Saturday Morning Message: Reactions to TAPS Seminar or Retreat
Author: Carol Lane
Those who responded to this week’s question were very honest. Attending a TAPS event can bring up different emotions depending where we are on our grief journey. As you read the replies, you will see that each writer talks about feelings at the time and what the experience meant to them.
Several wrote about meeting others and forming a connection. The picture shows survivors with loved ones from different branches of the military connecting in a big hug. I thought this would be an appropriate picture for this week. I hope you find this Saturday Morning Message helpful as you make a decision on attending a TAPS event.
Remember, you can write to me anytime — to contribute, subscribe 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 email@example.com.
Mother of Bryon
Answers from Survivors
Responses from Survivors to the question: What TAPS seminar or retreat have you attended and what did you like best about it?
From Rachel, sister of Kenneth: I attended the siblings retreat this year in Charlotte, North Carolina. I didn't want to go originally and was only going because my Peer Mentor was going and I wanted to meet her. However, it was the most healing I've felt since my brother died. Having this time with just other siblings was what I needed. They understood how I felt and what I was going through without me having to explain it. It was the first time since Kenny died that I felt I could talk about him as much as I wanted, because everyone was willing to listen even if I cried.
One of the best parts was at the end when we went around the room and shared a memento of our siblings and the memories that went with them. Several of us were crying throughout, but there was always someone to give a hug, put an arm around someone or just hand out tissues. I felt so connected to these people. We walked into the retreat as strangers and walked out as family. We've all kept in touch since then and are planning reunions and trips to see each other. Having this time with only other siblings was just what I needed. Since attending that retreat I didn't even want to go to, I've made plans to attend the National Military Survivor Seminar and the National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar. I also have every intention of going to the next siblings retreat that is planned. I'm hooked!
From Charlene, mother of Devin: After losing my son, Devin, I have attended three seminars. The first in St. Pete’s Beach was too raw for me, since I was less than 6 months from my loss. The second was Phoenix and I was able to connect with others. I attended more of the workshops and felt extremely welcome and loved. The last was in Tampa, and I attended with my daughter who is usually a reclusive person. To see her open up, make connections and want to experience the event was so inspirational for me that I came out of my shell as well. We had such a memorable weekend that we’re attending in Phoenix again this year. I also have registered for the Women’s Empowerment Retreat in the Poconos. TAPS has thought of everything to make custom-made grieving that fits everyone’s needs. Thanks again TAPS.
From Cait, wife of Robb and mother of Dylan: To begin, I believe the seminars were truly a life-saving event for me. When Robb was killed in Iraq, I thought I would just melt away, but after Dylan died by suicide, I did not know how I was going to make it through the next day on a lot of occasions. The TAPS seminars and retreats were a Godsend for me personally. When I first read the question, I had to sit and think for a bit.
In the last 12 years I've been to a lot of seminars with TAPS and I think my favorite ones were the small regional seminars. When I was living in Washington State, I would drive up to Joint Base Lewis McChord or the Naval Base to attend a regional seminar. I really enjoyed those because they were much smaller than the National Seminar and this one was not on a specific date in the year. I would be able to connect with people that I already knew and I saw people I knew who were in the military. The breakout groups were smaller and more intimate. This, I think, is what I enjoyed the most. When I add all of them up, I discovered I'm not alone in this walk they call grief. I will be forever thankful for Bonnie, Darcie and everyone I've met at TAPS.
From Terry, mother of Anthony: My daughter and I attended a National Suicide Survivor Seminar in Florida several years ago. My first and only. I was overwhelmed with the emotions I felt just being with people and other parents who knew exactly how I felt. I went to several workshops and discovered a lot about myself and my emotions.
From Perry, father of Christopher: Though I have only been on two retreats and the Fort Hood Regional Seminar, I will tell you how amazingly good the Houston Men’s Retreat was. From the start of the event, we bonded as a whole. We were never split into smaller groups. The one exercise that did break us into a group had us working together as equals. As men we tend to focus on others and not ourselves, keeping our emotions inside. The exercises were done as a whole group with everyone together allowing us to express the emotions, we kept hidden. As men tend to be competitive this was no different, yet it brought us closer together. When anyone spoke, we had a hand gesture to say we felt the same way without interrupting the person speaking. We had free time at the end of each day where we would meet telling our stories outside of the event. During the closing of the event, I remembered something that Shakespeare had written that I paraphrased: We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he who shares his grief with me shall be my brother be he ne'er so vile and gentle his persuasion. We shared our contact information to keep in touch, and I even have the men in a group on Facebook messenger still checking in, knowing we are not alone. We even had our own anthem of sorts sharing the song “Brave” by Nichole Nordeman which is this week’s song of the week.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.
Question for Next Week’s Saturday Morning Message
This week’s question comes from Marsha, mother of Patrick. She sent a picture of a plastic jug of laundry detergent and wrote, “I still keep this in my laundry room, even though it's been empty for five years and the spout no longer works, because my Patrick bought it the last time he was home. I wonder what others hang onto that defies logic.” So this week’s question is: What do you keep that reminds you of your loved one? Tell us a bit about why you keep it. Next weekend we will be at the National Military Survivor Seminar, so answers will be posted on June 1.
Questions are the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. In order to keep the Saturday Morning Message fresh, I am always 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 email@example.com. I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. Replies to the weekly question are best sent to me by Tuesday morning. You are an important part of this message, and I look forward to your replies, questions or any ideas you may have.
♫ Song for the Week
Perry, father of Christopher, made a reference to the song, “Brave” by Nichole Nordeman when he wrote about the Houston Men’s Retreat, so I thought it would be the perfect song of the week. When he sent it, he wrote, “At the event several of the men took this song as a kind of anthem about how the time together had made them feel. It expressed our inside emotion and what it took for us to come to Houston.”
You can send me favorite songs for this song of the week section at firstname.lastname@example.org.