Saturday Morning Message: Finding Healing Through Volunteering
Author: Carol Lane
Volunteers are fundamental in any organization. TAPS uses volunteers in a variety of ways. At the seminars, there are those who come to TAPS to do any project needed to be done. Good Grief Camp mentors for TAPS children are active duty or veteran service members who volunteer their time. Then there are those survivors who are more than 18 months beyond their own grief and would like to become peer mentors who reach out to other survivors to give them hope.
The picture above shows a group of survivors taking the peer mentor training course at the 23rd Annual National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp this past May. This was how I participated in volunteering for TAPS after the death of my child, Bryon. Connecting with other survivors helped me as much as them. When we shared memories of our loved ones, we came to know them as individuals. We worked through the rocky paths and made plans to meet at the seminars. That is how the Saturday Morning Message was born. I wanted to make sure I connected with each of my mentees weekly, so I started a blog and added their responses the following week. In that way, we could read how others across the country were experiencing their journey.
This May, I had a unique experience. When I was at the airport ready to go home, I took a break outside before I went inside. A woman came over to talk because she saw my TAPS shirt. As we talked, she told me that her mentor was Carol Lane. I said, “That’s me!” She was one of the first connections I had as a peer mentor, but we never had a chance to meet in person. I found out she was in the area because she is a member of the Blue Star Mothers and laid the wreath for the organization at the Tomb of the Unknown on Memorial Day. We hugged and cried. Seeing her so proud of both of her children and doing something so special made it a moment I will never forget.
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. I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. 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.
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. One of our contributors, Andy, father of Danny, makes a free playlist on Spotify of the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages along with a few other songs special to him. You can sign up for Spotify to listen to the playlist. The playlist is called “Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance.” I often listen to it and think of our TAPS family while I am on the computer.
Question for Next Week’s Saturday Morning Message
Adra, mother of Kyle, sent this question: What online tools help you on your journey? I thought this would be a good question since TAPS has created a new website, and you have had time to work with it. We look forward to your responses.
♫ Song for the Week
Belinda, mother of Kyle, sent the song this week, which is “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey. Belinda wrote, “Danny Gokey was on American Idol. He lost his young wife tragically and later penned this song.”
Answers from Survivors
From Marcia, mother of Patrick: When my son, Patrick, died, so did my desire to be out and about in the community, among people. I dropped all the ways in which I used to engage with others — mentoring, painting, trailblazing, even the statewide Green Up Day activities. My first venture was becoming a TAPS Peer Mentor and eventually my desire to help others reawakened. Now, five years out, I tend to volunteer helping teens for specific activities rather than signing on to organizational leadership roles. Just as with so many aspects of my life before and after Patrick's death, my volunteer life now is one-to-one, making a connection, helping a teen redirect with understanding and compassion and respect. I think of this turn in my focus as a gift from Patrick — and TAPS.
From Kellie, spouse of Mark and TAPS Manager, Peer Mentor Program and Online Care: Becoming a TAPS Peer Mentor has brought many things to my table, the greatest has been seeing my mentee acquire wings that enable her to soar on her own. Watching her ascend to heights she thought, in the beginning, she would never reach brings me such joy!
As a mentor, listening is so paramount. You learn to step back and really hear what's being said. I also feel that phone communication is so important. In this communication age, the written word is great, however, voice inflection is totally lost. Often, you'll miss how much your mentees are truly hurting because they can't always communicate their brokenness in written word.
Being a mentor is likened to parenthood. As parents, we want to fix the brokenness in our children. However, we find that allowing them to think out situations and to act on their decisions, good or bad, teaches self-reliance and less co-dependency.
Feelings of exhilaration will be yours the moment you realize your mentees have acquired their wings and leave the comfortable nest of their mentor, seeing them soar on their own.