Saturday Morning Message: Helping Other Survivors
Author: Carol Lane
Often, people don't know what to say or do around a grieving person. This week's question was answered by survivors who remember what was supportive and helpful when they were first grieving as well as what they do now when a death happens in their network of family or friends. For many of us, just having someone listen to our thoughts and emotions without trying to fix the problem or judge us is the most important thing to do. It can also be comforting when someone takes the time several weeks later to connect with us.
As we progress, it becomes beneficial to suggest an activity to attend together. That could be a movie, a dinner out or a walk around the neighborhood. The picture this week shows a TAPS staff member sharing a light moment with a survivor at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar this past May. Letting someone know it is OK to laugh can be uplifting and valuable to the grieving person. This seemed to be the perfect place to include an article from the TAPS Magazine archives by Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D., CHT, CT, GMS, titled "Reaching Out to Others." The article offers some heartwarming advice about the circle we create when we help those who are grieving, which in turn comes back to help ourselves. In Darcie's words, "Come join us at TAPS and discover that we are a family circle, broken by death, but mended by love."
Another article titled "Grief 101: Advice to New TAPS Survivors" is an earlier Saturday Morning Message with comments from survivors about ways they found to benefit those newer to loss. These ideas, along with the helpful and supportive responses to the question from last week, should give many thoughts about how to be of assistance to those in need.
Questions are the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. In order to keep the Saturday Morning Message fresh, I am looking for more questions. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed in the Saturday Morning Message, you can email me at email@example.com. In addition to replies that are placed in the message, I also look for thoughts you have. You can write to me anytime just to communicate or to share your thoughts on what could make the Saturday Morning Message more helpful. Replies to the weekly question are best sent to me by Tuesday afternoon. You are an important part of this message, and I look forward to your questions or any ideas you may have.
One suggestion a survivor had was to include a song of the week, which is now a weekly section. If you have a song that is special to you or reminds you of your loved one, please send it along with a sentence or two about what makes this song distinctive.
Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message
When you look at the TAPS calendar of events, you will notice that TAPS offers many Seminars and Retreats. Survivors who have not attended TAPS events may benefit from reading what others have found helpful when they attended. So this week's question is: What are your fondest memories of a TAPS event? We look forward to your replies.
♫ Song for the Week
Caryn, mother of Nathan, sent the song this week, which is "You Raise Me Up" by Celtic Woman. Caryn wrote, "The first time I heard this song, watching the Celtic Woman on PBS, it brought me to a spiritual place of peace. But when I heard it again after Nathan and Micheal passed away it was even more uplifting. I felt like the two of them would always be with me!"
Answers from Survivors
From Cheryl, mother of Jack: I have not had much of an opportunity to help someone that lost their child as I did, but I have had several opportunities to help others grieve.
My son's teammate had lost a son, and our family had the opportunity to get together with them. We had them into our home for a home-cooked meal and let this mom who lost her son talk about him without us trying to fix it. She said that just letting her talk helped so much.
I work in a place that helps children with their grief. We help them learn ways to go through their grief. We let them share their feelings and help them express their grief.
I have a coworker who just lost her mother. I have not been through that, but I try to talk to her every day to let her know I care and let her know I will help her with whatever she needs. I give her a hug. Sometimes that is all you can do, but it is the best thing.
Sometimes, I share a book with others who grieve. I have given "Tear Soup" to a lot of people.
I do not know the best way to help people grieve, I just try.
From Ruth, mother of James: In doing for others, I remember the gifts that were given to me. Not wrapped presents but instead a gift of love. It is easier to remember the things that have been given to us, so those are the things on which I will focus. When we lost Jim, a man called from Portland, Oregon, (about 300 miles away) and wanted to come and take pictures of things that were going to occur. With reluctance, I agreed. He would take over 1,200 pictures starting with the plane landing to the final sound of taps. I wondered in the beginning just how he figured that this gift was of any importance. It was a year before the pictures were taken out, and as I sat slowly viewing picture after picture I realized what caring and loving friends we have.
The years have passed, and I still receive gifts from others. What I have learned to give to others traveling the same road is part of me - to extend a hand to comfort, an ear to listen and a heart to understand. Music is created when you say the name of a loved one, ask about the color of their eyes or ask to see a picture. It's about becoming part of their journey - not giving advice but instead helping them to carry their load. In giving to them, you will realize that they also give back to you. Grief is not a road we travel alone, and we do not walk at the same pace. Sometimes, you have to speed up to catch those ahead of you, but often you find yourself slowing down to help those coming after you so you can help them carry their load.
From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: I always try to help others out when I can, so here are some ideas I've come up with to the question: Being there for them. Sometimes, the smallest things can mean so much. Letting them talk and cry while you listen. Giving them a hug or a pat on the back to show that you care. Sending notes to let people know you care about their broken heart. Offering to help with little things that can be overwhelming at first like going to the grocery store. Taking the kids to school or doing something fun to give the parent some time to him or herself! Bringing a meal over or treating the grieving person by taking him or her out to eat. Offering to "hold down the fort" so they can get away for the weekend for some fresh air without everyone smothering them with all those questions, etc. Keeping in touch enough to show you really care without overdoing it by remembering they will need time alone. Driving them here and there if transportation is a problem. Just help wherever you see their need is and, by all means, if it's a military family get them to check into TAPS. I don't know how I'd managed without TAPS!