Saturday Morning Message: Advice for Another Survivor

Author: Carol Lane

Good Morning,

This week the survivors who wrote answered the question, “Knowing what you know now, what would you offer to another person who has lost a loved one?” There were many ideas to contemplate and Karl sent a poem that came from the Internet which I think you will find meaningful. I couldn’t find an author, but I think it says a lot about how a grieving person feels. Thank you to all who wrote in as well as those of you who read these messages.


Those of you who have come to the TAPS seminars have most likely heard Darcie Sims, Ph.D., CHT, CT, GMS speak. In addition to her other speaking engagements, she is doing a talk radio show that you can access on the Internet on WebTalkRadio called the Many Faces of Grief. It is not specifically for the military, but encompasses all grievers. I think this may be helpful as you can download it at your convenience and it is free. On the show, Darcie talks with another person who has studied grief and its many aspects. She is adding a feature called “Dumb Things That People Have Said to the Bereaved” which I thought was appropriate for this message as today we share the opposite which are the positive things to say to a grieving person.

I am always on the lookout for questions that you would like to see in our Saturday Messages. You may send them to me anytime. Make sure that they are general as we have many different survivor connections.

Once again, I thank you for reading this message. The question for next week is: Do you have dreams about your loved one and would you share one?


Advice for Another Survivor

From Frank (Casson), surviving father of Joseph: Get ready for an emotional storm. Blue becomes green, and every decision seems like life or death. Be ready for the people that want to help? Some have intentions that are good……. others? Make no major financial decision or any real hard decisions until properly counseled. That means, let the family have a say, but find a professional for the experience. Think short term. By all means grieve. Cry, throw a fit, kick your feet, and then pray. I don't care to whom or what. Know that what you feel is real, as it should be. No one, but you will know when enough is enough. If someone tells you it is time to move on, well, I can't say here what I want to and have said. Find TAPS or any other grief support group. Do it soon. I didn't, and all around me suffered. Please, seek professional help if you need it. One tragedy is enough. Good luck and God speed. Welcome to the only club none of us wanted to belong to. Know someone cares, at least I do.

From Chris (Clore), surviving mother of Peter: Ask questions. Try to understand all the circumstances of their military career and death. My son was killed in an ambush while patrolling. Thankfully, he was the only one killed that day. His friends made a point to tell us all the details that they could. The news reports on national news were not accurate, but the stories and details his friends shared with us, have helped us tremendously. We knew our son as a kid and young man, but we didn't know him as a Marine. I think, he wanted to protect us. Now we continue to keep in touch with his friends and continue to gather stories so we keep his memories alive.

From Caryn (Fitzgerald), surviving mother of Nathan: First thing I'd say to them is, "It doesn't feel like it now, but you will survive this!" And I can only say this, because not only did I survive the suicide of my son, Nathan, on Jan 28, 2011, but 8 months later the death of my husband, Micheal, from a heart attack.”

Next, I would strongly suggest they not attempt to go through any part of this alone! You could say for example, “I know you feel like you want to be alone, or that you can handle it all. The crazy part is your emotions will be all over the place for quite some time and that's why you need some assistance. This will help you keep it all straight, especially in the beginning!”

Last, “Remember that you're never alone. You can use T.A.P.S., a private counseling service, and/or a support group on or off- line. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to seek help. And continue with that help for as long as you need it! T.A.P.S., on-line support groups, family, friends and my journals are what keep me sane. Please find what works for you!”

From Robin (Hefner), surviving mother of Shawn: The first year after Shawn was killed I planned a Celebration of Life party. I would have loved it if all his Marine brothers could attend, but I knew that was going to be impossible, so I put out a request to all that knew and missed Shawn to help me in a book of remembrance. I asked them to write a story about Shawn, what they miss most, or a funny story or even the one that mom did not really want to know about, but it was still a story of Shawn. The response was good. I printed the stories along with a picture of the story teller and put them in a scrapbook and simply called it "Shawn Life Stories". The stories came from childhood friends, teachers, Marine brothers, family, and just those that remembered his smile and saw some of the really dumb stuff that he did that is now known as "living life to its fullest" This scrapbook helps me see that in his short, yet full 22 years, Shawn lived a full and happy life.

From Leslie (Blei), surviving mother of Eugene: What would I offer to a new member of this club that no one wants to join......”Your grief is yours and do not let anyone tell you how to grieve or what to feel. When the wound is new, you are raw and you are allowed to be however you want and need to be. Your pain is unimaginable. You will never get an answer to the question, ‘Why?’ Eventually you will find a new normal. There is no time frame on that or anything else. Just remember your family and friends are suffering, too. You are loved and not alone.”

Rebecca (Pollino), surviving mother of Griffin, sent this paragraph that addresses her son, Griff’s special knack. It came in after the original answers were posted, so I wanted to share her thoughts with you today. Griff, my son, in so many ways has this "I can do" demeanor. Whenever they were out on the Mike boats & something happened, I was told they'd have to find out what boat Prentice was on, because my Griff could analyze & fix anything. Griff built his own VW Coupe. He got the body, the motor, & analyzed what where & how everything else should fit in. He taught himself. Griff also wrote poetry and was artistic. In the ARMY he was humble and didn’t brag about himself. One day they were playing basketball & the SSG told me that Prentice was great at it. Griff then told him that he played basketball in high school. Griff didn't tell the SSG or any of the other soldiers that he lettered in basketball, along with a drama letter, and an academic letter. Griff's smile could light up a room. Griff was also Mr. No Fear...he made his own snow board and snow boarded down a steep hill. He wasn't afraid of anything...Griff loved roller coasters! Griff gave 100% plus to everything. Griff's gifted creativity always came out on Halloween. The last year on Halloween, Griff designed his own RED Bull costume. He was really the Red Bull! Everyone liked and thought a lot of Griff. He was kind & a good friend to all.

Other Items and Events of Interest

Arlington Cemetery family at headstone

Join us on Memorial Day Weekend, May 28 to 30, for our 27th Annual National Military Survivor Seminar! We will be live streaming all of our general sessions with guest speakers.

Important Note: In-person registration is still open, but we are in a waitlist situation due to COVID occupancy restrictions in the State of Virginia. 

If you have any questions, email or call our Helpline at 202.588.TAPS (8277).

Learn More and Register


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You can discover all the opportunities to connect with your TAPS Family on our website at the TAPS Event Calendar.

About the Saturday Morning Message

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication contributed by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer-based connections for support and encouragement. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive place where we can openly share in a nonjudgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable. Content submitted for the SMM is edited for space considerations and may be used in other TAPS publications. The loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please call 202-588-TAPS (8277).