Saturday Morning Message: TAPS National Seminar Highlights

Author: Carol Lane

Good morning,

There are so many things to do at the TAPS seminars, but the one thing to which I most look forward is meeting others whom I only know from computer connections. Working from home on the chats and with the Saturday Morning Message and Writers’ Circle Newsletter, I don’t meet those I contact in person until that seminar. It is a thrill to personally meet those people from all across our country. We talk about our loved ones and share our personal journeys. To have a picture in my head when I go home and know I am not alone is the best thing about going to the seminar for me. You can view photos from last year's seminar and Good Grief Camp to see the many things that are available at the national seminar. You can keep very busy, but you can also just sit down and relax. It is all up to you. You can register for this year's seminar, which is May 24-28, on our National Military Survivor Seminar event page.

TAPS National Seminar

Today you will read the thoughts of other survivors. If today’s message makes you think of something to add about going to a seminar, please feel free to send your comments to me and I will add them to future messages.

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. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week’s Saturday Morning Message 

The question this week is a combination of topics sent from Bonnie Jo, mother of Andrew, and another from a list of questions one of the facilitators of a TAPS Care Group sent. Bonnie Jo wrote, “I often have had folks come up to me and say, ‘Oh, I see you are a Gold Star Mother’ based on my car license plate. I think that is quite wonderful and I appreciate someone recognizing it.” The topic from the Care Group was about those who say things that make you wonder why they would say something like that when they learn you are grieving. So the question this week can be answered either or both ways: What are some of the supportive things and/or what are some of the difficult things people have said to you? We look forward to your answers.

Song for the Week

From Cassie, wife of Zacharias: A song for you this week: “Primavera Anticipada” by Laura Pausini and James Blunt. You will hear it in Spanish first and then English.

Cassie wrote, “This is the song my husband said reminded him of me when he was on a detachment in Sicily many years ago when we were dating. It was the song that said to him, ‘This is the one.’ It was one of our songs that we danced to at our wedding in 2011.”

Answers from Survivors

From Kelly, fiance of Steven: I find attending (the National Seminar) a source of peace simply because you don't have to explain. Everyone knows what brought everyone there. Breakout sessions about specific losses make it even easier to find the "board of directors" of your personal TAPS tribe. These are the folks who will understand when you just want to whine, cry or curse or even better, simply tell a story about your loved one without it turning into more than a story about your loved one. Greatest thing ever. Highly recommend.

From Cheryl, mother of Jack: The awesome things about the event are that I got to attend the different meetings going on, according to what I felt my needs were. I kind of got out of my comfort zone and chose an art class where we made a collage. It was very fulfilling to me!

We got to go on tours of D.C. with the TAPS attendees. That made me feel we all had the loss in common, so I felt we appreciated the history in a different way!

I felt a bit overwhelmed thinking about going to the performances on the Capitol grounds so did not go. If I had the chance to do it again, I would go. Going to Arlington (National Cemetery) was emotional. It was the memory of the first time my husband, my son, his wife and I went. But I could not go watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We watched that with Jack.

It would be a great time for all who go. I hope if you have not gone, you will go.

From Ruth, mother of James: I remember our first trip well ... We traveled across this great nation flying high above the land, clouds surrounding us. We knew that if we could only reach outside we might be able to touch the son that had left us without warning. We wondered if this group of strangers could possibly help us understand our loss ... after all, they didn't know Jim. They had no idea how much we loved him. How much our hearts ached. Were we making a mistake? Our journey had started and there was no turning back. Our plane landed and there were the hustle and bustle of families gathering luggage, some with small children in tow. Several families got in the same van that we boarded. It wasn't long before we realized we were all headed for the same spot. Most of them knew each other and it didn't take long before their cheerful voices introduced themselves to us.

We went to our room, cleaned up and went downstairs. Suddenly several people gave us warm hugs asking about Jim. It was as though they could put their own hurt behind them. As the conversation went on we talked about our loved ones. As the evening passed on we were welcomed by so many people, I dare say I would never remember all of their names.

Long lines led to registration, but they passed quickly as we waited for our turn. Red T-shirts would become the dress of the day ... buttons with pictures of our loved ones to wear proudly on our chest. For some of us, registration was our first moment of putting a face to a person we had talked to on the phone. We discovered that like us, they too had lost a loved one.  

We have never received so many hugs. Now I have become a hugger at home. Classrooms were filled with others who had suffered a loss, none greater, none less, than our own. As the speakers worked their way through their talks, they all took time to include us in their speech. It was not just their story as we were so familiar with what they were saying.

Time for talk and laughter as meals were served. Each night different families sat together. You will never know how many stories we heard about loved ones. Pictures were always displayed.  So many ways have been used to display the pictures of our loved ones: sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles and more. I found myself looking at other pictures but aching to see my own son if only for a moment. He was our reason for being here.  

In the evenings, buses would line up outside and take us to different venues. So many wonderful places to see in Washington, D.C. Trips to Arlington, the lighted monuments, the Pentagon, baseball games, the Marine Corps Barracks and so much more. Some of us would stay back at the hotel by choice where small activities were taking place. It also gave us quiet time to learn more about our new family. We have listened to so many wonderful speakers, inspiring us to move on and become support for others. It is a gift to others when you understand their hurt and can give them unconditional love and understanding.

The days slipped by so quickly and before long we were headed back home. We didn't know where the days had gone, but our hearts were filled with new hope. As we boarded the plane and it lifted off rising high into the clouds, I was certain that I saw Jim, tall and proud on the edge of a cloud saluting saying, "Job well done, Mom and Dad. I love to see you moving on." 


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.