Saturday Morning Message: Survivors Offer Support to New Survivors

Author: Carol Lane

Good Morning,

Survivors talked this week about ways to support those who are new to the path of grief. Some great answers were written and those who replied also shared their feelings about the journey as they continue. Most of them considered having someone to listen as the top priority and I would agree with that as well. There were some other interesting ideas presented like asking the person to get their nails done with you or giving a gift certificate to a restaurant for take-out food when it is too difficult to cook. I hope you enjoy these thoughtful replies to last week’s question.

Welcoming new survivors

Everyone is good at something. Next week, let’s share a knack that our loved one had for something. It can be anything serious or funny. It will be interesting to read about the ability or skill that our loved ones demonstrated in their lives.

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. If you have a question that you would like to see in the Saturday Message or to send a reply to this week's question, please email me at online@taps.org.

Hugs,
Carol

FROM TAPS SURVIVORS

From Shirley, surviving mother of Tom: I have already had the opportunity to help another person who has lost a loved one. I just held her and let her know I knew what she was going through. I told her to take the time to grieve. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Then I let her know that if she ever needs to talk to someone to just call and I would be there to listen. I always go and talk to her when I see her at church. She is also one of the women who helped me through one of my rough days. She just held onto me and cried and I cried right along with her. This has also helped me out to some degree. I still miss our son and the pain from that loss will always be there. One of the things I told her is there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

From Peg, surviving mother of Brian: After surviving the death of my son I feel I understand more of the emotional turmoil of losing a loved one. It has made me understand that sometimes the best gift for that survivor is the gift of just being there to talk and listen.

The grief journey is the most difficult journey I have ever experienced, but having the TAPS hotline and other survivors to talk and share with was a Godsend. Some days I could only read the postings and barely imagine life beyond my despair. But knowing I was not alone; others were there; and they too experienced the same grief helped me make it to a better place. It gave me hope and assisted me in navigating my way through the darkness.

When people today ask me how I am doing I use the following analogy. Instead of my loss being a hemorrhage, it is now just a slow bleed. It will always be there, but I am managing it and trying to use my loss to help others with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. It feels therapeutic to think I may be able to help the next Brian who transitions home and is damaged from war.

From Leslie, surviving mother of Eugene: The loss of a child is surreal and a nightmare. But you can't live in that world. I have another son (and now have a daughter in law and granddaughter). I needed him to function and live by seeing me work and love again. I needed to live. The family needed to live and I believe they took their cues from me.

For the holidays, I wanted to look good. I indulged myself....mani/pedi and color. Then went shopping for something new. I looked good and it made my family smile. They then thought if it's OK for me to do this, so can they.

Not every day is great, but I think of what Gene would do and what he would want. I think of him daily. I talk to the heavens. But I live. He would want us to live.

From Sasha, surviving spouse of Michael: I am still new to all of this. I have been a widow for six months. But knowing what I know now, I would have to say that you are allowed to cry. It does not make you weak. You are allowed to go in a deep, dark, crabby little place. Nobody will think badly of you. You distance yourself when you need to, but embrace those who are there for you. You are not alone in all of this. And when you feel the need, your spouse is still there for you giving you the inner strength you need.

From Rose, surviving mother of Nicholas: I would offer them hugs. Spend time with them and let them talk about whatever they want. I would send them cards and letters to support them. Those are things that helped me. I would bring them foods, but not right after the death. I might give them a gift certificate, so they could use it for take-out or eat in meals. I did not feel like cooking after the passing away of my husband and son. I take it one day at a time.
Holidays are especially difficult for everyone who has lost loved ones. The memories of the good times together and the pain of knowing that those times will not be again is hard. Tell new survivors that it is OK to cry and be sad. Do whatever gives them peace. I pray for my children, others who are grieving, and myself. Take things one day at a time with the Lord’s help.

From Caryn, surviving mother of Nathan: First thing I would say to them is that I am sorry they had to become a member of this "community", but know they're not alone. Those first days and weeks will not seem real, almost like a dream. You won't want others to be around you, but you "need" them. Only do what you can handle, even if it's just seconds at a time. 

Keeping a journal helps. You can write your emotions and also jot down things so you don't forget. I use multiple journals. When I go back and reread them I can see how far I've come which helps on those bad days.

Everyone will have input on how you should be dealing or coping, but only you know what you need. If you're struggling, PLEASE get help. Support groups like TAPS and others are wonderful.

I don't know if time "heals”, but it does allow you to compartmentalize your life so you can function. Find what works for you; the one thing I can say is you shouldn't keep everything inside and try to cope on your own. Talking and sharing can help bring you peace!


UPCOMING VIDEO AND TEXT CHATS

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Visit the TAPS Online Community Calendar for this week's schedule of text and video chats and other offerings. We have a virtual gathering most days of the week. Whether you want to share your story or just read how other survivors are sharing and coping, this online grief support community is a way for you to develop and strengthen your connections with TAPS.


Other Items and Events of Interest

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This Summer, Youth Programs is hosting TAPS Good Grief and Family Camp at Home through August 28. Each week, there are activities and challenges you can complete individually and as a family. Missed a week? No problem - all activities and challenges from previous weeks are available online. Join us for opportunities for you and the kids to connect to mentors and other families through Zoom sessions.

Make plans to join us for our next Virtual Military Survivor Seminar, August 21 and 22. We have new, dynamic sessions available throughout the weekend at no cost, with all of the resources, care and love we can offer, coming to you in the comfort of your home. We'll also have Share Groups, our facilitated support groups, where you can meet other survivors with similar loss experience. We look forward to seeing you online soon!

Save the date! Please join us for the Military Survivor New to Grief Seminar, once per week from September 3 to 24. Together we will work toward two primary goals. First, we will grow deeper understandings as we deconstruct myths about grief, explore the cognitive and physical impacts of grief, and seek to establish a helpful language around our own experiences. Second, we will establish community among our peers so that we have others who have a strong desire to accompany us as we continue navigating the ups and downs of our loss and grief.

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Did you lose your loved on due to an illness loss

If your military loved one suffered with a wound, illness, or injury, please consider taking our new Illness Loss Survivor Survey before August 18th, 2020, so TAPS can honor your loved one through our advocacy efforts. If you took the survey last year, we ask that you retake it as we've made important updates. Your response could help shape policy and legislation, and direct future TAPS programs and services. To learn more, email illnessloss@taps.org.

Have you lost your job, or have reduced work hours? Or are otherwise affected by COVID-19? If you are grieving the death of a loved one, and their life included military service, we'd like to hear from you. Your feedback will be used to improve TAPS programs and to communicate survivor needs to donors and stakeholders. Tell us more.

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AmazonSmile is a simple way for you to support TAPS every time you shop, at no cost to you. Visit smile.amazon.com, log in, and select TAPS as your charity of choice. Amazon will give 0.5% of your eligible purchases to TAPS.


About the Saturday Morning Message

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the Saturday Morning Message is to foster peer-based connection for support and encouragement.  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 Saturday Morning Message is edited for spacing considerations, grammatical corrections and may be used in other TAPS publications.  

To subscribe or contribute to the Saturday Morning Message email online@taps.org.

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 800-959-8277.