Saturday Morning Message: A Change of Purpose After Loved One's Death

Author: Carol Lane

Good Morning,

Our life is forever changed after the death of a loved one. This week's question was about doing things that honor our loved ones as our purpose in life changes. Jeanne, mother of Todd, sent this link to the "Open to Hope" radio show in which she was interviewed. Jeanne is an artist who has created many paintings including one series titled "Losing Todd: A Mother's Journey." This painting is the first in a series Jeanne painted. She writes, "They were Todd's shoes - his red leather baby shoes purchased in Hungary where we lived when Todd learned to walk." 

Peggy Weaver's Shoes Painting

Think about the things you do well and consider using them to honor your loved one while touching others. This week, several survivors wrote about what they are doing, which you will read later in the blog. 

One idea to think about is the TAPS Peer Mentor Program. You can request a peer mentor who is at least 18 months beyond their own loss, has had training and can connect with you through a variety of communications. Later, you can decide to become a peer mentor yourself. As I have said before, that is how the Saturday Morning Message came to be. There were a group of survivors with whom I was in contact as a peer mentor and this was a way to connect weekly. 

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. 

I am looking for songs to feature as the song for the week. Please send me a song that has touched your heart and a few sentences about why it is special. 

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 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. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

The 23rd Annual TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp is coming up May 25 - May 29. There are a few things that are important for you to know about the National Military Survivor Seminar. I thought it would be helpful for those who have never been to a TAPS Seminar to read the answers to this question: What did you find most beneficial to you at a TAPS Seminar? We look forward to your answers.

There are a few things that are important for you to know about the National Military Survivor Seminar.

Donated Airfare: TAPS is pleased to be able to offer, through the generosity of the Fisher House Foundation, a limited number of flights for survivors attending the National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp. The deadline to apply for donated airfare isMarch 30.

Scholarships Available: If the registration fees or lodging are barriers to your attending, please let us know. We understand that the costs associated with attending this Seminar may prevent some from being able to join us, and we want to be sure everyone has access to this loving support. We are able to offer registration fee waivers and lodging assistance based on need and upon application. The deadline to apply for a scholarship is April 26

 Song for the Week

Joann, mother of Blaine, sent the song for this week, which is "You Should Be Here" by Cole Swindell. The words are so meaningful to all of us. 

Answers from Survivors

From Belinda, mother of Benjamin: Benjamin was my baby even though he was 42 when he died. I can't hug or cuddle him anymore, but I now volunteer as a cuddler to drug-addicted babies at our local hospital. It fills a void in me! I hold them, feed them, change diapers and, yes, I have even been peed on, but God has allowed me to do this. As I said, my son was a grown man and doesn't need me anymore, but the babies do and being needed is what I need.

Peggy Weaver's Comfort CreaturesFrom Peggy, mother of Cody: I never really thought about having purpose before my son, Cody, passed. However, when he took his life I made a vow to him that I would not let his death be in vain, and I have kept true to that. Two years after his death, my family and I came up with the idea of creating Comfort Creatures for children of the fallen regardless of relationship or cause of death. We began sewing and creating and, to this point, have made and distributed over 2,000 creatures in my son's honor. Cody generally had a love for children, and he was so good with them. I know Cody was young at 18 years old and lived a short life, but he has inspired me in ways I never knew possible. I would have never seen myself or my family doing something like this before his death. Making these creatures has given my family purpose in life again. We have distributed these creatures at TAPS Regional and National Seminars, Snowball Express and even to an orphanage overseas. This year we plan on continuing this and will be trying to extend this into Survivor Outreach Services as well. 

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Since the death of my son I have been more aware of people, places and things. I need to put my phone down more but am working on it. I do make sure my many grandkids know who we are and what we do because we are interested in them. They are of various ages from one to 21. And we are having our 10th grandchild in August. My Eugene would have been delighted with all these kids. I am sure he would have had his own team!

We may be busy, but we make time for all the kids and grandchildren. That seems to be the biggest change - getting out from behind the piano and enjoying family.

From Rebecca, mother of Griff: I crochet scarves, hats, afghans, coasters and totes and make themed jars and framed jigsaw puzzles in honor of my son, Griffin. I sew labels inside the items or double-tape the jars and framed puzzles that say "Wraps of Love In Memory of Sgt. Griff 08.23.08" with a blue heart on the label. I make all of the items. I give some to my VA counselor to pass on to those who've had a soldier join heaven's military, and I take some to TAPS events to give to those who also have hurting hearts. I give to others to put a smile on their face.

I do stitches that have two-three crochet patterns, five-row or five-stitch patterns, eight-four stitch patterns and one and three crochet patterns (like one single crochet then a triple crochet) or one of one stitch and three of another stitch.

I do 23 because my son, Griff, joined heaven's military when he was 23 on Aug. 23. Five stitches because Griff was born on Nov. 5 and is an E5. I use 84 because Griff was born in 1984. The 13 is because Griff's bar mitzvah took place when he turned 13.

I use the jars that candles come in. I wash them out and remove labels. I put the stickers on the jars with a specific theme - flowers, birds, animals, beach/lighthouse, holiday, thoughts and especially a military theme. Then, I cover the jars with two layers of Mod Podge. They can be filled with someone's favorite candy. The receivers of the jars have enjoyed receiving them because they're personal.

I like to do jigsaw puzzles, so I will do specific puzzles that I know someone would like. Then, I  Mod Podge them twice on the front, put colored scrap paper behind the puzzle and frame it as a present. Family friends have really liked them and put them up on their walls.

When Griff gave me a jigsaw puzzle for a present, I would do the same with each puzzle. I look at them right before I go to bed because they're right across from my bed. My most important, favorite presents are those made by my Griff.

Doing things that are made from my heart helps with my own hurting heart.

From Adra, mother of Kyle: We lost Kyle, our oldest son, on Jan. 22, 2015 to the ravages of post-traumatic stress. Kyle fought so hard to make his life work after he came home. But one thing after another deteriorated, including his mental health. Along the way, there were many people that came into Kyle's life and walked alongside him and many that Kyle came alongside as well. Fighting for his children, even just to visit, was so important to Kyle. So, for me, I've worked really hard to put aside my feelings, and sometimes to channel them into passion, in order to help homeless vets. I'm a grant writer, really, but I took on the management of two major grants for our community. I've now asked to step back from that responsibility. My next mission is to regain access to Kyle's children and fulfill my word to him that I would never give up as their Nana and they will know their daddy loved them. He was just too sick to survive. What else will I do? I'm thinking that I'd like to do something related to service dogs for vets impacted by post-traumatic stress. We'll see.

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. 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 SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.  

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 at1-800-959-8277.