Facing a Life Without the One They Love, Coming Together

Author: Christine Park

Inspiring.  That’s the word I’d use to describe the Memorial Day weekend my colleagues and I spent at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp.  Adults and children, facing a life without the one they love, come together to support each other as they learn to cope.

Christine Park

There’s something special about this gathering.  Bound by their connection to their military “family,” they share their stories with the pride that comes from knowing their loved ones’ death was in service to their country.  No less painful, no expedited grief, but shared pain somehow makes the burden lighter.

The children, who attend the Good Grief Camp, bond quickly with the help of their assigned mentors – military personnel who offer their weekend to be a buddy to a grieving child.  Bereavement activities, mixed with lots of fun, help each child move along on their own grief journey, knowing they’re not alone in this experience.

Moms and dads, spouses and children, brothers and sisters come together to learn from and support each other.  Their stories are heartbreaking, but their time together is healing.  How privileged we felt to be included – to share, if just for a short time—their struggles with loss and their efforts to gain a “new normal” – positive momentum into what life holds next for them.

And oh, the volunteers!  A gathering of finer people would be hard to find.  Peer mentors, adults whose losses are less recent, are willing to help others with more recent losses.  This special group acts as an anchor and guide, listener and supporter, during the seminar weekend and beyond.

Our teams of New York Life volunteers helped set up for the camp, registered children as they arrived, coordinated the balloon release and many other  “duties as assigned.”  It felt good to be part of the big TAPS family.

This was our first year of providing support for TAPS.  Considering how important their work with military families is and how aligned it is with the New York Life Foundation’s focus on helping grieving children, I’d say the partnership is a smashing success.

Our thanks to TAPS for making us welcome.  Our admiration for all TAPS does and for all the terrific people who make it happen, staff and volunteers alike.  And our sincere best wishes to all the families who are in need of TAPS.  The people of New York Life salute you.

Christine Park is the Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and the President of the New York Life Foundation.