QUICK LINKS    CONTACT US
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Caring for the Families of the Fallen
Call 24/7
800-959-TAPS (8277)
Caring for the Families of our Fallen Heroes
Donate Today
 
TAPS Online Community - Blog
add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

TeamTAPS
Create Your Custom Team TAPS Experience

July 25, 2016

Sports and endurance events are a unique and memorable way to honor your loved one while spreading awareness about TAPS. At Team TAPS, we want to help you pay tribute to your fallen hero through sports events, and there are a variety of ways to get involved.

If you want to lace up your running shoes and don the TAPS singlet, sign up for a Team TAPS premiere race. We’re excited to announce that registration is now open for the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 24-26. Dust off those princess tutus and join us in Florida! Visit www.teamtaps.org for a full list of upcoming races.

There are also opportunities to participate in custom endurance events. Run to support TAPS on your schedule, at your pace, with the new Team TAPS Our Memorials Move Virtual Run/Walk. You choose your distance, time and location. Run or walk your mileage all at once or over several days. Complete your course on a treadmill, a local trail or a community race near you, and get a medal to show off your hard work! Sign up for the TAPS virtual race by Aug. 31.

Team TAPS is also focused on helping survivors create their own endurance activities that honor their loved ones in their hometowns. One of these highly successful local events is the Andrew Sipple Memorial Day Swim Event: Laps for TAPS. The event continues the legacy of Spc. Andrew Sipple while raising money for the TAPS mission. Andrew was an active member of the neighborhood swim team. Now, the swim team and community join together to honor Andrew through a lap swim fundraiser and community breakfast for donations. You can learn about other hometown events in a recent TAPS Magazine article.

Whether it’s an annual hike, swimming event, bicycle race or sport of your choice, we’re here to coach you along the way. For specific guidelines and general recommendations to get started, contact Team TAPS at teamtaps@taps.org.

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

Men at Retreat
Saturday Morning Message: How Grief Changes Vacations

July 23, 2016

Good Morning,

The changes after the death of a loved one can be problematic for many survivors, and one of those changes is how to take a vacation. Since this is the time of year many people choose to take a vacation, I thought this would be a good question as there might be survivors wondering what others do. I thank those who replied this week to the question as you will see some different thoughts on the topic.

In addition to the replies this week, you may want to read an article from the TAPS Magazine archives called "Vacations, Who Needs 'Em?" written by Betsy, mother of Bradley. In the article, Betsy and other survivors offer advice for taking vacations after losing your loved one.

Betsy first talks about those who are early on in their grief journey. She writes, "Sometimes it's hard to figure out where to start. A first step could be taking a day trip or planning a weekend away. This affords you the option of returning to your comfort zone sooner."

For those with children, Carol, spouse of Lawrence, talks about what she does when planning a vacation. She writes, "I try to encourage activities together whenever I can. Since they are involved in planning, they enjoy it also."

Janet, mother of Steven, said, "After his death, I planned the vacation of a lifetime for my granddaughter, daughter and myself: a seven-day Disney cruise in his memory. It brought back happy memories of his visits to Disneyland as a child."

You can also consider going to a TAPS event or retreat where you know your grief will be understood. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, so feel free to read what others have done and create your own vacation ideas.

Would you like to 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. Replies to this week's question are best sent to me by Tuesday afternoon. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me at carol.lane@taps.org and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them. 

One suggestion a survivor had was to include a song of the week, which is now a weekly section. If you have a song that is special to you or reminds you of your loved one, please send it along with a sentence or two about what makes this song distinctive. 

One of our contributors, Andy, father of Danny, makes a playlist on Spotify of the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages along with a few other songs special to him. The playlist is free and called "Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance." I often listen to it while I am on the computer, and I think of our TAPS family. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message 

The question this week comes from Sandra, mother of Adam and spouse of David. She needed to go to a funeral recently, so she hoped she could gather some strategies other survivors use when faced with wanting to support friends and loved ones but find funerals difficult to attend. Her question is: How do others approach funerals when friends and loved ones die?  

Song for the Week 

This week's song of the week is actually a video put together by Terri, mother of Jason, that combines the song "Arms of an Angel" by Sarah McLachlan with pictures of Jason and their friends and family. The video is called "PTSD: Fallen Soldier Lost to Suicide." I found it beautiful and knew it just had to be included in the Saturday Morning Message

Answers from Survivors

From Robert, father of Louis: Yes, they have changed and not for the better. We went to Ogunquit, Maine, each year around our anniversary on June 6. Louis was killed June 8 while we were on the beach. We have not been to Maine since then, and most likely we will never return. Only recently, Vivian was able to walk on the beach and put her feet in the water after 11 years. It's hard to look at the surf when we were there while Lou was going through his ordeal.

From Nikki, sister of Chad: Vacations haven't changed for me since we didn't really have many vacations growing up. My vacations are usually spent doing things that we didn't get to do growing up, having the chance to experience them for both of us or visiting Arlington where he is buried. I just want to be sure to live my life to the fullest to honor Chad's life.

From Donna, mother ofEric: We had plans of going to Hawaii but just couldn't bring ourselves to go while our son was in Afghanistan. How can we go to paradise while he's in hell? So we didn't go for several years.

Of course, everyone looks forward to vacations, but I long for them. There's something to be said about the anonymity of being in another place where no one knows I'm a gold star mom and no one looks at me with pity. And for a few days, I can pretend this nightmare that we live now is not true. But the truth catches up with my brain within a few days. Many short vacations are what I need now.

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, July 26, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Illness Loss Chat  
Date: Wednesday, July 27, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. 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 SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.

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 at1-800-959-8277.  

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

Peer Mentors
Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about teaching them.

July 18, 2016

By Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

“Allow stories to be told without slipping into interpretations, analysis, and conclusions.”
— Thomas Moore

When I attended graduate school in traditional psychology, I learned semantics such as assess, diagnose and treat. In large part, I was taught to study a body of knowledge surrounding mental health, assume expert status as a professional and treat people as patients. Yes, I was taught a catalog of disorders and standard interventions based on the assumption that I had made an accurate diagnosis. What I later came to call my “unconscious contamination” had me believing I was responsible for the cure. It was only through time, maturation and experience that I came to reject this model of caregiving.

Walking with thousands of people in grief has resulted in an “educated heart” that has led to an acceptance of my role as a responsible rebel. I learned the medical model of mental health care, but my real life experiences caused me to reject it in favor of a companioning model of caregiving. I believe that our modern understanding of grief lacks an appreciation for and attention to the spiritual, soulful nature of the grief journey.

I have left my clinical doctoring behind to become the companion I am today. As a companion, I believe that grief is organic. Grief is as natural as the setting of the sun and as elemental as gravity. Grief is a complex but perfectly natural — and necessary — mixture of human emotions. Companions do not cure mourners; instead we create conditions that allow them to teach us. Our ministry is more art than science, more head than heart. The bereaved person is not our patient but instead our companion.

Support Groups and Stories

In North America today, thousands of people find this kind of companionship in grief support groups. The worth of these programs certainly does not emanate from empirically supported treatments, but from something much more simple (yet powerful): the telling of stories. The meetings are anchored in honoring each member’s stories of grief and supporting each other’s need to authentically mourn. No effort is made to interpret or analyze. The group affirms the storyteller for the courage to express the raw wounds that often accompany loss. The stories speak the truth. The stories create hope. The stories create healing.

Effective leaders of such groups come to recognize that their role is not so much about group counseling techniques as it is about creating “sacred space” in the group so that each person’s story can be nonjudgmentally received. Effective grief group leadership is a humble yet demanding role of creating this space in ways that members can express their wounds in the body of community. The very experience of telling one’s story in the common bond of the group contradicts the isolation and shame that characterizes so many people’s lives in a mourning-avoidant culture. And, because stories of love and loss take time, patience and unconditional love, they serve as powerful antidotes to a modern society that is all too often preoccupied with getting people to “let go” and “move on.”

The creation of new meaning and purpose in life requires that mourners “re-story” their lives. Obviously, this calls out for the need for empathetic companions, not treaters. Indigenous cultures acknowledge that honoring stories helps reshape a person’s experience. The stories are reshaped not in the telling of the story once or twice or even three times, but over and over again. Mourners need compassionate listeners to hear and affirm their truths. So, as a companion, your upholding of people’s stories allows you the privilege of being a “shapeshifter!”

The many benefits of honoring the stories of our fellow human beings include:

  • We can search for wholeness among our fractured parts.
  • We can come to know who we are in new and unexpected ways.
  • We can explore our past and come to a more profound understanding of our origins and our future directions.
  • We can tentatively explain our view of the world and come to understand who we are. 
  • We can explore how love experienced and love lost have influenced our time on earth.
  • We can discover that a life without story is like a book without pages — nice to see but lacking in substance.
  • We can seek forgiveness and be humbled by our mortality.
  • We can determine how adversity has enriched our meaning and purpose in life.
  • We can journey inward and discover connections previously not understood or acknowledged.
  • We can create an awareness of how the past interfaces with the present, and how the present ebbs back into the past.
  • We can discover that the route to healing lies not only in the physical realm, but also in the emotional and spiritual realms.
  • We can find that the fulfillment of a life well lived is bestowed through the translation of our past into experiences that are expressed through the oral or written word.
  • We can realize that the true significance of each unique story is that you can capture the spirit, the soul, and the genuine worth of the person who has died.
  • We can come to understand that in our pain and suffering lies the awareness of the preciousness of each day on the earth. 
  • We can discover our truth in this present moment of time and space.

Honoring Our Own Stories

I believe that mourners can instinctively sense who can listen to their stories and who cannot. They often look for signs of open-heartedness and will gladly tell their stories to those they sense have a receptive spirit. The capacity to attend to your own stories of loss allows you to open your heart and connect to other people’s stories.

Honoring stories, both our own and others’, requires that we slow down, turn inward and create the sacred space to do so. Yes, this can be challenging in a fast-paced, efficiency-based culture in which many people lack an understanding of the value of telling the story.

Yet, companions realize that it is in having places to re-story their lives that they can embrace what needs to be embraced and come to understand that the human spirit prevails. We heal ourselves as we tell the tale. This is the awesome power of the story.

This article is excerpted from Dr. Alan Wolfelt’s book Companioning the Bereaved: A Soulful Guide for Caregivers, available at bookstores and at Dr. Wolfelt’s website, www.centerforloss.com. Dr. Wolfelt is an internationally noted author, teacher and grief counselor. He serves as Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition and is an educational consultant to funeral homes, hospices, hospitals, schools and a variety of community agencies across North America.

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

JulieJerden
Meet a Mentor: Julie Jerden

July 18, 2016

When Juile Jerden’s brother, Frank, died by suicide in 2002, she jumped into action like many siblings to provide comfort to her family. Her main focus was caring for her parents and children as they grieved the loss of her brother. She put her grief on hold.

Julie tried to put her life back the way it was — but that life had been drastically altered. “I went back to what I perceived as normal,” Julie said. “But seven years after his death, the pieces weren’t fitting. Something wasn’t right.”

Because she wasn’t the dedicated next of kin to her brother, Julie struggled to find resources and grief support on her own. “For those of us who are siblings, it’s a little more difficult to have access to those resources,” Julie said.

In her search to find those missing pieces in her grief journey, Julie ended up at TAPS. At her first TAPS Seminar in 2010, she said a lightbulb went off in her head. She finally understood that she wasn’t the only one to have gone through this. There were others who have experienced the same pain she has. Others who she could confide in and rely on.

Julie became a Peer Mentor out of her desire to make sure that no surviving sibling falls through the cracks. “As siblings, people always ask, ‘Hey, how’s your mom?’ or ‘How’s your dad?’ There’s a great need for that sibling support,” Julie said.

While each mentee is different, and each person grieves in their own way, Julie has discovered that finding common ground makes it easier for new survivors to open up and connect.

“There’s that sense of weariness at first when a stranger calls you or emails you and says they’ve been down the same path,” Julie said. “People ask themselves, ‘How can anybody possibly understand what I’m going through?’”

By sharing her story, her mentees are able to see that she really does understand, and she’s here to companion them as they deal with their grief.

Connecting with surviving siblings has helped Julie, too, as she continues to navigate her grief journey. “While I know I will never get my brother back, they are my extended brothers and sisters now,” Julie said. “We enjoy and celebrate each other’s celebrations. We celebrate birthdays, babies being born, anniversaries. It’s a family nobody wants to have, but we’re so glad we have it.”

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

Misty Blum
Support When You Need It

~ Misty Blum, Survivor

July 18, 2016

Some people describe the unexpected death of a spouse as having the air suddenly taken from their lungs, but I would have to disagree. I know that lack of air is certain death. It's been nearly three years since my husband died, and I'm still here. I think the death of a spouse or other close loved one is more like the loss of a limb. In most cases, it won't kill you but it will permanently alter every aspect of your life and how you live it. You will survive. You're just different. You have to relearn even the basics in life.

TAPS Peer Mentors are like being fitted with a prosthetic limb after the loss of your own. You could probably get by without one, but the introduction of such a device opens up new possibilities to get back to a “new normal" faster and with a renewed determination. The decision to accept a Peer Mentor is much like the choice to use your prosthetic limb. You make the call. We can be utilized as little or as much as you decide. We are there to assist in this new and sometimes painful journey. We want to provide a soft place to land when you need to fall apart. We won't tell you how to grieve, but we’ll provide a safe place to do so with peers who have been there.

I became a Peer Mentor about a year ago. I was nervous about exactly what the training would entail. I decided to receive my training at the annual National Military Suicide Survivors Seminar. Don Lipstein primarily led the training class, and he was so passionate about what Peer Mentors do and helping survivors that I wanted to join him the moment he started speaking. The training was short but intense. Before we could become Peer Mentors we had to dig deep within ourselves and decide if we'd healed enough personally to see past our own loss in an effort to truly aid our potential mentees. There were tears and laughter but mostly a more comprehensive idea of exactly what was expected of us should we move on. I asked so many questions. We learned there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and our job isn't to tell new survivors how to get through it but to just "be there."

In my opinion, this is our first and most important job as Peer Mentors. Simply our presence. Because everyone is different. The way we grieve is also different. We let our mentees steer the relationship. Some survivors need constant support and assurance, and others just need to be reminded periodically that they aren't alone. I think a good Peer Mentor can pick up on the cues and follow the mentee’s lead. The training we receive and lessons we learn while mentoring cross over into our lives in how we interact with others outside of TAPS. The experience provides a wealth of knowledge. It really helps in understanding human nature and relationships.

Becoming a Peer Mentor has been one of the most empowering experiences since the death of my husband. I have moved from the role of a victim to one of a healer. That is so huge. Not only am I helping others in what studies have shown to be the most stressful event in adult life but they are helping me in return. That is profound. That is TAPS Peer Mentoring. I am grateful for my own Peer Mentors who were there for me in 2013, and I'm proud to assist those who come after me.

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

Bonnie and Survivor at National Military Survivor Seminar
Saturday Morning Message: Safe Places to Share Feelings

July 16, 2016

Good Morning,

Last week's question asked for comments on places survivors feel safe to talk about their innermost feelings of grief and find support. Some replies this week mentioned friends and family members as well as the many activities TAPS provides. I thought I would provide a list of places where you can find comfort through TAPS. To talk with a supportive person 24/ 7, dial the helpline at 800-959-8277. If you would like to meet some other survivors in person, click on Survivor Events to find one that might interest you. Today's picture comes from the 2016 National Military Survivor Seminar and shows the warmth and care that comes when two survivors find each other at a TAPS event. From home, the Online Community might be of help as it has many different chats which connect you in person to others. There is also a  Message Board that can be helpful. For those of you who find writing helpful, there is the TAPS magazine, blogs on the main TAPS website and a Writer's Club which publishes a monthly newsletter just to those who sign up in addition to the Saturday Morning Message. Survivors often send me quotes. Ruth, mother of Jim sent a quote this week seeming to go with this week's theme. She wrote, "Grief is a journey that is filled with many friends and much love. It can change walking in the weeds to dancing in the daisies."

Questions are the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. Although I received some responses last week , I am always looking for more questions. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed in the SMM, you can email me at carol.lane@taps.org. 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 SMM 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.

One suggestion a survivor had was to include a song of the week, which is now a weekly section. If you have a song that is special to you or reminds you of your loved one, please send it along with a sentence or two about what makes this song distinctive.

One of our contributors, Andy, father of Danny,  makes a playlist on Spotify of the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages along with a few other songs special to him. The playlist is free and called "Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance." I often listen to it while I am on the computer and think of our TAPS family.

Hugs,
Carol

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message

This question has been asked before in the Saturday Morning Message, but it is always a good one to ask during the summer as many people take vacations and our ideas of what a vacation is may change as we travel the grief journey, so the question this week is: How have your vacation plans changed since the loss of your loved one?

♫ Song for the Week

Tammy, mother of Jeremy, sent the song this week which is:  "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" sung by Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole.

Answers from Survivors

From Diane, mother of Caleb: I feel safe sharing my shattered heart with those who will understand best - other Gold Star moms and TAPS. The volunteers and employees for TAPS have been absolutely amazing and so very helpful. I seriously don't know what I would have done without TAPS support from day one. I have called at all hours of the night on those very dark nights and spilled my heart out to the person on the other end of the line. Invariably, there was understanding and care. TAPS has helped me along this grief journey in a way that no one else could. Even though I can talk to other Gold Star moms and friends knowing they are struggling as well, I don't want to call them at 2 a.m.!  Knowing that TAPS is available 24/7 has been a great comfort.

From Kellie, spouse of Mark: Having beautiful and reflective conversations with my former husband's family, my TAPS family and journaling are my safe havens for restorative healing. Sharing wonderful and funny memories of Mark creates a warm inner feeling of peace. He will never be forgotten as long as we continue to share the many ways he impacted so many people's lives. I'm so truly thankful to continue to learn more ways to share my story with others and continue to make strides in healing through my TAPS family.

From Karen, spouse of Charlie: I feel safest in expressing my grief with my mom. She's always been accepting of Charlie in my life and supportive of LGBT community members as well as people from all walks of life in general. She has a beautiful spirit and I am truly blessed.

Other than my mom, I am lucky to have TAPS for support. The LGBT community has a limited number of safe places to be ourselves (often families, employers and places of worship reject bereaved LGBT spouses, unfortunately) and I am thankful to TAPS for providing online support as well as a group at the National Seminar.  It is a comfort that I will never take for granted.

From Caryn, mother of Nathan: It's difficult to know with whom to share your emotions. For me it's been easiest to share with those in my family or friends who have gone through some tragedy of their own. The willingness to listen comes easier for them as well as some sort of understanding of your need to vent. And they know I will be there for them, too!

Even having those few to share, writing is still the best way for me to release my feelings; coming back to my words in the future reminds me how far I've come or areas with which I still need to deal.

From Kim, spouse of Milton: I stumbled into the TAPS chats early on in my grief journey. There I finally found a place where I felt safe and supported so that I could share my story. I was able to cry or laugh without judgement and had fellow survivors who truly understood the emotional roller coaster that I was reluctantly on. For the first time in my early grief stages, I knew that I was not alone and someone who understood was only a "send button" away!

From Anne, mother of Michael: Since I lost my sweet husband, John "Buddy", a Purple Heart veteran of the Korean War, and my sweet son, Michael, who was a Marine test pilot for the Osprey helicopter, I feel the only people I can talk to when I am feeling lonely are either my family or other people who have experienced the same losses . I want to live the best life that I can even though I do not have these wonderful men here on earth with me any more. It is not always easy to do that but I am always trying!

Upcoming Chats                                                                                                              

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, July 21, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carla Stumpf-Patton and Kim Suggs

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. 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 SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections. 

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 1-800-959-8277. 

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

martinislandwood
Just Love at IslandWood

~ Chelsea Martin , Survivor

July 14, 2016

 When I stepped off the plane into Seattle, Washington, I had no idea what a family campout was going to entail. All I knew was that my son was excited to get his hands dirty and play outside. Once getting to IslandWood, I was blown away by the scenic view of the thick forest, the lush green grass and ferns, and the calmness I felt. There was no sound of city life, lawnmowers, or cars honking. I heard birds chirping, leaves blowing, and laughter coming from other survivors excited about seeing a friendly face. It’s the happiness I always feel when I come to a TAPS event.

IslandWood is a beautiful place to connect with yourself, to connect with others, and most important to me, a deeper connection with my son. As soon as we arrived, we were immediately greeted with smiling faces from our TAPS Family. The mentors always have a way of making my son smile, while giving me the reassurance he is in good hands. They immediately started making connections with him, talking about his daddy, and eating cookies. Hearing him talk about his dad with a smile on his face, I knew this was the best place we could be. The weekend was divided into both family time, and adult time. The kids were able to go off with the mentors and have connections, while the adults were able to do the same. We also had time for ourselves to do a reflective hike and FOB (fall on bunk) time. Our reflective hike helped me quiet my mind by focusing on myself. I sometimes get lost in the day to day tasks and forget how heavy our world can get. It was nice to let it all go for a short time, re-center myself, and just think of the happy memories I had with my husband.

IslandWood had many different things to offer our families. They had treehouses, a fire tower, suspension bridge, yoga, and of course delicious food. There are many different trails that allow you to have quiet time and reflect on yourself. The only thing I had to worry about was the occasional rain shower or a banana slug crossing! IslandWood offers a hands on approach to learning with friendly staff that helps kids get back to nature. All weekend my son was tearing open tree bark to find bugs, seeking out salamanders, and playing hide and seek in the rain with other children, mentors, and IslandWood staff. We also spent time on their floating classroom, where we were able to go out onto the water and explore the raw beauty of what IslandWood has to offer.

The relationships we both made with other Gold Star families are the type that will last a lifetime. We both make such advances in our healing journey when we come to a TAPS event. I always feel a little lighter and find myself smiling more. We all have been through deep water, but in the presence of my TAPS Family, I can relax, laugh, and really take a breath. No judgement, just love.


add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

Boxes in the Attic, Part 2
Saturday Morning Message: What to Do with Military Items

July 9, 2016

Good Morning,

Last week's question asked what survivors have done with the uniforms and military items from their loved ones. There are two articles from the TAPS Magazine archives that address this concern. They are: "Boxes in the Attic: Sorting, keeping, giving and storing our loved ones' personal effects" and "Boxes in the Attic: Part Two - You Can't Take It With You" by Betsy Beard, surviving mom of Spc. Bradley Beard. The first article gives a thorough list of different ways you can work through this task. In both articles, the author talks about the feelings she had as she was sorting through all of her son's worldly goods.

As for the Lane family, we gave some things to Bryon's sister and friends. Then we bought a large cabinet with two glass doors. In the cabinet, we hung Bryon's dress blues and his hat. In the drawers, we placed items that he treasured. The cabinet is in his room. My husband has his computer there and works on it every night. Bryon's pins and awards are in a glass coffee table in the living room. In that way, they are out on display for all to see.

I want to thank those survivors who replied this week with their thoughts. I hope you will find the ideas in this message helpful.

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 carol.lane@taps.org. 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 to share your 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.

One suggestion a survivor had was to include a song of the week, which is now a weekly section. If you have a song that is special to you or reminds you of your loved one, please send it along with a sentence or two about what makes this song distinctive.

One of our contributors, Andy, father of Danny, makes a playlist on Spotify of the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages along with a few other songs special to him. The playlist is free and is called "Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance." I often listen to it while I am on the computer and I think of our TAPS family.

Hugs,
Carol

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message

Marcia, mother of Patrick, asked this question awhile back, and I thought it would be a good one since we just passed another holiday where we met with friends and family. Her question is: Where do you feel safe to share the feelings that break your heart so healing can occur? The answers to this questions will help many survivors.

♫ Song for the Week

Caryn, mother of Nathan, sent the song this week, which is "See You Again" from the "Furious 7" movie soundtrack. When I asked Caryn why this song is special to her, she wrote, "This song was written rather quickly after Paul Walker was killed, and it had a very 'fresh' response from those that truly cared and loved him. The words speak of family and not just the blood kind. Nathan's group of friends gave me that same feeling from day one!"

Answers from Survivors

From Diane, mother of Caleb: I hung some of Caleb's uniforms in his closet. His dress blues are in a large shadow box hanging in a special space in our home along with awards, photos and other military memorabilia.

From Virginia, mother of Patrick: A few special possessions of Pat's were given to some of his close friends. All of Pat's long guns were auctioned to other teammates, and the money went to the Navy SEAL Foundation. Some of his bikes were sold, and the money went to the Phoenix Patriot Foundation. Currently, we are putting together one of his camo shirts with his team patches, and it will be displayed at the Mission BBQ in Annapolis!

Upcoming Chats

Parent Chat 
Date: Monday, July 11, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower Chat 
Date: Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kim Suggs

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. 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 SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.

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 1-800-959-8277. 

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

griefupset
Phil, I Am So Mad At You

~ Linda Ambard, Survivor

July 8, 2016

Phil and I had a good marriage–a great marriage–for 23 years, but neither of us was perfect. I would say and truly believe he was a better person than I am still. We had staying power and we were both committed to our marriage through thick and thin, but there were hard times. There were many times when I felt lonely, invisible, last priority, and less of a woman. It wasn’t intentional often, but we had more children than most and Phil was an incredibly hard worker. Make no mistake, we were involved in everything our children did and during 23 years of marriage, Phil was deployed nearly half of the first 12 years of our marriage. When he was home, he knew he had one chance to be a good father. Since he was raised with absent parents, he craved the family he always wanted. So often, I got lost in the shuffle.


We married just after Phil’s 21st birthday. I had three children from my first marriage and their birth father chose not to be involved at any level. Phil was the only dad my three children knew (and the two we added to the family)–he was simply dad. We did things as a family because there were no other choices. We chose for me to stay at home and as an enlisted man with five children, we certainly lacked any money to have couple time. I waited. Waited for it to be my turn.


My birthday was more often forgotten and when it was remembered, it was remembered at the key birthdays to tell me how old I was getting. I saw (and see) the wrinkles etching my face. While I never felt old (still don’t), the numbers tell the truth. In the craziness of giving to everyone else, I was often the person whose birthday or key days got lost which made me feel like I did not matter except as a mom sometimes. I always figured the day would come and the children would grow up and that Phil would see me again and want just time for the two of us. See, we were great friends. We were the unit that stood strong together and Phil and I were one deep. It was simply the two of us. I figured the day would come when he would give me bells and whistles in terms of trips just the two of us. I thought one day he would stop chasing his youth and seeing me as old. I thought one day he would realize it hurt me every time he blew off the key days or he made everyone else a priority other than me.


That day came when he finally remembered my birthday, yet he was not alive to see the gut-wrenching reaction I still have. I did not want him to deploy and he did not have to deploy. While I do believe that if it is a person’s time to go, it is their time to go regardless of geographical location, I never, never could imagine a fate worse than the one he met. He chose to deploy on his quest to get ahead, for job stability, to mentor cadets and his children, and to prove his vitality to the military. He had his eyes and teeth fixed just before the deployment and he went on an extreme health kick. At the same time, he was a full time student, working full time, and trying to spend as much time as he could with the youngest child (because the youngest wanted the mentorship). There was no room for me. I was patient and the day came about four months into the deployment when Phil wanted to work on us and to work on the relationship minus children. In earnest, he began to pursue me again. He promised things would be different. Damn you, Phil, for waiting so long. When his things came home, 20 unwritten cards came home with it (the miss you/love you cards). More than that, he had been working on surprises for my 50th birthday–jewelry, scarves, trinkets). He was going to hit it out of the ballpark and he never got the opportunity.


So, here I am…weeks away from the next pivotal birthday and I feel beaten. Listen, Phil….I am cranky at myself for never speaking up. I should have. I knew you loved me, but I deserved to be shown once in awhile. I deserved to be priority one once in awhile. Granted, I will tell you I fell short every day, but why in the heck did we wait so long to enjoy the station of life we had finally achieved? Why did I make it so damn easy for you to make me a last priority? Why didn’t I feel like I could speak up?  Why did I let you make me feel old?  The onus is on me. I own my feelings, but I let 23 years slide by allowing your star to shine and for you to do what you needed to do. I do not think it was a bad thing, but I was more than a homemaker and more than a good mother. I was your best cheerleader, your foil, your helpmate.


I am tired and feel like less. I don’t feel lovable today. I have never been angry at you, Phil, but I am this week. Listen, I know your eyes lit up when I walked into a room and I know we were truly the best of friends, but I also wanted your undivided attention at times. I wanted to feel special. I wanted to feel like I was worth celebrating once in awhile. If you were alive, I know we would have figured it out because even you recognized we needed one on one time once you deployed. That Venice trip that was your idea?  You had so many grand slam ideas and gestures you never got to see. I wish you would have. I wish we hadn’t waited so damn long. I wish you could see how much I have changed. I no longer can wait when I care about people. I no longer stand mute in the shadows. You deserved the Linda I changed into. You deserved more.


add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

Fireworks
Saturday Morning Message: Memories of Our Loved Ones

July 2, 2016

Good Morning,

This week is the weekend we celebrate the Fourth of July, so I thought it would be good to commemorate my son, Bryon, with a summer memory. He loved our country from a very early age, so this holiday was special to him. There was always a cookout at my husband's relatives. There was a pond there, and his grandfather had geese who floated around the area. Everyone brought food dishes and the meat was cooked on a barbecue. He and his sister played with their cousins. Then in the evening we came back to our town and went to watch the fireworks. The memories of those times still bring a smile to my face as I think about the wonder on his face as he watched the fireworks and talked to his friends from school. We still go to my husband's brother's camp for the Fourth. I look forward to sitting and talking with some of the people I love the most. I wish you all a comfortable Fourth of July. I wish we were all able to come together, but I know we will be thinking of each other during this special time of the year. Thank you to those who shared memories today and also to those who read this message.

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. You can also submit favorite songs that are meaningful to you. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.

In addition to the ideas shared below, we can also honor our loved ones by communicating with each other through writing. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another. I encourage you to reply to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing carol.lane@taps.org. In order to have your reply included in the week's Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send them to me by Tuesday of the following week. This week's question is located below my signature. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message 

Last week, a surviving spouse asked this question on the TAPS Facebook page: "What have others done with their loved one's various uniforms and accoutrements?" There were a lot of replies and I thought it would be a good question for this week, so this week's question is: What have you done with your loved one's uniforms and other military items? I know there are many who look forward to the answers to this question.

♫ Song for the Week 

Milagros, spouse of Billy Joe, sent the song of the week, which is "Humble and Kind" sung by Tim McGraw. Milagros wrote, "I hope someone else can find healing words when they listen." 

Answers from Survivors

Caryn's Photo of Nathan and Sister From Caryn, mother of Nathan: When Nathan was 6 or 7 years old, we took a trip to San Diego for a summer vacation. One of our stops was SeaWorld. What a great time! We walked around to all the attractions. In one attraction, there was a part where they dove down and picked up an oyster, then opened it to see if there was a pearl. A child was always chosen from the audience to receive the oyster. Nate's older sister, Tiffany, was chosen but when the time came she couldn't go up in front of all those people. So Nate walked up there and waited for them to open the oyster. Inside was the pearl. Nathan answered their questions about his sister and him as he talked in front of hundreds. He also shocked the entire audience by giving the pearl to his sister. Even though he was three years younger, he always stood up to protect his sister. One more thing: Tiffany was born in June and her birth stone is pearl.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: I came home from a long day and went to see what each of my sons was up to. Andrew was busy with homework. Eugene's room was a mess, and he was waiting for me to annoy him with regards to homework (high school). I saw small bags on the floor, and they were moving. I asked him about it, and he told me that I was just tired and seeing things. I again asked him, and he gave me the same answer. So I went to step on one of the bags. He got protective of the bag and begged me not to move. In each bag was a baby snake: a python, a boa and a king. I wasn't happy but what could I do. I sent him out to get tanks and a book about snakes from the library and told him to make sure they lived. He was shocked and quickly went on the errands. They did live many, many years. And I still don't know why I didn't get a "mother of the year" trophy!

From Diane, mother of Caleb: I'm so glad Caleb got to be with us for his sister's wedding - six years ago now. What a sweet memory having all my children together for this special event. So many things stand out about that day, but I've recently been thinking about a couple of moments. The photographer had fun with everyone, and when he mentioned the four brothers holding their sister above their shoulders they were all on it! I've thought about the trust my daughter had in her brothers to allow them to hoist her into the air in her beautiful wedding dress. I love that particular photo. The boys all laugh now, "It was really Caleb holding her up. We were just there as re-enforcement." Another wonderful moment was at the reception. You have to understand, we aren't naturally a "dancing" family. Even though my daughter and a couple of my sons enjoy dancing, none had ever danced with me! But Caleb did dance with me. He twirled me around and around. I had the time of my life, and he just smiled.  

Precious memories.

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, July 05, 2016
Time: 9 p.m. - 11 p.m. EDT
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, July 07, 2016
Time: 9 p.m. - 11 p.m. EDT
Hosted By: Carla Stumpf-Patton and Kim Suggs

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. 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 SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.

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 at1-800-959-8277.  

 

This blog is copyrighted by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). These blog posts may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any means, electronic or otherwise, without prior written approval. It is permissible for an individual reader to view, reproduce or store a copy of this article, provided it is used only for their own personal and non-commercial use. Uses beyond that allowed by the “Fair Use” limitations (sections 107 and 108) of the U.S. Copyright law require permission from TAPS. Please contact blog@taps.org to request permission. All other rights reserved.

Go to:

Icon-Facebook Icon-Twitter Icon-Youtube Icon - Instagram Icon-Shop Icon-Photos