Ready to Mentor – Ready to Heal
Author: Cella Logan
Finding Purpose through Helping Others
At a 2019 regional seminar in Jacksonville, Florida, I became a TAPS Peer Mentor. I felt ready to help guide other survivors through their journey of loss, heartbreak, unknowns and the life of widowhood. At that time, I was only 5 months into my new career as a Military Spouse Advocate with the state of Florida. I work with active duty spouses helping them find their purpose, mentor them and get them acclimated in a new city and state. The more I got out of my shell and gained confidence to share my life, the more I realized I was not only ready to mentor other military spouses and survivors but I was also ready to heal. Every day I see the struggles and triumphs of these families and while I may be helping them, they in return have helped me to again find purpose and strength in my life.
Cella's son Nathan helped place flags at a national cemetery.
Serving as a TAPS Peer Mentor has taught me that I’m stronger than I realized. The experience of losing a spouse, becoming a widow and a single parent changes your world completely. Though I have always been pretty independent throughout my life, I grew to embrace being a family of four and being comfortable with the simplicity of our life. I got to experience what love was through the good times and also the struggles of marriage with small children and my husband who was living with PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury). After my husband’s death I went into action mode and kept myself busy and put the grief work aside so I could continue to show the world “I got this.” Yes of course I did some work to get through my loss but that first year I was still not understanding that my husband was really gone.
In May 2019, 21 months after Daniel died, I attended the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp in Arlington, Virgina. I was introduced to the Veterans Affairs Director of Survivor Relations. Through our conversations she had asked me if I would like to share my husband’s experience with the VA, my experience as a caregiver and as a survivor to help others in the future. I sat with her team for four hours and everything shifted after I released some of the feelings I had bottled up. I knew from that day on I wanted to advocate for other survivors, and I wanted to help others who needed that support just like I needed it two and a half years ago.
My boys and I had finally created normalcy two years after my husband’s death and then COVID-19 changed everything in a blink of an eye—not only our life but so many people around the country and world. Experiencing the sudden loss of my husband was life changing and in a weird way prepared me for this pandemic. I learned it was OK to ask for help. I had my TAPS family there for me immediately, my church family stepped in when needed and I had my sister tribe whenever I needed to vent and cry. My oldest son was diagnosed with a learning disability right after Daniel’s passing and I knew that he and I were going to struggle at home.
I suddenly became a teacher, a stay-at-home single mother, a referee to a toddler and a grade schooler, a personal chef and was now working from home full time. How was I going to make this work without our life falling apart again?
The family shared a last basebal game together.
Corporal Daniel Logan in Iraq
Cella and her children enjoying a hike together.
What I have now that I didn’t have two years ago was my designated self-care day with therapy. The end of last year I started telehealth with Cohen Veterans Network to help process my grief, work through some depression, anxiety and gain tools to live life as a single parent and life with grief. I continued to utilize telehealth not only for myself but for my boys. We had a community of people helping us virtually, but I had to initially have the strength to ask for that help.
Seven weeks into this quarantine life we have adjusted and have had to be creative. My boys have become pros in Zoom and Microsoft teams. They are artists now from their daily art classes from Art for Kids Hub on YouTube, they have weekly Zoom calls with their best friends, they now talk more to family in California, and they look forward to doing their daily dances and yoga with GoNoodle and Cosmic Yoga. We make the effort every day to walk around our neighborhood and go to the beach to make sure we’re getting enough fresh air and exercise.
I connect with other survivors and mentees in the evenings when there is downtime to relax. Some evenings I’m able to get on a TAPS chat, other times I have calls with my widow sisters and most recently there has been a group of us chatting about our monthly book of choice.
Becoming a Peer Mentor has been healing in so many ways—something I honestly didn’t expect. I get to listen more now rather than have to tell my story all over again. I help motivate survivors to find their purpose, heal, and help them surround themselves with a supportive ‘family’ they never expected to have after losing part of their own family. Mentoring has changed my goals for myself and my two boys. I have been motivated to finish my degree in social work and pursue my goal of going to law school.
Peer support is so important not only for other survivors to know they’re not alone in this journey but also for ourselves. It gives us purpose again in our life. Mentoring and being a mentee helps you to grow and evolve. In my life as a surviving spouse and TAPS Peer Mentor, my heart heals when I get to help another survivor know there is hope, love and comfort in her life.
Cella Logan is the surviving spouse of Corporal Daniel J. Logan, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran
Photos courtesy of Cella Logan