-8277 to talk to a caring, supportive person 24/7. We are here for you. 

Would you like to know how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? It can be helpful to read how others cope. I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. Songs are another way to share with others. Send a song that is meaningful to you with a few sentences about why it touches your heart and it will be included in a future song of the week section. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them. Of course, responding to the question is the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another. I encourage you to reply by emailing me at carol.lane@taps.org. In order to have your reply included in the coming week's message, it is best to send it to me by Tuesday of the following week. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

"Celebrate the Life" is one of the main things TAPS teaches survivors. Our connection to our loved ones is more about how they lived than how they died. This week's question encourages us to talk about that bond. The question is: What type of events, items or experiences remind you of your loved one's life?  I look forward to your responses. 

Song for the Week 

Leslie, mother of Eugene, sent the song for this week, which is Jenn Bostic singing "Jealous of the Angels." Leslie wrote, "I listened to this song with tears falling from my eyes. It hit that part of my heart where I keep my son." This is such a beautiful song with a video that will touch many of us in a very personal way. 

Answers from Survivors

From Diane, mother of Caleb: I can't imagine what Elsie must be going through. What a dilemma - especially since her son helped make her acreage a bit of heaven for her. I've not been in that situation, but in thinking about it, first of all it would be hard but I think it would come down to knowing that my son lives in my heart. He is with me wherever I go. The memories are in my heart. I'd pray for wisdom on how to go about this transition. Is there something I could take with me? Depending on where I was moving, could I plant a few trees like the ones I left behind? Knowing my son would say, "Mom, do it. Make things easier for yourself. It's OK," would help. I'm sure there are those with much more wisdom on this tough situation. My heart goes out to Elsie.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: I moved after my son died. My situation is very different from yours since my son picked out the place and negotiated for me. Sadly, he died before he had a chance to see it in person. If you buy a smaller house with some property you can move a few trees with you. Put a gold ribbon around any tree, bush or flower you are moving with you. This way the real estate person can tell a prospective buyer. Take a lot of photos of your current home and make a photo album. Memories. It sounds like you are ready to move but need permission to do so. Your loved one would tell you to make yourself happy.

From Joanne, spouse of Ken: Alan Wolfelt, noted author and grief counselor, has often said that ritual gives meaning to ceremony. And so, Elsie, please consider having your own, personal remembrance and goodbye ritual with your home, garden and its landscape. Although we don't admit it too often, many of us talk to our plants and trees. Perhaps this is a way to remember how, when and why these trees and bushes were planted and how they now flourish and grow there. And don't forget to give yourself permission to say goodbye, too.

From Merry, mother of Wesley: Selling, renting or leaving one's home when it contains all the wonderful memories of the past 27 years is extremely daunting, to say the least. The only thing that has motivated me in the last few months is that I'm a senior and really need to make some personal and financial decisions that cannot be ignored. Up until that point, I did not face any of the issues that go into making such a huge decision.

Granted, I've not moved out yet, and I suspect if I do there will be some very sad times, even though the decision has been made. Where am I going? Who will I be without this place? Will I really buy that Airstream or Volkswagen van and travel across the U.S.? What will I do with the uniforms, medals and pictures of Wes? Can I really give those up? What will I do with my father's iris that I brought from Pennsylvania to Kansas to Colorado? Too much to think about at once. I don't have an easy answer. One can get a sense that it's going to be all right because so many friends, family and professional acquaintances have had success.  

From Karl, father of Tre: I have had people tell me they can never leave the home in which their loved one once lived. Yet as in your case, not all of us have that option. When I sold my home, I asked the new people if I could go to the room one last time. I did, looked around, got weepy-eyed but then realized my son was not there anymore anyway. So I would say to you, take some seeds to plant somewhere else, if even in a pot. A small tree can stay in a large pot on a porch or patio for several years. Press some of the leaves in a book. Maybe even take a stone from the walkway, if possible. Video these things and take photos, of course. Explain to the new buyers that you are a Gold Star mother and what those things mean to you. Also, you might ask if you can stop by a year from now or on a certain anniversary just to walk through those trees. You might even nail a gold star to one of those trees so it will always be there. I'm in the second house since my son's passing. The last was five years, and this one now is nine months. The end of November will be six years for me since my son passed. These will never be "home" to me, but we have to live. Hope I helped.

Upcoming Chats

​We now offer online video chats along with our online text chats to enhance our survivor connections. Join us for our online video chats where we'll meet new TAPS friends and share our loved ones as we heal together. Visit our chat calendar for a full schedule.

Chat Calendar - ParentsParent Chat
Date: Monday, September 12, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson





Chat Calendar - General SupportGeneral Support Chat
Date: Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs





Chat Calendar - Beyond 20 Years of LossBeyond 20 Years of Loss Video Chat
Date: Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 10 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Peer Mentor





Chat Calendar - Suicide SurvivorSurvivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, September 15, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carla Stumpf-Patton and Kim Suggs

 

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

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

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Carroll, Bonnie Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Saturday Morning Message: Commemorating Special Dates

September 3, 2016

Good Morning,

There are many TAPS Magazine articles about what survivors do to commemorate those dates that tug at our heartstrings. You can look through previous articles about honoring our fallen heroes in the TAPS Magazine archive, and pick some that might be of interest to you and your family. 

The picture today comes from one of those articles, written by our TAPS founder, Bonnie Carroll, titled "Freedom for All." Since she has given so much of her life to service for those who have suffered the loss of someone close to them in the military, this seemed like the perfect topic to have her picture as a highlight on this week's Saturday Morning Message.

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

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

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

Elsie, mother of Daniel, would like some thoughts from other survivors on a dilemma she is facing. Elise wrote, "My home is on acreage in the country. I bought it after my son joined the military. He loved it here and planted fruit trees, built my garden area, put in my flagstone walkway and the list goes on. After he was killed, friends gave me trees and flowers, which have grown and are reminders of their love for my son and me. I am older now, and it's more than I can take care of. Also I'm quite active in various organizations and living remotely means I drive about 400 miles a week. I know it's about time to move, but how can I leave all this behind?" Her question is: How can you prepare to sell your home and move when your home carries so many wonderful memories?   Perhaps other survivors can give her some ideas. 

 Song for the Week 

This week, there was a wonderful article about using music playlists to help with grieving that was shared on the TAPS Facebook page. The article is titled "Evoke Your Breakthrough Moment!" and is written by Courtney Armstrong, LPC-MHSP. She describes how two of her clients created a playlist of songs to help recover from grief and trauma. 

We have a playlist created by a survivor, Andy, father of Daniel, on Spotify that includes songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages   along with a few other songs special to him. The playlist is free and called "TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) Songs of Love and Remembrance." This week, you might want to listen to it and send me songs that are special to you that can be included in future messages. Then, when we listen to the songs, we can all heal together. 

Answers from Survivors

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Who knew how philanthropic my son was! After he passed, I found papers and medals in his trunk. One thing I was impressed with was that for Christmas he worked with the football staff at the nearby stadium where he was stationed to raise money for children so they would all receive gifts for the holiday. He did this each year he was at that base. I have donated to Easter Seals, PKD and Sloan Kettering Breast Cancer. When Eugene died the family and his friends and colleagues contributed at Christmas to the IAVA, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, in his memory.

From Rebecca, mother of Griffin: For Griff's angelversary, I go visit my Griff and read to him and talk to him. I also make donations in Sgt. Griff's memory on that day to organizations that help the military. I light a small heart-shaped candle at his resting place because Griff is always in my heart.

On Griff's' birthday, Nov. 5, I visit him and read all his past birthday cards to him. I light a cupcake candle at his resting place, so he has a cupcake for his birthday.

When I crochet my "Wraps of Love in Memory of SGT. Griff August 23, 2008'' scarves and hats, I do stitches that have 23 patterns, five patterns, 84 patterns and 13 patterns. Twenty-three because he joined heaven's military when he was 23 on Aug. 23; five because Griff was born on Nov. 5 and is an E5; 84 because Griff was born in 1984; and 13 because Griff's bar mitzvah took place when he turned 13.

From Susan, spouse of Paul: The first year after my husband died, my children and I went to Arlington National Cemetery on the memorial day of his death and had a chaplain meet us there to say a prayer with several other family members and friends. In the years following, I have made it a ritual for my children, now ages 8 and 5, that we send a balloon up to heaven with a little note attached for Daddy. They look forward to this time. I also buy each of them a present as Paul's birthday is just three days prior to the day that he died. In 2010. The year he died, I had asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He was deployed to Afghanistan, and I wanted to send him something. He said he just wanted me to buy something for our daughter Maddie and our son, with whom I was pregnant. That is what I did that year - and every year after. I buy something he might have gotten them, and they love this time of year, knowing they get a little extra something on Daddy's birthday. It doesn't come without tears from me even six years later, but we carry his legacy and remember the love he shared with us everyday.

From Elsie, mother of Daniel: We celebrate Daniel's birthday in a few ways. He was a corpsman, so we celebrate his birthday by helping others. We have donated blood and taken a birthday cake to the veterans in the homeless shelter. We also go to the ocean and seek solitude to remember his wonderful life in a place he loved. On what would have been his 40th birthday, we took 40 cookies to law enforcement dispatchers and did various other donations and gifts in quantities of 40.    

We acknowledge his angelversary by putting an article in the newspaper telling a little about Daniel's life with his picture and asking people to watch out for motorcycles and not drive distracted.  

"Three Little Birds," by Bob Marley and the Wailers, is a favorite song Daniel would tell us to listen to when times were tough.

Upcoming Chats  

Exciting news from TAPS Online Community!

To complement the Saturday Morning Message and other TAPS survivor connections, we now offer online video chats along with our online text chats. Join us for our online video chats where we'll meet new TAPS friends and share our loved ones as we heal together. Visit our chat calendar for a full schedule

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, September 06, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

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

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

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Grief Tides
Saturday Morning Message: Inspirational Quotes

August 27, 2016

Good Morning,

Inspirational quotes along with pictures can help us on the grief journey. Placing them in a spot you frequent can help uplift you throughout the day. This picture and quote came from a poem in the summer 2016 TAPS Magazine by Karen, surviving wife of Charlie:"I find peace in knowing that our meaning ebbs and flows as our understanding of unconditional love changes - giving and receiving love without expectation or knowledge of the future. Just like the ocean waves that have no expectation of where the currents will take them, our love continues whether we know its course or not."

This quote is so true when survivors talk about the love that continues throughout our lives no matter what happens. As time passes, there are fewer tears, but the thoughts about our time with our loved ones come more naturally. Recently, I visited my relatives and once they found out that talking about my son was not painful, but rather comforting, many stories came out about great times had by all. Hopefully, you will be inspired by the quotes that came in for this week's Saturday Morning Message. Please feel free to send ones that have touched you for inclusion in the future. Thank you to all who responded to this week's question and those who read the message.

Questions are the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. There may be a grief question you have and would like to read how others would answer it. Sometimes it can be comforting to know others have had a similar situation. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed in the Saturday Morning Message, you can email me at carol.lane@taps.org. Replies to the weekly question are best sent to me by Tuesday afternoon. Another suggestion is to send a song you find meaningful to be included as the song of the week. When you send a song, please include a few sentences about why you find the song meaningful. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

This question came from a conversation on one of the TAPS online chats. I thought it would make a good question for the Saturday Morning Message. It is: How do other survivors commemorate the special dates, such as birthdays, anniversaries and angelversaries, of their loved ones?

♫ Song for the Week 

Caryn, mother of Nathan, sent the song this week, which is "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin. Caryn wrote, "This song was one of my brother's favorites, and as a drummer he played it often. He even drew the album cover on his wall. As a 3-year-old, Nathan spent a lot of time with my brother. As Nate grew up, he loved the music from our time, especially the rock music my brother always played. They were always so much alike. They died nine years apart with the same rare medical condition. That song was played at both celebrations." 

Answers from Survivors 

Elsie, mother of Daniel, sent her son's credo with which he ended each of his emails, "opus, mereo, et adfero (work, serve, and contribute)."

The One That Loves Us QuoteLeslie, mother of Eugene, sent this quote along with her thoughts: "If we are still talking about, telling stories and loving our loved ones then I believe they are still here in spirit. As long as we say his name and continue to keep him present in conversation, he lives. My surviving son is teaching his daughters all about their uncle. They will continue to keep him alive." 

Annie, mother of Michael, sent a quote by her granddaughter Krista Marie, who said this when she was 21, in memory of her uncle Michael's eighth angelversary. Michael was a Marine Corps test pilot for the MV-22 Osprey helicopter. He and three other brave Marine warriors were killed in an air crash due to mechanical problems while on a night training mission in North Carolina on Dec. 11, 2000.

Krista Marie said, "Above everything else, I'd tell you we're all OK. That, as a family we are STRONG. We have love! And you are remembered today by all of us for the life you lived, for the life you brought to our family and for all you leave behind."

Kim, spouse of Milton, sent this quote by Vivian Greene, "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass … It's about learning to dance in the rain."

Kim said, "Life has put me on a difficult journey. It is not the path I would have chosen, but it is the path that has led me to the person I am today." 

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, August 30, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs  

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

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat  
Date: Thursday, September 01, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carla Stumpf-Patton and Kim Suggs  

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

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

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Patriots Game
Honor Your Fallen Hero with the NFL This Football Season

August 21, 2016

Football is a favorite pastime for many Americans, but for many of us in the TAPS family it's more than that - it's a special connection shared with our fallen heroes.

"Every game day when my husband was with us, he would have all our Patriots outfits laid out, ribs on the grill and nachos in the oven. Our two girls, Lani and Loralei, were his little cheerleaders and enjoyed the game as much as he did," Siobhan O'Brien, surviving wife of Gregg O'Brien, recalls. "After Gregg passed, our oldest, Lani, transformed into her version of a tomboy and wears Patriots apparel every day. It's her way of keeping her dad with her."

Through the TAPS sports program, teams4taps, opportunities are created for surviving families to connect with the teams and athletes they cheered for with their loved ones. When survivors share stories and photos of sports memories with their loved one, teams4taps works to create opportunities with those teams.

Thanks to a special partnership between teams4taps and the NFL, the O'Brien family and other TAPS survivors have been able to honor their loved ones alongside their favorite NFL teams and football players at games, training camps and more.

In November 2015, Siobhan O'Brien and her daughters took the field at a New England Patriots' game to help carry the American flag and see their dad honored on the Jumbotron. teams4taps was thrilled to work with the team to make this happen after Siobhan shared her family's memories about the Patriots with teams4taps staff.

Halfway across the country, Don Lipstein, surviving father of Josh Lipstein, was able to stand on the field of his favorite team, the Denver Broncos, to honor his son. teams4taps helped create this lasting memory for Don and his family after he shared a photo of Josh in a Broncos jersey on social media.

The Kalafut family got to interact with NFL players in a different setting after responding to a teams4taps invitation. Mary and her three sons, Christopher, Keegan and Michael, toured the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coke with Atlanta Falcons player Matt Bryant and went on a Christmas shopping trip with Pat DiMarco and other players as part of the Shop with a Jock program.

Mary said the experiences her family has had with the Falcons has been meaningful in their grief journey. "It's a glimmer of happiness, or joy, back in our lives. So I think that's helped with the whole healing process."

teams4taps will continue to work with NFL teams across the country for the 2016-2017 season to remember and honor our fallen heroes. Plans are underway for honors with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders, to name a few.

Be on the lookout for details about upcoming event opportunities via email and social media and check out our special events calendar for upcoming teams4taps events. Remember, if you have a special memory or connection to a team or player, please share your story by emailing teams4taps@taps.org.

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2016 NMSS Mentor and Child
Saturday Morning Message: More Gifts from Our Loved Ones

August 13, 2016

Good Morning,

This picture of a TAPS child and Good Grief Camp mentor at this year's National Military Survivor Seminar had to be the picture of the day. The child's face says it all as the two bond.

The gifts we give each other are the compassion and support that come from the heart. This week's comments give us the opportunity to share the gifts given by our loved ones. Thanks to all who replied to this question as well as those who read the Saturday Morning Message.

I am on vacation next week, so there will not be a Saturday Morning Message on Aug. 20. Please send your replies to this week's question just as you normally would, and they will appear in the Aug. 27 edition. 

Often, I like to make those who read the Saturday Morning Message aware of different opportunities at TAPS. TAPS is doing a special campaign to observe Suicide Prevention Month. Throughout September, we hope surviving families who have suffered a suicide loss of a loved one who served in the military will take a moment to participate by:

  • Submitting a blog post for inclusion on our special #HopeHelpHeal blog. Please send your submission to blogs@taps.org by Aug. 26.
  • Sharing a photo, video or memory on social media and tagging TAPS by using #HopeHelpHeal. We will retweet and repost on our social media pages throughout September.

If you would like to share your personal story in your community, we would be happy to help you. Please email Kelly Griffith at kelly.griffith@taps.org for tips on how to write a press release, write a letter to the editor or call in to a radio show. 

We will be collecting all your posts, stories and photos at TAPS.org to honor those we have lost and to give hope to those suffering in silence. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

A few weeks ago, Kim, spouse of Milton, asked this question on the TAPS Yahoo groups, so I thought it would be a great question for this week. She wrote, "'Remember the love, celebrate the life, share the journey' is such an inspirational quote! Does anyone else have a quote that they would like to share with us?" Make sure you include the author of the quote and a few sentences about why the quote touches your heart. I look forward to the replies. 

 Song for the Week 

Bevin, daughter of Don, sent this song "Tell Your Heart to Breath Again." She shared how two lines from the song make her feel: 

"'Your story is far from over and your journey has just begun.' Isn't that how we all feel? Every word of this song makes my heart feel better."

"'Love sees farther than you ever could.' This gives me so much comfort to trust that the pain will eventually recede and I have to move forward because while my daddy's life is over, my story is still unfinished and I know he wants me to realize all my potential." 

Answers from Survivors 

From Caryn, mother of Nathan: One of the many gifts my son and my husband left me was the desire to gather knowledge and to seek the answers. They both had high IQs, and we never ran out of things about which to talk. "I've always had the need to seek out knowledge, been driven to "find the right answers" and am never satisfied with the answer "because." There's always an answer." Nathan and Micheal drove me to dig a little deeper until a satisfactory answer presented itself. They always seemed to have the answers. I miss the back and forth, comparing answers and asking more questions. But I do continue in my quest for knowledge and understanding. Sometimes I ask myself, "What would they say or do?" If I'm really quiet, the answer might just appear - in a dream, a song, a book and even in phone calls from family and friends. The two of them still seem to be helping further my knowledge base even from the other side!

From Sandra, mother of Adam: My son left me with a life that, even in the depths of my sorrow, is far richer than it might have been, just for his existence on this earth. Beyond that, and all the precious memories I have, there are two very different gifts that stand out.

The very last time I saw him, he was concerned about my being alone in my home, and he worked far past the time his wife wanted to leave installing deadbolts on my doors. He wanted to be certain that I was as secure as possible. I think of him every time I come and go, looking at and using those deadbolts. The very last thing he did when we were together was to ensure my protection.

Earlier on that same last day we were together, he asked me where the Eagle, Globe and Anchor pin was that he received at the end of the Crucible at boot camp. He said that since Dave, my husband and former Marine, was gone, I couldn't keep the pin; only a Marine could keep it. I was out in the driveway saying goodbye to him and his family when he said, "Wait! I forgot something in the house!" He had me come in with him and showed me where he had pinned his EG&A to my husband's flag in his flag box. He winked, gave me a hug and a kiss, and said, "That's where it belongs, and that's where it will stay." That was his most prized possession from the Marine Corps and to have that to view with my husband's flag makes me very proud.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: What gift did my son leave me? We didn't have the easiest time together when he was a teen. He was a tough young man who I truly didn't "get" until he enlisted. He loved the military from day one in boot camp. He changed into a man. He accepted responsibility and was accountable, as well. The gift he gave me was a Mother's Day card that had a million thanks on the front. (Yes, I saved it.) Inside was a handwritten letter from him (this is lost) thanking me for raising him the way I did. He stated he finally understood what I was trying to do for him. He told me about the differences between what he knew and what other newly enlisted knew and thanked me again. After that, we spoke daily and always ended with, "Love you, ol' lady!" And that is the last thing he said on the phone that Sunday night - on Monday morning he was gone.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: When I thought about the question, I realize there are so many gifts Caleb left me - tangible and intangible. Today, I think of the gift of family/community he left me that has meant so much. This is not blood relation, this is heart relation. The people Caleb left us are wonderful and caring. They are people of integrity and filled with so much compassion and wisdom. He surrounded himself with people of humility and gratitude - military and nonmilitary. These amazing people keep in touch, come and visit, and have been such blessings in my life. They are people who love my son. There is a part of Caleb in each one, and their presence in my life is a gift that is priceless!

From Donna, mother of Eric: My son gave me the greatest gift I could ever want to receive - his time. His last visit home he spent every moment with me. We enjoyed each other's company. We laughed, we played, we had deep discussions. I felt like we had caught up with each other finally and reconnected. I was reassured that he loved me and was glad I was his momma. I learned how much he was actually like me. Our bond was stronger than ever. I needed that desperately after he was killed in action. I needed to know positively that he knew how much I loved him. And I needed to know he loved me. He had been gone for so long with very little communication. His training in the military schools was very time consuming. Training for three deployments with no phone, then two previous deployments with no phone, left very little time to talk at all. I felt we had drifted. So the greatest gift he could have ever given me, and he did, was his time.

From Ruth, mother of James: The greatest gift Jim gave to his family was love. Jim loved to talk and we had so many conversations that at times it is hard to remember them all. One night, we were talking on the phone and he suggested that we come and visit him and his family in Germany. I laughed and said, "Oh, maybe tomorrow." Quickly, he asked me if I knew what that meant. I will never forget his explanation.

"Mom, yesterday is where we store all of our memories. Tomorrow is where we put our dreams. Today is when you wake up in the morning and know that there are things to do, people to visit, love to share. I want to be part of your warm memories, but I do not want to be left in a dream. Come see me now while we can laugh and say all of the things that will create wonderful memories."  

We didn't make that trip. It was left in our dreams.

Upcoming Chats                                                                                                                

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, August 18, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carla Stumpf-Patton and Kim Suggs

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

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

 

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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