Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Caring for the Families of the Fallen
Call 24/7
800-959-TAPS (8277)
Caring for the Families of our Fallen Heroes
Donate Today
TAPS Online Community - Blog
Tags: Parent

Reflecting on Five Years Without


Date: December 27 , 2012

Home Page Tabs Title: Reflecting on Five Years Without

Posted By: TAPS

A mother reflects on what the TAPS theme, "Remember the Love, Celebrate the Life, Share the Journey," means to her five years after her son's death in Iraq.


American Flag
Reflecting on Five Years Without

~ Marilyn Collins, Survivor

December 27, 2012

Remember the Love, Celebrate the Life, Share the Journey.   Someone gave a lot of thought to those words, which have become something of a mantra for me.   At different times, different words have been important.  Right now the “journey” is important.   After five years, I realize this is a journey that I will be on for the rest of my life.

I remember early on attending a meeting of Gold Star mothers.   I looked around at these women in their 80’s mainly.  They had all lost sons in Vietnam.  They talked of grandchildren, the activities of other grown children, of their pride in past careers.  

How did they do it, I thought? How did they continue all of this and deal with the loss?  Had they pushed it far underground, was it forgotten, healed over? And then one of the mothers turned to me and said, “Today is the 35th anniversary of my son’s death”.  As she spoke tears rolled down her cheeks. The experience spoke to me then as it does now . . . a journey.

Is it better?  Is it easier?  No, it is just . . . different.   

The other day at bridge my partner innocently told me that about the wonderful morning she had experienced.  She went for a long beautiful walk and then like a special gift while she walked her son had called her.   Grief is like groundwater, you never know what will make it come bubbling up to the surface.   Her words brought everything right there. 

I would never receive that call again, never hear my son’s voice, and never feel that pleasure.  I had to walk away.  But I thought of all the calls I HAD received.  Everyday calls about everyday concerns.  Specials calls from the top of an observation tower at Guantanamo, from an aircraft carrier going through the Suez Canal, and so many loving calls from Iraq.   No, I was okay.   “Remember the love,” buzzed around me.

So many things still happen after five years:  

We just recently received a beautiful quilt, unsolicited, from a group of women quilters just because they remembered.   

On the back of our car is a sign about our son.  Seeing the sign, a former soldier tracked my husband down because he had served with our son in Iraq and had never known how to contact us.  

We wanted to do something special as this five-year anniversary of our son’s death approaches.   We established a scholarship at the police academy our son had attended.   So many friends and relatives contributed and sent us such loving notes about their happiness in this way of remembering our son.   . . . Celebrate the life.   

So we continue on our journey, a lifetime ahead of us.   We cling to each other and to the memories and we reach out to others, to family, to friends, to TAPS with all its the wonderful resources and to the TAPS family who can understand, support and just know how we feel after five years without.  

My son, Sgt. James S. Collins, Jr. was killed in Iraq on August 28, 2007. 
Marilyn Collins
Rochester Hills, Michigan


It's not been a year since my son is gone. I pray a lot and enjoy God's blessings of healing.

I know that there is not a "normal" way to grieve but I have tried very hard to avoid being angry, jealous, or bitter. I noticed I am tempted to be angry and bitter towards families around me whose children are home for Christmas. I'm ashamed of myself for that.

I felt I needed to put this emotion in writing in a safe place to help me deal with it.

Posted by: Kiyum at 12/28/2012 8:43 PM

Dear Marilyn,
As sadness and depression have become a profound reality in my life,especially at this time of the year, I found a glimmer of hope after reading your article. Your three insights helped me to reflect that my grieving has really just begun. I have a long way to go before I can "Remember the Love," "Celebrate the Life," and "Share the Journey." Thank you for telling your story as you remember your son after five years, and for giving me example, hope, and courage that healing is possible.
Posted by: Dorothy at 12/29/2012 9:17 PM


I read this post five days ago and each day since then. What a talented writer you are. I pray that your words have been as healing for you to write as I am certain they have been for other families to hear. Your pain comes through with each syllable, but somehow so does the serenity. Such deeply felt love and peace does not come without intense work. It is obvious that you are continuing along your path, however difficult the day or heavy the heartaches. We are all compelled to move forward, but the uncommon dignity and grace with which you carry yourself is a marvel to behold. God bless you.
Posted by: Amy at 1/3/2013 6:29 PM

God bless you.
Posted by: Luisa at 1/9/2013 10:45 PM

Please read our blog comment policy »
Leave a comment
Name *
Email *


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.

Go to:

Icon-Facebook Icon-Twitter Icon-Youtube Icon - Instagram Icon-Shop Icon-Photos