Saturday Morning Message: Thoughts on a New Year
Author: Carol Lane
It is a new year and for many people that means making resolutions that involve revising our present pattern of behavior or adding something to it. Before changing things, we need to ask if our lives will benefit from changing our behavior or continuing in the same way. When I ask myself questions like that, I find it most helpful to read or ask what others think to get some new ideas. The latest TAPS Magazine included an article titled "Letters from TAPS: Will There Be Continuity or Change?" by Emily Muñoz, TAPS Senior Advisor, Strategy and Communications. Emily talks about looking at what you are doing and deciding if it is causing you to feel a "sense of accomplishment" or a "nagging restlessness or dissatisfaction."
Anne, mother of Michael, wrote to share an activity that helps her feel a sense of accomplishment. Anne wrote, "What I always do to uplift my spirits at holiday time is that I reach out to others who I feel are hurting or have experienced a loss of a loved one. I had four friends from high school who have kept in contact for so many years. One of them recently passed away, and I call her husband frequently because I know what he is going through. On June 6, 2015, I lost my sweet husband John (Buddy), so I know the pain of loss! My husband was my rock after we lost our sweet son, Michael, in the Marine Corps while test piloting the Osprey helicopter. Unless someone has walked the walk they do not have any knowledge of losing a loved one! I am so happy that I can uplift others who are hurting!"
Some more thoughts on how to make small changes to support ourselves come from another TAPS Magazine article titled "Seven Grief Strategies for the New Year" by Bradley Stetson, Ph.D. Often, we think about things that will help others, but we also need to consider what might help us to heal from the death of a loved one. His article lists things we can do to focus on ourselves when determining what is working and what isn't.
Here is a partial list from that article:
- Write yourself a comforting and encouraging letter. Imagine you had a friend for whom you cared deeply, and imagine that friend just experienced the death of someone they love very much. You would want to help them, comfort them and encourage them. Now substitute yourself for that friend.
- Buy a big calendar, and use it. Appointments like "movie with me" or "journaling with me" make it possible for you to always tell others, when asked to go somewhere or do something, "Let me check my calendar, I may have an appointment." This way you can decline in a socially graceful way. If you want to accept someone's invitation, you can always break an appointment with yourself.
- Move your body, move your mind. Pick short, achievable goals, like a short hike, a walk around the block, a bike ride to the park.
- Listen to the music. Music is therapeutic and soothing. Throughout history, music has been central to the expression of human values and sentiments.
You can listen to the music from previous Saturday Morning Message songs of the week. Andy, father of Danny, makes a playlist of the songs that are shared along with a few other songs special to him. The playlist is free and called "Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance."
Taking care of yourself is not a natural thing we are taught as children, but it is important when we are grieving - even after what others consider a long period of time. Birthdays, angelversaries and special holidays can be hard no matter how long it has been since the death. I like these ideas in Bradley Stetson's article because they are not what people typically think of as New Year's resolutions.
TAPS can also help in various ways. You can find a consolidated list of ways TAPS can support you on the TAPS website. It is titled New to TAPS. This list is worth considering even if you are not new to TAPS.
Would you like to share a question or read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. You can also submit favorite songs that are meaningful to you. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.
In addition to the ideas shared below, we can also honor our loved ones by communicating with each other through writing. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another. I encourage you to reply to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing email@example.com. In order to have your reply included in the week's Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send them to me by Tuesday of the following week. This week's question is located below my signature. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message.
QUESTION FOR NEXT WEEK'S SATURDAY MORNING MESSAGE
At TAPS, we look at one day at a time, so these ideas are not meant to be yearlong accomplishments, but it would be interesting to hear what survivors are thinking as we put one foot in front of the other in the new year, so the question of the week is: What are you planning to start or continue to do that will give you a sense of accomplishment? I look forward to hearing from you.
♫ SONG FOR THE WEEK
Caryn, mother of Nathan, sent the song of the week, which is "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison. She wrote, "It's a reminder to me to be patient, and in time I'll be with my family again. And in the meantime, they are in good hands!"