Saturday Morning Message: Peer Mentor Reflections
Author: Carol Lane
The TAPS Peer Mentor program is a gift for both the mentors and the survivors who become connected. At the beginning of my grief journey, TAPS was smaller and there were many who reached out to act as mentors when I called. The picture today is of my good friend, Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D., CHT, CT, GMS, and me at a TAPS National Seminar, where she spoke to everyone who was there. After her talk, we connected and I chose her as my mentor - even if she wasn't aware that I saw her in that role. She lit up my world when I thought the light had permanently gone out and was the first one to make me smile after the death of my son, Bryon. She was a special person who uplifted me, as well as many others, when I felt down and gave us all courage to continue.
As I progressed, I took the peer mentor training and became that special someone to a new survivor. As I gained more mentees, the Saturday Morning Message was born. I was working full time then and wanted to stay in touch with everyone on a weekly basis, so sharing through email was the best solution. Perhaps someday, I will post an early version of the message, so you can see the change. As the message evolved, we added a question and then a song each week.
One of our contributors, Andy, father of Danny, makes a playlist on Spotify of the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages along with a few other songs special to him. Andy tells me that it is now seven hours long now, and hopefully it can help make you feel more connected to the TAPS family when we are far apart geographically. I often listen to it while I am on the computer and think of those who have shared their favorite songs with us. I am so very thankful to Andy for making this list. The playlist is free and called "Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance." Let me know if you have trouble accessing the playlist
Then, last year at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar over Memorial Day weekend, I met my current mentee and her husband for coffee in one of the great shops near the hotel where the seminar is held. She wasn't able to attend the seminar but had the time to meet. It was the first time we had seen each other in person. I can't describe the feelings I had when I saw her walking toward me. We hugged and just took the time to get to talk, laugh and enjoy each other's company. At that point, I knew that even out of tragedy, we can make the most incredible connections.
Sandra, mother of Adam, shared a wonderful quote from an unknown author: "Grief is love with no place to go." Although it will never take the place of your loved one, one way to share that love is to experience the connection between a TAPS peer mentor and a mentee.
Read more about requesting a peer mentor or becoming one on the TAPS website.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 if you have 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.
QUESTION FOR NEXT WEEK'S SATURDAY MORNING MESSAGE
Caryn, mother of Nathanand spouse of Micheal, sent this question: Do you stay connected to your loved one's friends? How does that affect your healing?
♫ SONG FOR THE WEEK
Kathlene, mother of Peter, wrote, "My son died at age 38 in 2013, months before his birthday. Two years later on Oct. 17, 2015, I was awakened by the second hand of the bedroom wall clock being stuck on 6:41 a.m. When I kept hearing that sound I opened my eyes, looked at the time, and it struck me as odd because the battery was still good and there was no reason it should have gotten stuck at the minute of Peter's birth 41 years earlier. To me that was a God wink for sure. Also, the song "El Condor Pasa" by Simon and Garfunkel was playing, which is a favorite when thinking of my Peter.
ANSWERS FROM SURVIVORS
From Bonnie, mother of Andrew: I think having a peer mentor is terrific and being one for someone else is even more important. I have been a recipient of TAPS services and support for over seven years but never really had a mentor with whom to speak. I just often got overwhelmed with grief and called the TAPS helpline. There is nothing wrong with that, and I always got a great person on the other end of the line to talk and listen to me and share their own story. I love this organization so much, and that is why I am planning to do my best in whatever way I can to give back.
From Diane, mother of Caleb: TAPS has been such a lifeline for me on this journey. A very nice lady called me early on and became my mentor for a time. She was wonderful. She moved on, and I was sent another peer mentor who has been very wonderful as well. It's like my peer mentors were sent right from heaven. These have been the sweetest, most gracious ladies. We can share, laugh and cry. The bond is so meaningful and precious. TAPS has been such a blessing to me in so many ways. I am crying right now. I actually just got off the phone with my peer mentor. She is so great. Thank you, TAPS.
From Nikki, sister of Chad: When I first lost my brother, I didn't have a peer mentor. It was my younger brother and I navigating the grief waters alone. We not only lost our brother, but we lost our parents. They went MIA on us. They didn't see how we were doing or anything. When I was older and in a place where I was ready to share my journey with others, I reached out to TAPS to become a peer mentor. I didn't want anyone to go through such a loss alone. I want to be able to be there for someone. I want to be what I could have used so very early on.
Since becoming a peer mentor, I have someone I am mentoring and I also have my own mentor. Both are fantastic ladies. TAPS did a great job pairing us together.