Letters from TAPS: Time to Retreat

Author: Erin Jacobson

Summertime is here. A time of sunshine, family vacations, and days spent in the great outdoors. For many it's the time we most look forward to in the year. However, for those of us who have lost a loved one, the stark contrast of the summer brightness with our pain can make us feel even more out of place in the world we had known. Many of us question how we can enjoy the simple pleasures of this cheerful season when our loved one is no longer next to us.

Erin Jacobson

I felt that way in the months after my fiancĂ©'s death in July of 2007. The world I knew seemed to have been turned on its head and everywhere I turned I felt like I was overwhelmed with memories of activities and moments the two of us shared.   

The first thing I did after I found TAPS was go to a retreat for widows and widowed significant others. It was an unbelievable relief not only to meet other women who understood this loss, but also to travel to someplace new and try things I had never tried before. Some of the women I met that week I count as some of my closest friends to this day. Laughing one moment and having my eyes fill with tears in the next was completely normal in that space. It felt so good to laugh again and know that it was okay. I felt alive and happy in a way I hadn't felt since Jason died. 

TAPS Retreats are designed to bring survivors out of their comfort zone. We get the opportunity to see just how strong we are, even after losing someone so important in our lives. On my first retreat, I went skiing for the first time since I was little. I felt nervous going up onto the mountain, but being with the other women eased my fears. 

Each retreat's activities are rated on a star system to help survivors choose which one would be best for them. The light intensity or "recreational" retreats are rated as one star, and "extreme" adventures are three stars. Activities can range from the one-star level, with activities like Segway tours or kayaking, to more physically demanding adventures, such as rock climbing and whitewater rafting in our three-star retreats. 

Retreats are designed to create a strong sense of community and peer support among survivors by providing group activities and opportunities for conversation. We have retreats for parents, widows and significant others, siblings, adult children, and moms. We also have retreats that don't break down by relationship, but rather are for just women or just men. 

We also offer Wilderness Adventure Retreats for those seeking an opportunity to spend time in nature. These adventures challenge participants physically and foster connections with a small, diverse group of survivors. On our Empowerment Retreats we use a holistic approach to explore ways to move forward within our new normal. We hope you will consider joining us at a retreat in the near future.   

With warmth and care,

Erin Jacobson

Erin Jacobson is Senior Advisor, TAPS Outreach and Engagement and the surviving fiancĂ©e of Cpl. Jason Kessler, U.S. Army.