Saturday Morning Message: What Do Others Do About Vactions
Author: Carol Lane
Everyone's idea of a vacation is different. Mine involves either visiting relatives or going to the ocean beach. The place we go for our ocean retreat has changed. I haven't been back to the place we took our son and daughter when they were younger. However, this is a picture of a new place that was chosen by our daughter. We have added her husband to the family and now the beach lifts our spirits and renews our energy as we enjoy each other walking the shore and dining on fresh seafood.
This week survivors wrote a variety of ways they have faced the challenge of planning a respite while learning to live in the new normal. I know you will find the replies interesting. I want to thank all who wrote as well as those of you who read the message. You make the weekly message the comfortable space it has become.
The next question came from Diane. She would like to know: Do you wear commemorative jewelry or other attire, and do you wear them all the time or just to military events?
If you would like to send a response to the question of the week or have a question and would like to read strategies used by other survivors. You can reply directly to me by replying to this message or sending an email to email@example.com. 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.
FROM TAPS SURVIVORS:
From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: For many years we scheduled our vacation around Blake's schedule either for his coming home to spend time with the family or us going to wherever he was stationed. Upon his death all that changed. It was somewhat confusing at first to think of vacation without including him as a part of it. It was strange to think of not having Blake at the other end of the road. A bitter reality that he was no longer with us in body to go visit, catch up on the things that were going on in one another's lives, and reminisce the past. At first we really didn't know what to do with ourselves, so we started exploring other options. We started doing trips where we could experience different kinds of things to see and do now with just the two of us. Last year we took a trip to the East coast and explored several hundred miles of different Atlantic coastal towns. We walked through them and explored a wealth of historical towns, villages, and forts as we felt, smelled, and listened to the coastal areas. We just took our time and soaked it all in. Each place we stopped had its own uniqueness. We actually enjoyed our little trip which was the first time we'd left town with the idea of relaxing and enjoying ourselves since Blake's death. No meetings no business to attend to, no schedules. Just going at our own pace, sightseeing, and relaxing. We plan on doing the same this year in another area.
From Carole, wife of Lawrence: The first year or so after my husband died, I discovered that vacations and time off from school created a lot of anxiety. My children were very young at the time. I didn't like to have unscheduled time for them, because I was afraid that it would just magnify the reality that Lawrence was gone. I remember that I used to try to take them to visit family to help pass the time. When I started to feel a little stronger, like after the first year - I tried to fill up those times by doing really exciting and special things with my children. My husband was the "fun" parent, so I worked hard to bring fun back into their lives. I guess I also kind of hoped that if they could do new and fun things, they wouldn't miss their dad so much. I'm sure I overcompensated terribly. Now (10 years out from my loss), I involve the children in planning our free time and deciding how to spend vacations. I try to let each have a say in how or where we will spend our time. I am very aware that our time together at home is short and I try encourage activities together whenever I can. Since they are involved in planning, they enjoy it also.
From Janet, mother of Steven: My son had no children of his own, but loved his 4 year old niece very much. After his death, I planned the vacation of a lifetime for my granddaughter, daughter, and myself. We took a 7 day Disney cruise in his memory. He would have loved to see the excitement on Summer's face. It brought back so many happy memories of his visits to Disneyland as a child.
From Karl, father of Tre: I myself go on "gambling vacations" My son knew I loved to play the mindless slots. He would go with me and play in the arcade. When I took my boys to Vegas some of my coworkers scoffed. My boys and I had a great time! We went to Red Rock Canyon and Hoover Dam and the Mojave Desert. I just can't go back to Vegas yet as I want to keep those good memories alive. I can hardly look at the Stratosphere Hotel without tearing up. They always show it whenever they show a glimpse of Vegas on TV or in movies. When I go to my grief group, I always announce when someone says "I don't know what to do," that "I'm going gambling!" It usually gets a chuckle and lightens the mood a little. I still can't deal well with others' pain, so I try to use humor. That's the person I used to be before my loss.
From Leslie, mother of Eugene: There wasn't much money for vacations as I raised my boys by myself. We did get to go to a couple of places. Will I go there again? I can't put myself through the pain of reviewing what I did years ago with Gene. I go to different places. Sometimes I think about what he would enjoy. Sometimes I think about what he would do. And sometimes I just get to have fun with my grandkids and my music and not think. And yet, I believe he's with me always.
From Marcia, mother of Patrick: This year encompassed the second anniversary of my son's death as well as the TAPS National Seminar in Arlington, VA where I trained as a Peer Mentor. Then, I ran away. No, not in the generally accepted meaning of the term, but yes, I did take off in early May and didn't return until late August.
It was a summer of reflection and reintroducing myself to me. For two years I had zipped myself into a fraud suit every day, putting on a face to public, family, and friends as someone well in control, marvelously strong, and totally put together. And a complete fraud. This summer in every place I visited, I walked. And walked and walked. Miles and miles every day. I attended community suppers, worked stuffing food bags for the homeless, stopped and talked to seniors on park benches, all while permitting myself to remain exposed emotionally, to actually encourage feelings to enter.
Most family and friends really enjoyed my visits and are urging me to return; some were uncomfortable with me as I am now and I doubt I'll be invited to return. It's interesting how that's now OK with me. Before this summer I would never have attempted this. Who knows, maybe I'll do it again soon.