Saturday Morning Message: Life Changes
Author: Carol Lane
The picture this week is of TAPS volunteers working on sending out information to survivors. I thought it would be a good picture since so many of the responders talked about volunteer work they are doing. As for me, joining the TAPS organization as a Peer Mentor was a turning point. From there, the idea of starting the weekly Saturday Morning Message came. When I started working part time for TAPS, I noticed that survivors were sending me poems and other longer pieces of writing, so the monthly Writers’ Circle Newsletter was born. Through both of these publications and going to TAPS events, I have met others from across our nation who understand the pain, but we can also share the lives of our loved ones and enjoy each other’s company.
This coming Wednesday is the 4th of July and many of you have plans. Make sure you take some time for yourself and remember that the TAPS Helpline, at 800-959-8277, is available if you need it. With TAPS you are never alone.
The Saturday Morning Message will be posted as usual to those who signed up to receive it. The responses may also be used in other TAPS publications.Remember that you can write to me anytime just to communicate or if you have thoughts on what could make the Saturday Morning Message more helpful. I look forward to hearing from you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mother of Bryon
Question for Next Week’s Saturday Morning Message
There are so many TAPS Events for survivors. Looking through them, a question came to me that I thought would be interesting for our group. So the question this week is: What is one place in your hometown that would be good for a group of our TAPS family to visit? It can be a place or an activity like hiking or boating. We look forward to your responses.
Would you like to share a question or read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope. I encourage you to reply to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing email@example.com. I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. In order to have your reply included in the next week’s message, it is best to send your answers to me by Tuesday morning of the following week.
♫ Song for the Week
This week I would like to send you one of my favorite songs which is A Place in the Choir. I don’t think it has a lot to do with grief other than it brings a smile to my face. Sometimes when I feel down this is just the song that will bring cheer, so I am passing it on to all of you today.
You can also send your favorite songs for the song of the week section. Send your ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Answers from Survivors
Responses from Survivors to last week’s question: What changes have you made in your life since your loved one passed?
From Winona, wife of Clifford: Thinking about the last 3 1/2 years (wow, has it been that long?) since losing Cliff and the changes I have made. Some subtle while others are more dramatic. The first and most challenging change was to find my own identity. I thought I had that! Cliff and I knew who we were! Once again I had to redefine who I was walking this life without him physically by my side. I did this by honoring him and his memory by keeping his name alive and by talking about him. I attended TAPS National Military Survivor Seminars, I requested a Peer Mentor, and eventually helped others work through their grief. My faith in Jesus got me through some difficult times. It was not an overnight transformation. It took more time than I was willing to give with thoughts of quitting when grief hit the hardest. Pushing through I can finally say I am stronger and I know who I am.
Other big girl decisions I was faced with....selling our home, deciding where to move, selling a car, buying a car, and going back to work. There are many more. Each big decision was hard, because Cliff and I always did them together. But I did it! Not all at once, but when it felt right in my heart. I could not have written this with confidence last year. It has taken time and will continue to take time. One step at a time.
From Tom, father of Patrick: My son Patrick died in Afghanistan in 2011. For the next couple years, I attended TAPS seminars and the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminars. We decided to move to Dover, Delaware where I volunteered at the USO Center on base. Shortly afterwards I volunteered with Families of the Fallen, assisting families to get to Dover Air Force Base when they lose a loved one. I also assist at Fisher House, which houses the surviving families. I repair their furniture when needed. I was treated well when my son came through Dover, so my work is somewhat a pay back to the great care they take of the families in crisis after a loss of their loved one.
From Sheryl, mother of Adam: Some of what has changed in my life since Adam's death was planned, some not so much. Adam's father died three years before Adam, I started to plan retirement from my teaching position and a move to Iowa to live close to Adam and his family. Adam was 100 percent behind this idea and wanted me to be involved in his young son's upbringing. He also wanted to be better situated to help me. So moving 180 miles closer to my grandson made even more sense after that terrible day. Now it is my duty to keep Adam alive for his son. It is a job I don't want, but Adam wants me to do. In order to make sure I have as much time with Allen (4 years old) as I can, I'm taking better care of myself. I joined the YMCA to make sure I exercise during the the snow and ice season.....paying for it is a motivator. I am eating healthier and trying to cut back on sugar.
Finally, I am more careful with relationships. I treasure them more and work to maintain connections because we never know when we will move onto the next realm of existence.
From Bonnie, mother of Andrew and widow of Bob: The loss of loved ones binds us all together. I call it a club no one asked to join or ever thought they would be a part of. Hey, let's be honest here, none of us even knew this club existed! Okay, reality hits you in the face and voila, you are a part of this. You can ignore it, learn from it or you can discount it and never participate in it. It is your choice. I chose to use Andy’s death as a stepping stone going forward. I remarried my husband whom I had divorced after 23 years, but losing our son was a catalyst toward taking care of each other completely once again. My husband, Bob, suddenly died nine months after we remarried, but it was a blessing for the extra time we had together. I then realized that I needed to reach out to others who had experienced the same or similar circumstances as myself. Why not? The benefit I got was trifold — compassion, understanding and communion with others who were hurting in the deepest way possible!
From Merry, mother of Wesley: Some things I cannot change, but those I can, I hope that I am much more compassionate a person with those I meet everyday. We all have a story. We all struggle at times. I hope that I'm a good listener. I take more time to see God in His everyday creation, through my gardening. I'm trying to mend mistakes that I've made in my relationships. They are the most important treasures.
From Cheryl, mother of Jack: So many, many changes happened for me, personally. I actively sought out things I thought would help change the terrible, crushing, hurt in me. I read several books on grieving, maybe more autobiographies that were on the subject of loss of a child. Previously, I had no idea the feelings that would be inside of me and I wanted to alleviate them. I sought out TAPS and I went to counseling, which I still do.
Maybe the question should have a few other answers. I have a whole host of new friends who are Gold Star. We have a Wall of Remembrance and a desk and table in front with several things that honor him. We tell stories and share about him just like we do our other children. When I walk and learn new things, I relate to Jack and how he kept his active lifestyle, physically and mentally challenging himself always. We have different observances on certain days than before — Memorial Day, 4th of July, his birthday. I have really tried to seek life, embrace it, and enjoy the freedom, for I feel his ultimate sacrifice was trying to keep that path open for all of us living.
From Bob and Kitty, parents of John: The most exciting and lasting change has been receiving a new and caring family —TAPS. We have been accepted, encouraged, and loved wholeheartedly through many of its programs: seminars, retreats, Peer Mentors, and Teams for TAPS. The many lasting friendships are cherished.
Reaching out to others through peer mentoring is also refreshing and healing. To be in a relationship that helps one along a rough journey to a new normal is rewarding. Bob and I also minister through Grief Share, a 13-week grief support group Another change is the appreciation of life itself and how to make time and relationships matter with families, relatives, and friends. Hugs by the ton!
If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who participated in this week’s Saturday Morning Message, send it to me at email@example.com and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.