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Ambard, Linda - Celebrate Life
Celebrate Life Month

~ Linda Ambard, Survivor

April 21, 2014

So often in life, people assume that there will always be another day to do the niceties we want to do for our loved ones.  Often people get consumed with the daily minutiae of survival and responsibilities.  I was no different.  Phil and I had spent our entire marriage being parents and with having five children, there was little time for anything else.  Our time, energy and resources went into being good parents and responsible adults.  While there were many things I did well for Phil and vice versa, we were very guilty of thinking that we had many more tomorrows than we received.

Phil never had a homecoming at the airport because dragging five children to the airport was neither of our idea of fun.  I had planned to fly to Atlanta and surprise him at the gate when he returned.  I wanted to do it well to make up for having missed so many.  I could imagine the surprised delight on his face as I walked by over and over until he realized it was me in the blue polka dotted dress.  I figured we could talk someone into trading seats with me so I could sit next to Phil.  I wish he would have had that moment of surprised delight, and I am sorry that he didn't get it.

Phil also never had a birthday party-ever.  While he said that he didn't want the fuss and attention, he would have reveled in just once having his life celebrated.  I intended to throw him the surprise birthday bash for his 50th birthday.  He never made it to that day.  He was killed just after his 44th birthday. April is the month of his birthday and the day he was received into Heaven.  I cannot fix the things I wish I had done or the things he should have had and didn't get, but I can change me. 

April is my celebrate life month.  I simply look for ways to celebrate the life I have been given and for ways to honor the man who loved me well for 23 years.  It isn't easy. I have to face my fears to celebrate life.  Last year made April even harder as terrorism sought to take one more facet of my life at the Boston Marathon.  I decided then that I cannot let terrorism take any more from me.  I cannot let people maim my spirit, my heart or the love I carry.  I must run on.  I will run on with a sassy swish of my red sparkly polka dotted skirt.  I will run painfully up Heartbreak Hill, but I will celebrate my life and Phil. I will find a way to celebrate his life because if I do not, I will have lost mine.  

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Saturday Morning
Saturday Morning Message: Healing Advice

April 19, 2014

Good Morning,

The guidance of others who have gone through a tragic grief experience can be so meaningful.  This week the responses to Sasha's question about the best advice that was given were varied. Each one was sent out of love with a desire to share what has helped them "celebrate the life" of their loved one.

The question for next week may take a bit of thought, but it is important during the grieving process. Often our focus is on the loved one who has died or other members of our family. Certainly the center of attention is not ourselves, but taking care of ourselves is so necessary. So this week, Plan to take  a little time for yourself and then write to tell me what you do or are planning to do and it will be shared with the group next week.  Sometimes we all need a little help from our friends to get ideas. What do you do to treat yourself?

If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a subject you might want to hear responses from other survivors, email me anytime at carol.lane@taps.org . I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn't have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful.

Hugs,
Carol

Healing Advice From TAPS Survivors:

From Angi, wife of Robert: What I didn't do that I recommend to any survivor is ask for help, from any and every one. Also, get yourself into some sort of therapy. I'm in my second year of loss and I am just now going to see someone. You don't have to tough out grief. Be kind to yourself. Don't pretend things are ok when they are not. It's ok to be who you are, whatever that means.

From Anne, mother of Michael:  I feel that the best piece of advice that was given to me and my husband after the loss of our sweet son, Michael was that we would not always be feeling so terrible and that time would help us with our grief.  It does take time, but gradually we can come out of ourselves and give back to others.  The loss of a child will never leave us, but we can still learn to smile again!

From Ginny, mother of Patrick: After we were told that my son had been killed in Afghanistan, I felt like I was developing dementia which was particularly frightening for me as I had watched my mom deteriorate with dementia. I could not remember things; I did not recognize people I should have known; I could not accomplish a task; heck, I could barely start a task! finally decided I needed to get back to my riding lessons. It was the one thing that really forced me to concentrate. The first day, I was approached by a woman who had lost her husband years ago in an aircraft accident. She said she was glad to see me back and asked me how I was doing. I told her about my inability to concentrate, to focus, my memory lapses.

She surprised me when she said, "Oh, that is normal! Your short term memory is gone and will be for a while, but it will come back slowly." She also recommended that I not return to work for a while especially if it is a job that requires lots of detail. Thankfully, my job told me to take as long as I needed. Then she pointed to my horse and said, "He will be your therapy." And he has been!

Her words were the most valuable thing said to me. An incredible sense of relief flooded over me to know I was not losing my mind! This was normal in the grief process. It does get better. I have not lost my mind! Now when I meet with others who have lost a loved one, I tell them this story. They often express the same relief I felt.

You need to find a passion. If you already have one like I did in my horses, go on and pursue it! Your loved one would want you to live life to the fullest. Your passion will give you focus, and yes, it teaches you joy again!

From Robert and Vivian, parents of Louis: The best advice we ever received was to join a parental bereavement group. We interacted with others who "got it". As time went by we found that we were helpful for newly bereaved and that, in turn, was helpful to us.

From Lisa, mother of Michael:  We received many bits of advice, but this one stuck in my mind and my heart. Our son's escort just before he returned to his base after the funeral looked me in the eyes, took my hand and said, "Always make sure to remember who you and your husband were as a couple before this happened. Take time to be that couple and don't let this rip you apart from each other, because in order to survive this as a family you will need each other. That was and continues to be so true and at the worst of moments I hear those words reminding me.

From Marcia, mother of Nathan: I try to live by this bit of advice: it is especially important to remember our relationships. Yes they will change - this bolt of lightning scarred everything, but with care and determination we have kept "us".

From Alicia, mother of James: The most helpful piece of advice I received after our notification came from our pastor and good friend who had experienced the unexpected and untimely death of his young wife some years back. He said, "Lean in. Lean into the grief. Lean into the pain." I found that so helpful and freeing 21 months ago and still find it helpful today. When I try to run from or avoid the emotions or the pain of grief, it just seems to get worse. When I accept it and allow myself to feel the hurt and then think and pray through it, I actually DO get through it. I am then able to focus on positives or other parts of life and other family members who are also significant in my life. Early on I could only focus on James. Now I can also find room in my brain for others. So, the moral of the story is, lean in.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: It would be easy to drown in self-pity if you don't get the right advice and help. I would say as hard as it may be at times, dwell on the good times instead of the loss.

Prior to the loss of my son, God saw to it that I overheard a conversation of a young parent who had lost her daughter of about 3 or 4 years of age in a plane crash. In the conversation the mother was counting her blessings for having her child to love in the first place! I was impressed with what she had said and it stuck with me. I was amazed that she could see the good things she had instead of dwelling on her loss.

A few years went by before I was faced with the loss of my son due to a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. That helpful conversation came to mind many, many times. I started trying to look for my blessings instead of dwelling on my loss. It wasn't easy and at times it was downright impossible! I started thanking God for the time we did have our son and all the wonderful memories we were left with including time together prior to him leaving for his mission. I was grateful that I had let him know how very much I loved him and was proud of him.

When you focus on the blessings instead of the loss, you'll be amazed at how your attitude will improve into a more positive, healthier one! Try it. I has helped me a lot!

General Support Chat 
This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Daytime General Support Chat
Date: Thursday, April 24, 2014
Time: 1 PM - 2:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kellie Hazlett

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

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Picture for Week in Review (April 16)
Week in Review: TAPS Peer Mentoring Templated to Help Military and Veteran Caregivers, Important Registration Dates for Upcoming Events

April 16, 2014

As part of the Joining Forces initiative and its ongoing efforts to engage all sectors of society to give our service members and their families opportunities and support, First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden hosted former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, former Senator Elizabeth Dole, caregivers of veterans and active duty service members and TAPS representatives at the White House to discuss ways to improve support and resources available for caregivers.

The TAPS peer mentoring model will be templated and utilized to create a new network to help military and veteran caregivers.  "Connecting people who have suffered and now live daily with trauma with others who share a common experience provides healing and support," said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS founder.

TAPS has many exciting events planned and we hope you will be able to join us! Registration for the North Carolina Parents Retreat  will open on Thursday, April 17th at noon EST. The retreat will be held June 11th - 15th in Charlotte, North Carolina. If you have any questions, email retreats@taps.org or call 1-800-959-8277.

The final day to register for the TAPS Fort Carson Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp  is Tuesday, April 22nd. If you are planning to attend and have not registered, we encourage you to sign up soon.

The last day to register for the 20th Annual TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp  is Tuesday, April 29th. Register today if you plan to attend. The seminar will be held May 23rd - 26th in Arlington, Virginia. We are expecting our largest TAPS gathering to date. We hope you can join us for this special weekend of comfort, hope and healing!

TAPS sends our thoughts to you and shares we are only a phone call away. Call us anytime, day or night, at 1-800-959-TAPS (8277) if you would like to talk or have any questions about our programs or events. Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @TAPS4America. You can also find us on Facebook, Google+, and Instagram

 

 

 

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Picture for Elizabeth's blog
A Picture Speaks A Thousand Words

~ Elizabeth Rozier, Survivor

April 14, 2014

It's been a while since my last post . . . mostly because I have suffered from writer's block. When I had a good topic in mind life got too busy to write. So here I am catching up. I always like to share my story with others and feel sometimes that maybe I am a little too transparent. I decided these past few months that I really don't care if people think I am a broken record as long as one person gets hope from my story.  So here it goes, the latest and probably the greatest part of the Rozier Family Saga . . . in a good way.

This past month my sister-in-law remarried. She and my brother met at Texas A&M and married the week following graduation.  They were stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas. We saw them once or twice before he deployed so we really didn't get to know Jessica as family.  They were married one and a half years when Jon was killed, and the news was delivered to Jessica while she was staying with me over a weekend, before heading home to Kansas.  That began the journey of Jessica becoming officially integrated into the family. 

It was important to us that we stay connected to Jessica and Justin, their 9 month old son . . . who, I might add, now has some moves like Jaggar (video evidence is now sealed until a later, more opportune date).  So, family vacations, babysitting, holidays, etc. were always extended and accepted.  In the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M there is a tradition of replacing yourself, recruiting someone to fill your empty spot upon graduation, so that the tradition of the Corps can remain alive. In essence, Jon replaced himself with Jessica in our family. We went through the ups and downs of grief together, as a family. And as I have said in previous posts, all relationships require work from everyone involved. 

Fast forward, nine years later:  Jessica met PJ at a hog hunt for military widows.  PJ was a hunting guide with this organization.  He is also a survivor of sorts, a wounded warrior, injured during his service in the U.S. Navy.  So, as my dad told Jessica on her wedding day, we welcome PJ into the Rozier family with open arms . . . he's a veteran at it now, surviving two Rozier family vacations.

I've had enough conversations with other military survivors to know that surviving family of origin and surviving spouse sometimes have difficulties relating after their loved one dies. Not that our relationship is perfect in anyway, it's seen hard times and good times, but what matters most is the miracle of our family sitting at Jessica and PJ's wedding last month.    But then again "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends . . ."

At the wedding I captured this photo of my dad giving Jessica away in marriage to PJ . . . I think my caption still sums it up best, "A Picture Speaks A Thousand Words."

 

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Saturday Morning
Saturday Morning Message: A Different Path

April 12, 2014

Good Morning,

There were many interesting responses to Sarah's question this week. The idea of the question was to share what you are doing since the death of your loved one that you didn't expect. All of the responses talked about honoring loved ones by helping others or dedicating work  to the communities that supported their families in the time of need. This week there was also a great blog on the TAPS webpage which answers this question. If you haven't read it, here is the link:  "Two Brothers' Mission: Pay It Forward" It is written about a fundraiser for TAPS that two brothers initiated. Many of us have found a twist 

in our life's journey, but I think you will be inspired by the variety of ideas that celebrate the lives of our loved ones.\he question for next week came from Sasha, who is new survivor.  She wanted to ask: "What is the best piece of advice to work toward healing that you received after the death of your loved one?" You can also look at this question from a perspective after time has passed and write what have you done that has helped you most. We look forward to the answers to Sasha's question.

If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a subject you might want to hear responses from other survivors, email me anytime at carol.lane@taps.org. I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn't have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful. 

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Robert and Vivian Allen, parents of Lou: When Lou was killed and after the initial one year shock wore off, Vivian and I planned to fund a scholarship in his name at the Chester H.S. Our daughters said that it was a good idea, but remembering how our community responded to us, we expanded the 1LT Louis Allen Scholarship and Community Foundation in order that we might pay our community back for all their love and support. We have one fundraiser per year and use the proceeds to fund a $1000 scholarship and then support food pantries, veterans' causes (including the Honor Flight), Big Brothers/Sisters, Project Safe Homes (spousal abuse protection, emergency housing and any other important issue that may arise. We also partner with our church and facilitate a bereavement group for those who lost a loved one. Helping others has actually helped us. Lou's name is out there and his sacrifice won't be forgotten in our lifetime.

From John, father of Jonas: We started The Jonas Project in his honor. We help veterans start and grow their own business over the first two years of its existence with wonderful mentors and some financial help (0% loans they pay back when they become profitable - not on a set time table). We also are very big in collaborating with anyone we can find to help our Warrior Entrepreneurs. We are all volunteers - no paid staff. The Jonas Project is not about charity, we are about accelerating the empowerment of our nation's most powerful natural resource.  Our Warrior Entrepreneurs will drive the economy for the future, standing with them is simply good business for America.

From Barb, mother of David: I have become more generous and giving to my favourite charities. My son was very generous. I have also changed my feelings about my job. I want to do something more meaningful, but haven't figured that all out.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: I had to ponder on the question for the week. I know that life as it was is certainly not what it is any more. I know I'm not the same person that I used to be in many ways. I see things differently and many things that used to be important to me aren't so important any more. One thing that I'd never thought I'd be doing is honoring Blake's memory and that of all our vets by organizing and sponsoring the Stars and Stripes Patriot Walk/Run each September to raise money for scholarships for our local children. It's a lot of work and something I'd never worked on or thought I'd be working on in years past. I feel Blake would be pleased that I have made something good come out of our unthinkable loss. I owe it to him to do something to help others and that is what he'd want me to do.

From Anne, mother of Michael: Since I lost Michael I have become very involved in helping the military.  I have gotten so much stronger in my life and this is the best path to make my life a better one!  I am always challenging myself to make this world a better place to live in until the good Lord decides to take me where I will join my son!

Bob and Katherine, parents of John: First and foremost, we never imagined losing a child before our own deaths. It is not in the "natural order" of things. But that said, since we are now a Gold Star Family; we are truly thankful for TAPS. We are involved with the TAPS National Seminar in Washington, D.C., TAPS regional workshops, and most importantly, peer mentoring other Gold Star mothers and grandmothers. We assist, when asked, with the Army Support Outreach Services (SOS) in Southern California. We are involved as leaders in Grief Share to families who have lost a child in our local community on Wednesday evenings at our home church.  We are also active in the local Blue/Gold Star Mothers, and Prayer Angels For the Military. Bob is involved with Gold Star Dads in SoCal.

From Lisa, mother of Michael: It was our son Michael's wish to give to his country by becoming an officer and then return home and give back to his community. Losing him to war took that chance away, but once we were able to pick ourselves up and step outside of the fog, we decided his wish would live on. Our family established the Spc Michael R Demarsico Scholarship Foundation. Each year we will give two $1,000 scholarships to students pursuing a career in Military/criminal law. This past year, we also chose four families to sponsor for Christmas which was Michael's favorite holiday.  We will be giving back to the community with other financial gifts as they present themselves. Michael's name will live on and his dream will stay alive. That is our gift to him and to ourselves, because helping others helps us. There is a 5k road race on Veterans' Day as well as a golf tournament in the summer run by dear friends and family that will help us to keep the dream alive for years to come.

Edward and Carol, parents of Bryon: In addition to my work at TAPS, we maintain a garden that our community created for the three service members who have died from our town. There is a monument in the garden as well as stone benches looking over the river in which they all swam. It is a beautiful place to sit and contemplate. Since it is on the Appalachian trail, we find many people sitting there during the summer. We are fortunate to work on this project with the significant other of one of the servicemembers who is a master gardener. In that way, we learn as well as work and create something of beauty for our town.

Parent Chat 
Date: Monday, April 14, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson

General Support Chat
This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, April 17, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kim Suggs and Carla Stumpf-Patton

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.

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Windy25
Week in Review: TAPS Offers Support For Families of Loved Ones Who Died In the Tragic Shooting At Fort Hood, TAPS Run and Remember Team Participates in Windy25 Memorial 5K, DynCorp International Signs Memorandum of Agreement With TAPS, Upcoming TAPS Events

April 9, 2014

Our TAPS family extends our sincere condolences to the families whose loved ones died or were injured in the tragic shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. TAPS is actively helping the families of the victims.  Our assistance and support will be unwavering.  

The TAPS Run and Remember Team participated in the 4th Annual Windy25 Memorial 5K on Saturday in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Windy25 Memorial 5K is dedicated to the memory of the flight crew and passengers of the Windy25, an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter that crashed in Ghazni, Afghanistan on April 6, 2005. Several surviving family members of those who died in the crash and veterans who served with the Windy25 were at the race this year to honor and remember those who died. TAPS is honored to have been a part of this special race and a partner charity of the Windy25 Memorial 5K. We extend our gratitude to all who ran and cheered on our runners!

Our next TAPS Run and Remember event will be the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, Half Marathon, Marathon Relay, and 5K on April 27th. If you are interested in running with TAPS or sponsoring a runner, we encourage you to visit the TAPS Run and Remember Team Page

Recently, DynCorp International signed a memorandum of agreement with TAPS. This agreement will give families of fallen DynCorp contractors access to TAPS' multitude of programs and services.  TAPS is very grateful for this partnership with Dyncorp International. "We are pleased to sign a memorandum of agreement with DynCorp International that will provide bereavement care and support to DI employees who die while serving to support the military mission," said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS president and founder. "Many of DI's employees are recent veterans who served for many years in our military."

Lastly, registration is open for the TAPS Fort Carson Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp  and the 20th Annual TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp. If you plan on attending one or both of these events, we encourage you to register as soon as possible. We hope you will be able to join us for one of these special weekends of hope, comfort and healing. 

TAPS sends our thoughts to you and shares we are only a phone call away. Call us anytime, day or night, at 1-800-959-TAPS (8277) if you would like to talk or have any questions about our programs or events. Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @TAPS4America. You can also find us on Facebook, Google+, and Instagram

 

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Bobbie's picture for blog
Two Brothers’ Mission: Pay It Forward

~ Bobbie McHenry, Survivor

April 7, 2014

Our son Christopher McHenry passed away by suicide on March 4, 2013. We joined TAPS three months later and what a blessing they have been for me, Chris' dad, and his brothers Cole and Zach. Our family attended the National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors in Colorado last year. It was comforting to meet others who are coping with the loss of a loved one who died by suicide. My husband and I met numerous parents and our sons met other siblings who've lost a brother. For the first time, we realized we were not alone; others are traveling this journey with us.  TAPS connected us with two peer mentors, Barb and Dave Hoffman, who are also surviving parents. We are very grateful. I can honestly say it's been and will forever be a tough journey, but knowing we are not alone and that we have the support of TAPS and our mentors makes the pain more bearable.

Our family has benefited much from having TAPS in our life since Chris died. As a way to pay it forward to TAPS, my younger son Cole came up with a wonderful idea of how we could help raise funds for TAPS programs and services. Cole is an avid bowler and bowled many times with his older brother Chris. It is a hobby they shared and truly enjoyed. Cole approached the staff at Meadow Bowling Alley in Washington, Pennsylvania and shared with them the idea of a fundraiser for TAPS. Our family spoke about TAPS mission and how much they have helped us since Chris' death. The staff was very excited about the idea of the Bowlathon fundraiser for TAPS. We immediately started planning; each day the event gets bigger and bigger!

Members from the American Legion and VFW as well as approximately 100 friends and family members plan to participate. We cannot wait! The event will be held on Sunday, April 13, 2014 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. Along with the Bowlathon, we are also having a silent auction. My other son Zach is helping Cole with this incredible event. I'm so proud of my boys for doing this. I truly love the idea of paying it forward to this wonderful organization. Planning this event is also helping us cope with the loss of our son and their brother. We cannot wait to share about it. If you will be in the area of Washington, Pennsylvania on April 13th, we hope you will join us for this amazing event to support TAPS! 

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Saturday Morning
Saturday Morning Message: Gifts of Remembrance Part 2

April 5, 2014

Good Morning,

When a person who is special to you dies, it can change your life path. A fascinating question came from Sarah, one of our TAPS employees. She wrote, “When we have been broken, we sometimes come upon our deeper calling or purpose and learn to share it for greater good.”She was thinking about how her life has changed since her loved one died. Now she works for TAPS and has benefited from associating with other survivors. The question for this week is: What have you done that is different than what you had planned to do before your loved one died?

If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a subject you might want to hear responses from other survivors, email me anytime at carol.lane@taps.org. I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn’t have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful. 

There were so many responses to the question about what survivors carry with them in remembrance that the answers had to be put into two Saturday messages. Please enjoy the second part of the replies.

Hugs,
Carol

From TAPS Survivors:

From Paula, Mom of Cory: When Cory died, the funeral home offered "Thummies". They took Cory's thumb print and transferred it on a heart that I have as a necklace. I have never taken it off. When I miss him and think of him, I rub the necklace and can feel his thumb print. I can get a replacement from the company that made it which is a blessing. I have rubbed it so much, it is about time for a new one. LOL

From Thelma, mother of James: After my son, James, passed away on May 27, 2013, Memorial Day. I couldn't bring myself to go through his things that were sent back home. But then when I finally went through some of them, he had a pillow and a cover among his things. When I get to really missing him, I use them. I still miss him every day and love him very much.

From Sherry, spouse of James: I had the tattoo of my husband's nickname of Bear placed on my left thigh. It is bear claws with the bear symbol embedded in the "pad" of the claw. The second tattoo reflects a symbol of the horrible disease that took him away from me at the age of 48 after a marriage of six months. He passed from esophageal cancer. I had the periwinkle cancer ribbon with the wings of my angel, James, placed on my right wrist. I love my tattoos and the cancer ribbon with wings gets a lot of attention. It provides me an opportunity to promote the hidden cancer that is on the rise. So many are unaware of esophageal cancer and many times it is not diagnosed until it is too late. Since James was an Army flight nurse, I feel that this is something that he would make him happy, knowing that he is still helping people.

From Janae, mom of Brandon: I play hockey. It’s like my therapy! They let me play on the military veterans’ team and I wear #4, because that was his jersey number for sports growing up. We don't have ice year round, but when we do, playing hockey helps. Shortly before I lost Brandon, he went with me to his brother’s hockey game and I will never forget all the laughing as I was explaining the rules and penalties to him since hockey wasn't his sport. I also like taking pictures, so when I am having a bad day during good weather months, I hike up by the Teton's and take pictures of the sunset.I live about an hour from Jackson Hole WY. Brandon and I were supposed to hike the Teton's about a month after he died. These are a few of the things I do when I am angry or just having a bad day..

From Caryn, mother of Nathan: One of the things I wear proudly ... my son's dog tags! On that chain, there is a special beautiful tiger's eye gemstone that Nate had given me. He collected stones, crystals, etc. He told me the tiger's eye was a protective stone. Also on the chain with the stone I have 2 rings, one is my birthstone that my husband gave me many years ago and the other is my husband's birthstone.

The other items I wear proudly: a memorial tattoo for my brother and one for my husband....they are my own design....don't have one for Nathan yet, because I haven't been able to come up with a design ... one that encompasses who Nathan was. So until I do come up with my own design, the spot on my right arm is reserved! I also have an item from each of them on my everyday keys!

From Phyllis, mother of Justin: My son was KIA almost 10 months ago. Since that time, I have been given many things. Every day I wear two memorial bracelets. One is stainless steel with information about him and the other is black with his picture and two of his soldiers that were also KIA. However, the one item that I wear that is most special to me, is a pendant that contains a note in his own handwriting, "I Love You Mom, Justin". Wearing this around my neck, makes me feel that he is close to my heart and I can hear him saying those words to me. I wrap my hand around it, especially when I'm having a difficult time, missing him, and it gives me comfort. I like for people to ask what these items mean, because I want to share about how my son lived his life, not just how or where he died.

From Christine, mother of Adam: Beside the tattoo, I wear Adam's earring and always his dog tags under my clothes.

From Merry, mother of Wes: The 28th of March would have been Wes's 28th birthday. I continue to wear a locket given to me at his funeral by a gal pal who he had just begun dating. His pictures are inside. He and his brother gave me all kinds of jewelry throughout the years and I've kept those things in a separate box. 

From Jolene, mother of Eric: On the day my son left for Marine Corps boot camp, he placed around my neck a beautiful Eagle, Globe and Anchor necklace. That was in June, 2007. I never take it off and have even had some medical tests where they have allowed me to keep it on. It was either that or I wasn't going to have the test! Whenever I hear the Star-Spangled Banner I hook the pendant inside my palm and place both over my heart. I feel him with me every day. My biggest fear is that the chain may some day break and I might lose the pendant, but I will have to deal with that then. For now, this is a comforting reminder that Eric is always with me.

From Sheri, grandmother of Jeremiah (Patty): I took one of my letters from my grandson Jeremiah (also known as Patty) to the tattoo parlor. I had them copy his signature, “Love, Patty” and tattoo it on the front side of my shoulder. I love having him with me at all times.

From Ruth, mother of James: When they brought Jim home, the plane landed. As we waited for the plane to touch down, two dragonflies flitted back and forth. It was as though they had a message to tell. Jim was an attorney for the Army and always ended his conversations with a story that would relate to why he was talking to you. His stories became legend to all of those who met him. As we went into church for Jim's mass, I clutched a small children's book in my hand, uncertain if I could or would do one last story for Jim. I read the story about waterbugs and dragonflies. The water bugs live at the bottom of the river and one by one they leave the colony and never return. One promises to return after he leaves. When he awakens he flies on beautiful wings and sees a beautiful land, but he can’t go back into the water to tell his friends and decides that they will have to wait and see this place for themselves.As I finished Jim's last story, the church filled with applause. After the service the parish had a large dinner for Jim's family. As others gathered to eat dinner, I waited outside to watch the hearse take Jim from the church for this final time. Standing alone, I heard several women from the church calling to me telling me to come quickly. I entered the dining hall and found all heads were looking upward. Flying back and forth was the largest dragonfly I had ever seen. Now I wear a dragonfly over my heart in memory of Jim.

General Support Chat
This chat is open for all survivors
Date: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower Chat
Date: Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
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.

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Week in Review: TAPS Coastal Carolina Transformation Widows Retreat, TAPS Philadelphia Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp, National Day of Action to Combat Suicide, TAPS Honor Guard Gala, Upcoming Events

April 2, 2014

What an amazing and inspiring past few weeks for TAPS! On March 19th, we welcomed 20 military widows and widowed fiancées from all across the country for a new type of amazing retreat in Charleston, South Carolina. Retreat attendees were introduced to a holistic approach which helped them bring transformation within their lives through a combination of athletics, art therapy, journaling, and accountability partnerships. With each activity, participants gained empowerment. The women grew to know one another…ultimately realizing they were not alone in their grief. We have many more retreats planned for 2014. Please see our calendar for a complete list of upcoming TAPS retreats

On March 21st, TAPS held its first regional survivor seminar and Good Grief Camp of 2014 in Philadelphia. More than 100 families joined us for a wonderful weekend of hope, comfort and healing. Seminar attendees participated in grief related workshops and excursions around Philadelphia. For many participants, this was the first time they found peer support in coping with their losses. They met others they could relate to and share their journeys with. TAPS would like to thank all who attended, including our families, military mentors, volunteers, and staff. TAPS extends our appreciation to the Travis Manion Foundation for sponsoring this seminar. We could not have done it without your generous sponsorship! 

On the morning of March 27th, TAPS staff joined IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) and other veteran service organizations for the National Day of Action to Combat Suicide.  Volunteers placed 1,892 American flags on the Washington Mall representing the number of veterans estimated to have died by suicide to date in 2014. The event featured as speakers IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff and Kim Ruocco, director of suicide postvention programs at TAPS.

The 2014 TAPS Honor Guard Gala  was held Thursday, March 27th. It was a remarkable evening for TAPS as we celebrated our 20th Anniversary. More than 850 TAPS supporters and donors joined us for this special event to recognize and honor our military, U.S. government contractors and civilians lost in service to America and the families they left behind. Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, was the keynote speaker. He said the TAPS mission is "absolutely essential to who we are as a profession. Establishing, maintaining and living up to that bond of trust absolutely has to exist among our ranks in peace and in war." TAPS is excited to announce we exceeded our goal of raising more than two million dollars which will help us continue our mission to provide compassionate care and support to the families of America's fallen heroes.

TAPS has many upcoming events and we hope you can join us! Registration is now open for the TAPS Fort Carson Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp  which will be held April 26th-27th in Colorado. The 20th National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors will be held May 23rd -26th in Arlington, Virginia. The final day to register and apply for scholarships is April 29th.

TAPS sends our thoughts to you and shares we are only a phone call away. Call us anytime, day or night, at 1-800-959-TAPS (8277) if you would like to talk or have any questions about our programs or events. Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @TAPS4America. You can also find us on Facebook, Google+, and Instagram

 

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From Tragedy to Helping Others: Military Widow Gives Back

~ Nicki Bunting, Survivor

March 31, 2014

Picking up the pieces after suffering a tragic loss is never easy. Thankfully, our military families don't have to walk through grief alone. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) walks beside them.  As it does each year, TAPS honored one survivor of a fallen service member with the Senator Ted Stevens Leadership Award at the TAPS Honor Guard Gala. This year's honoree was Nicki Bunting. 

Nicki and her husband, Army Captain Brian "Bubba" Bunting, grew up in the DC area where he was a star athlete and West Point graduate. He deployed in 2008 with the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. His vehicle hit an improvised explosive device shortly after he returned from R&R at home in the states. On February 24, 2009, Nicki received the terrible news that Bubba had been killed in Afghanistan. Her first thought was, "our son is going to grow up without his father." At age 29, she was a military widow and planning her husband's funeral. 

Four days after her husband died, she found she was pregnant with their second child, affectionately known as an R&R baby. "Knowing that I was pregnant with him was what gave me the strength to keep going," said Nicki. "It just brought so much joy to me." 

But the future was radically different from what she had planned. "I don't get to be Bubba's wife anymore, not in the way I planned it. I do what I can now to honor his name and take care of him." 

Only months after her husband's death, she founded a 5K race and named it "Bubba's Belly Run," to honor her late husband. TAPS and other organizations benefited from proceeds, but the race also helped the public better understand the sacrifices our military families endure. 

Nicki also got connected to TAPS, which helped her with benefits questions and offered peer-based emotional support. "TAPS has always been there to answer my questions. They have been there for me logistically and helped me emotionally- a truly wonderful resource," said Nicki. "I feel like I have a piece of normalcy back. I don't feel like an outsider." 

Today, Bunting is a busy single mom to two active little boys, but she also takes time to help other grieving military families. Nicki says it helps her to give back. "I know that when I was in my worst of times, I needed a lot of support and to be able to support others when they are in need, it helps me too," said Bunting.

 

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