Saturday Morning Message: What is Success?

Author: Carol Lane

Good morning,

This week’s question about how has your view of success changed since your loved one passed brought in a lot of thoughtful responses.

After reading the reply by Bonnie Jo, mother of Andrew, I asked her to send a picture of something she has created. She sent this picture and I decided that it should be the opening one this week. I split her reply into two sections. The first was about her painting and the rest you will read later in the Answers from Survivors section. Bonnie Jo wrote, “I started once again doing some painting although I am a self-taught artist for the most part. It does allow me some time to get away from the mundane and mourning that never ends and express myself. It is fun and when I paint, for the most part, I do not think so much about anything else except for the masterpiece I am creating. It is a great release and who cares whether anyone else ever sees it?

Saturday Morning Message 

I never throw away any of my creations but I may cut them up and glue some onto cards or just send them in a message to others or use them on an envelope or package. Why not? Most people love getting homemade cards as they are getting to be rarer as I speak.”

Questions and songs are the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. In order to keep the Saturday Morning Message fresh, I am looking for more of them. If you have questions, topics or songs that are special to you and would like to see them appear in the Saturday Morning Message, you can email me at I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. 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 any ideas you may have.

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.


Saturday Morning Message

Question for Next Week’s Saturday Morning Message

This picture came from the TAPS Facebook page during the hurricanes that just struck our country. Although it is not perfect for those in the line of the western fires, it is meant for the people there as well. Along with our grief, it is hard to live through national disasters. Do you have a friend who has shone like a lighthouse when you were most down? Let’s honor that person by sharing him or her with others. Only the first name will appear in the message. Tell what that person has done for you. The question this week: Do you have a friend who has held you up during your time of grief? What did they do to guide you through?

Song for the Week

Caryn, mother of Nathan and spouse of Micheal, wrote, “Nate's favorite expression was 'No worries.' "Wonderful World" sung by Louis Armstrong makes me smile knowing I was fortunate enough to have been Nathan's mom and Micheal's wife. It reminds me of the wonderful memories I have of time spent with both, and it makes me smile knowing their love continues in the hearts of their families and friends!”

People have written to say that they had difficulty signing up for Spotify. I think I have the best link now. Try Spotify for a playlist of the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages. You can sign up for Spotify for free to listen to the playlist, which is called “Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance.”

Answers from Survivors

Anne, mother of Michael: I never felt success regarding my life. I have had many challenges in my life starting when I was very young and it continued into my adulthood. I always was happy when I could overcome each challenge that has been given to me. Illness and losses of the people that I have loved still have not dampened my spirit of making each day a happy one and spreading joy and love to others! I guess one could call that success, but I don't I feel that. It is a gift that God has given to me, and I use it every day!

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Yes, people define success differently. One can be successful at work or one might feel toilet training their little one is a great success. I raised two great boys into fine men. I was a successful teacher in public school and private teacher. One son was successful in the Navy and the other has his MBA and does great at work. Has it changed since my son passed? No, I don't think so. Now I am thrilled that my twin grandkids are graduating college next May and much as I am glad that the little ones can go potty by themselves or that a few can read grandma books now. I have loads of grandkids! That's a success in itself. All I can say is enjoy your successes big and small.

Allicia, daughter of Burr: Since I started learning to know my dad and other survivors, success means being able to love and honor Dad without embarrassment even though so much time has passed. I find I have been able to enjoy success in other areas of my life since I allowed Dad to be a part of my life. I no longer feel that fog and ache that comes with conflicted unexpressed emotions. I am now able to put more energy into living, moving forward, working and playing. Being able to love dad and my TAPS family has brought so much joy into my life and that in itself is success to me!

Bonnie Jo, mother of Andrew: What does success mean to me now? Interesting question as it can go back to what it meant to me years ago and how has it changed. For me, when I had my twins and was labeled “a stay at home mom,” everything changed. Before that, all my efforts were put into my career. Once I was a mother, all my efforts were put into my kids for sure.

As they grew I tried my best to revisit the desires I had for myself. Some worked out OK and others did not. Once I lost my son, well, let’s face it, who cared anymore.

Now, I am once again reaching out to explore my options which are a bit limited by my physical conditions and challenges. I decided to volunteer for the TAPS program as I could give back a bit, do some writing that I have always loved and at the same time do my best to help others in their grief journey. The success I get comes mostly from within and how I view it. Somedays are more “successful” than others. Probably you all get that and live the same.

Cheryl, mother of Jack:

I have to say since my son's death, that I would re-define success for me personally.
Success is in a lot of small things.
Getting up in the morning with a feeling of optimism, not doom.
Feeling accomplishments are success, not the amount of money earned.
Getting together with family, success.
Hugging a family member, a friend, a neighbor; that is success.

I feel different about so many things that the world may define as success.
When I go on a nature path and see the beauties there.
When I get out and take a jog.
When I get to visit with my mom and dad.
When I can talk about my son and not feel overwhelmed with missing him.
When I can enjoy visiting with my son's widow and her husband and their new baby.

Success now means enjoying things that come around in life.
I think that most of us that will reply to this will attest that success is different now.

Other Items and Events of Interest

Arlington Cemetery family at headstone

Join us on Memorial Day Weekend, May 28 to 30, for our 27th Annual National Military Survivor Seminar! We will be live streaming all of our general sessions with guest speakers.

Important Note: In-person registration is still open, but we are in a waitlist situation due to COVID occupancy restrictions in the State of Virginia. 

If you have any questions, email or call our Helpline at 202.588.TAPS (8277).

Learn More and Register


▶▶  Connect With Your TAPS Family 

You can discover all the opportunities to connect with your TAPS Family on our website at the TAPS Event Calendar.

About the Saturday Morning Message

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication contributed by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer-based connections for support and encouragement. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive place where we can openly share in a nonjudgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable. Content submitted for the SMM is edited for space considerations and may be used in other TAPS publications. The loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please call 202-588-TAPS (8277).