Saturday Morning Message: Finding Healing Through Volunteering

Author: Carol Lane

Good morning,

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.

TAPS Peer Mentors

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 online@taps.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.

Hugs,
Carol

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. 


UPCOMING VIDEO AND TEXT CHATS

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Visit the TAPS Online Community Calendar for this week's schedule of text and video chats and other offerings. We have a virtual gathering most days of the week. Whether you want to share your story or just read how other survivors are sharing and coping, this online grief support community is a way for you to develop and strengthen your connections with TAPS.


Other Items and Events of Interest

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This Summer, Youth Programs is hosting TAPS Good Grief and Family Camp at Home through August 28. Each week, there are activities and challenges you can complete individually and as a family. Missed a week? No problem - all activities and challenges from previous weeks are available online. Join us for opportunities for you and the kids to connect to mentors and other families through Zoom sessions.

Make plans to join us for our next Virtual Military Survivor Seminar, August 21 and 22. We have new, dynamic sessions available throughout the weekend at no cost, with all of the resources, care and love we can offer, coming to you in the comfort of your home. We'll also have Share Groups, our facilitated support groups, where you can meet other survivors with similar loss experience. We look forward to seeing you online soon!

Save the date! Please join us for the Military Survivor New to Grief Seminar, once per week from September 3 to 24. Together we will work toward two primary goals. First, we will grow deeper understandings as we deconstruct myths about grief, explore the cognitive and physical impacts of grief, and seek to establish a helpful language around our own experiences. Second, we will establish community among our peers so that we have others who have a strong desire to accompany us as we continue navigating the ups and downs of our loss and grief.

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Did you lose your loved on due to an illness loss

If your military loved one suffered with a wound, illness, or injury, please consider taking our new Illness Loss Survivor Survey before August 18th, 2020, so TAPS can honor your loved one through our advocacy efforts. If you took the survey last year, we ask that you retake it as we've made important updates. Your response could help shape policy and legislation, and direct future TAPS programs and services. To learn more, email illnessloss@taps.org.

Have you lost your job, or have reduced work hours? Or are otherwise affected by COVID-19? If you are grieving the death of a loved one, and their life included military service, we'd like to hear from you. Your feedback will be used to improve TAPS programs and to communicate survivor needs to donors and stakeholders. Tell us more.

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AmazonSmile is a simple way for you to support TAPS every time you shop, at no cost to you. Visit smile.amazon.com, log in, and select TAPS as your charity of choice. Amazon will give 0.5% of your eligible purchases to TAPS.


About the Saturday Morning Message

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the Saturday Morning Message is to foster peer-based connection for support and encouragement.  It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the Saturday Morning Message is edited for spacing considerations, grammatical corrections and may be used in other TAPS publications.  

To subscribe or contribute to the Saturday Morning Message email online@taps.org.

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at 800-959-8277.