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TAPS Texting
Get Texts From Your TAPS Family!

February 8, 2016


TAPS is expanding our mobile messaging capabilities with an exciting new program that allows us to text care group reminders, event invitations, deadlines and more to mobile phones in the US.

Want to sign up? Just text TAPS to 95577. All TAPS text messages will come from the short code 95577.

Some of you may already receive personal text messages from our Survivor Care Team or other staff with whom you have a relationship. The easiest way to tell the difference is their messages come from a personal cell phone and ours come from the TAPS short code 95577.  Whether you opt-in to our official mass messaging or not, they will continue to reach out to you one-on-one with care and support. Nothing will change!

You never have to worry that TAPS will spam you or be intrusive. We will never send more than one message a day or four messages a month and sincerely hope this makes it easier for everyone with a mobile phone to stay in touch with TAPS.

As with any text messaging platform, normal rates apply through your carrier, and we ask that you opt-in to let us know you want to receive SMS/text messages from TAPS. You can read the full disclosure on our website.  

Ready to sign up? All you have to do is text TAPS to 95577. The first messages should go out live beginning in March.

For questions or concerns, please email textsupport@taps.org.  

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2013 National Parade
Saturday Morning Message: Words Describing TAPS

February 6, 2016

Good Morning,

This week, survivors were asked to write a word or phrase describing what TAPS means to them. Several replies are included in the Answers from Survivors section, and I wanted to add my thoughts.

When I think about TAPS, I think about companionship. I am a person who has difficulty facing hard situations alone, so when the casualty officers handed me the flier about TAPS, it wasn't long before I called. The person who answered the phone was so kind. I immediately felt safe talking about my deepest feelings and the pain that came with losing my child. I was assured that my feelings were normal. TAPS found a local counselor for my husband and me who helped us understand the emotions that come with grief. Little by little, we began to thaw.

I connected with the TAPS survivor care team member regularly. In one phone call, I was asked if I would like to go to the National Military Survivor Seminar put on by TAPS over Memorial Day weekend. I was nervous about what I would find there. When I walked into the hotel, I was greeted with warm embraces from others who lost a loved one and I felt understood. I listened to the speakers, went to the workshops and met others from all over the country. "Attending TAPS Events: Encouragement for the Newcomer" is a TAPS Magazine article that shares how other survivors feel and what they find when meeting others at a TAPS event.

As time went by, I became a peer mentor and joined the online community. With all these contacts, I wanted to keep in touch weekly, and the Saturday Morning Message was born. There are so many ways to connect with others through TAPS. There are chats, the 24/7 helpline, the Online Community and now Facebook and Twitter, plus more are added frequently. To those who are reading this, please know you are never alone with TAPS.

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.

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message

Annette, mother of Joe, wrote about a dilemma she has when people sometimes ask how many children she has. She wants to include Joe, so she always gives two as an answer. Then she gets an uncomfortable feeling knowing the next question might be more detailed such as: Where do they live? What do they do? Annette's question for the week is: How do you explain your loved one to those who ask?

♫ Song for the Week

The song for this week came from the TAPS Facebook page on Jan. 28. The words to "My Heart Will Go On," sung by Celine Dion, are very powerful. I wanted to share them with you. This link will take you to the music and written lyrics.

Answers from Survivors

From Rebecca, mother of Griff: TAPS is my safe place where I don't have to hold back the honest feelings of sadness and a hurting heart.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene:

TAPS=caring

It is a fantastic organization created to care for the parents, spouses and children of military loss for whatever reason. I would not fare as well without Carol and our Saturday answers and inspirational "talks."

From Diane, mother of Caleb: The word that immediately came to mind is "relief." What a relief that TAPS found me and reached out to me in those early days when I was so overwhelmed. What a relief the people who called and the package I received showed me how much they cared. What a relief it was when I attended my first TAPS seminar and found love, acceptance and understanding. Bonnie was the facilitator in my group, and she shed so much light and wisdom on this grief journey. What a relief to know that if I am having a really hard time, it's OK to call TAPS - and I have called. What a relief to know I have this wonderful family,and, may I add, mentor. Through TAPS, I have made the best friends. It's terrible that we have to be on this journey, but what a blessing to have met such compassionate and caring people. What a relief that we have TAPS in this crazy world where a lot of people don't understand us. So, if I'm ever asked, "How do you spell relief?" I'd say, "T.A.P.S."  :-)

From Bob and Kitty, parents of John: Our word regarding TAPS is caring. Ever since we first heard of TAPS, we have been cared for and loved by the staff and other members of TAPS. To find people who truly "get it" and care for you is a genuine rarity in this world. The military families are a special gift from God.

From Thais, mother of Dwayne: TAPS has been consistently helpful. When I have questions, they get back to me either with the correct answer, or they direct me to the best person that can get the answer. I'm grateful.

From Caryn, mother of Nathan: The one word I would use to describe what TAPS means to me is peace! My relationship with this organization brought me peace of mind right from the start. I had worked for Hospice years back, and I truly thought I could handle my son's death on my own. I was wrong. I didn't realize how many others I would have to help on this new journey. Especially my daughter and, surprisingly, my ex daughter-in-law who took it hard, plus she had my two grandchildren. Then my husband had a heart attack eight months later, and again I turned to TAPS. For peace of mind and peace in my heart, I just need to pick up the phone or my keyboard knowing soon I'll have a little piece of some peace back in my life!

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: Blessing! TAPS made all the difference in the world for me! If not for TAPS and my communication back and forth with Carol and the seminars I feel I would have been sent to the "funny farm" for sure! TAPS allowed me to relate to others who had gone through or were going through the same type of loss we were.This let me know the grief-related feelings and side effects were all normal. Having others who understood and had been there made a huge difference! It was wonderful to know at anytime when I felt the need to do so I could contact Carol, and, in nothing flat, she would return my email with kind words of comfort or advice to help me out.  Darcie was also a big blessing with advice to help me through those difficulties. Thanks to all the TAPS staff and volunteers! God bless all of you! You are wonderful!

From Georgianna, mother of Jamie: My one word for TAPS is caring. I have learned that I need a caring family who understands, and I am so thankful for the people of TAPS to make it come alive. Thank you, TAPS.

From Teresa, mother of Donald: One word I would use to describe TAPS is persistence. When my son was killed, I shut down and withdrew from the world for a very long time.TAPS never gave up on me and kept reaching out to me no matter how much I ignored them. Finally, one day I reached back, and that's when I started crawling out of my horrible, deep, dark hole of grief. Thank you TAPS for saving me!

Upcoming Chats

Parent Chat 
Date: Monday, February 08, 2016
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower Chat 
Date: Wednesday, February 10, 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. 

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Snowman TAPS HQ
Saturday Morning Message: Handling Emotions

January 30, 2016

Good Morning,

This week as I watched the news, I saw many places on the East Coast blanketed in snow. When I saw this picture on the TAPS Facebook page of a snowman near TAPS Headquarters, I knew the staff were taking a difficult situation and doing the best they could. I don't want you to think I equate a snowstorm with losing a loved one, but it does show the tactics many of us use when challenging situations come into our lives. This week's question was about strategies survivors use when feelings of grief overcome them. We can't change what happened, but we can share what we do to help ourselves. By doing that, others may see something that will be helpful to them.

Health and wellness aren't just about what to eat. Our bodies go through many emotions while grieving. There is a great resource on the TAPS website that lists articles written in past TAPS magazines in a variety of ways. When you click on Health and Wellness, a group of articles from the magazine archives come up. There are articles on nutrition, but there are lists of self care help and even one on fighting the "winter blues." In addition, survivors in this Saturday Morning Message shared what has worked for them.  

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.

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message

This week's question came from the TAPS Communications Team. What is the one word or sentence that describes what TAPS means to you? Of course once you have done that, please write a bit more about why you chose that word or sentence.

♫ Song for the Week

Annie, mother of Michael, suggested the song for this week. She wrote, "I find it difficult in my grief journey that I will never see my son, Michael, or my husband, Buddy, who died recently, ever again here on Earth. I know in my heart that we will all be together again, but it is the physical presence that I miss." Annie suggested the song for the week, which is "My Buddy" by Nancy Sinatra. It is a very old song, but it says a lot about our loved ones that have gone from  our physical presence.

Answers from Survivors

From Caryn, mother of Nathan: Nights when the sun is down are still very difficult for me. I've always been a night owl. With both my husband and son on disability, as well as myself, the darkness became our time to share. We talked about everything. No subject was ever excluded. And now, it's just me! Anxiety keeps me awake most nights. I was used to insomnia as a part of my medical issues, but now with the added anxiety it can overwhelm me! So, I've become pretty good with my crocheting. I write and read more than ever before and word apps are just a few things that get me through. Also, music helps me relax - always on the softer side at night. Just taking one night at a time.

From Teresa, mother of Donald: I learned this from therapy: A major horror of grief is starting to cry, and then it becomes uncontrollable. Time will slowly reduce these episodes, but there is a method to try that helps me and may help you. It's called grounding. You use it to detach from the internal pain by forcing yourself to concentrate on external distractions. Try to use grounding when you are faced with a trigger or when your pain feels like it is too much to take. If you feel you may want to speak to a professional in your area, call TAPS.  We can connect you to a tailored resource in your community.

  • Keep your eyes open.
  • Make sure the light is on.
  • Scan the room and say to yourself out loud, "There is the white wall; there is the big TV; there is the beautiful picture; it has beautiful flowers and trees in it; there is the window, etc."
  • Start touching things and saying out loud to yourself, "This is my arm; this is my face; this is the chair; this is the floor; this is the rug, etc." Get up and walk around while doing this.
  • I use this a lot: Splash cool water on your face. Get a cool wash rag and stroke your face, arms, neck, etc., and say comforting words to yourself out loud, over and over.
  • Drink some water - you can't cry and drink at the same time.
  • Start listing out loud, your favorite TV shows, bands, sports, places to go, etc.
  • Turn the TV on. (This works well for me.)

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: My emotions and feelings were so jumbled up. To narrow it down to only one feeling is hard. At the beginning of our journey, I remember the mass feeling of confusion and disbelief that my child could possibly be gone! I remember having seen him just a couple weeks prior to his death strong, happy and healthy, so to think of him being gone seemed impossible! I kept thinking, "This couldn't be and it had to be a horrible mistake!"

Then I wanted answers and lots of them! I was desperate to understand how this could possibly have happened to my child! I wanted lots of answers! I would ask and get no satisfaction. We were told because he was on a classified mission his records were sealed and that he didn't exist! That only added to my existing confusion and upset, so I did the only thing I could come up with - pray! Pray, pray, pray! I may not and am not likely to ever get the answers I wanted, but at least, in time, I got to the point of accepting the fact that the answers were not for me to know! I eventually was able to accept the fact that Blake was not going to call or surprise us with one of his unexpected visits because he was in Heaven now. With that I got some comfort knowing God was in control. Blake was His helper, and He had me by the hand helping me through this horrible journey.

From Merry, mother of Wes: The overwhelming, crushing feeling when a wave of grief hits is so debilitating and paralyzing. Sometimes I wail at God asking, "Why?" Am I never going to be happy again? I guess my sorrowful questions point me into my grief, and I begin to work on it and move into it. I can work on it because I was given such great coping skills for another reason in my life by two of the best counselors in Denver. I had a dream about Wes the other night. I rarely dream about him. We were at a family reunion in a place I did not know. He was around 4 years old, and I could not find him because he kept playing hide and seek. I was upset and scared that I could not find him. When I woke up, I remembered the dream and got very sad. More thoughts and feelings to process.

From Annette, mother of Joe: Since we lost Joe, I often wake up in the morning and have a horrible feeling of dread and fear. I was awakened early on a Saturday morning with the news that he had been taken to the hospital in Mexico because he had "fallen off a balcony." Maybe that is why it always happens in the morning, or maybe it has something to do with a new day and facing the reality of his loss each morning. I usually just lie in bed and try to calm myself. I often pray and then force myself to face the day. I must say it comes less often now but it is crippling when it happens.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: The hardest time for me is the morning when I wake up and the harsh reality hits again and again and again. That rip-out-your-heart, this-can't-be-real feeling makes it hard to even want to get up, but, I do get up anyway. Some days, I hurry and get dressed, get the leash and put it on Griz - like I'm in a race to get out the door in hopes that the feeling will subside. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. It's a feeling I want to run from so maybe it will not have happened. Some days, it's too difficult and I can't do much. I clean, read and sometimes just have a good cry. It's a hard, unpredictable journey. You never know how it's going to be from day to day.

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, February 02, 2016
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, February 04, 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.

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handheart2
Be Gentle With Me

~ Linda Ambard, Survivor

January 27, 2016

I thought I knew how my life was going to play out.  Sure, both Phil and I were going to grow old and die one day---one day far, far away.  A day after a brief illness and a time to get one's affairs in order and to say goodbye to loved ones. Before that one day, some day in the far off future, there was so much more that was supposed to happen.  We married when we were both very young and had more children than anyone else. Phil was a Staff Sergeant select when our youngest was born and we chose for me not to work outside of the home for many years. We did not believe in handouts, thus all we had was one another and the dreams of the one day, some day time together living our dreams.  The time for dreams was over before it even started and with the implosion of what I thought was going to happen, I was thrown into a world I knew nothing about. I was lost and I was very, very afraid. 

Time has given me a voice and a fire to speak and to work with other military members and families because my story demands attention.  My story is more than a story, it is my life, and in the showing up and speaking up, I have found my footing.  The voice has led to a life that is full, meaningful, and thriving. Yet, and this is a big yet, time has not erased my need to be loved and to love. Grief is sneaky, though.  

While many know the last face to face conversation I had with Phil, that conversation will always be the barometer as to how much that man loved me. We had been married 23 years and never once in those 23 years had we had the “what if” conversation. This time?  He wanted to have it.  I wanted none of it. I made jokes about Raul the Pool Boy.  I do not know any Rauls and I do not have a pool.  He stopped me in my tracks when he asked me, "If you died first, would you want me to be happy?"  Oh, yes, yes, I would.  

For the first few years, I was encapsulated in wanting what I could not have. My heart was barren and shattered.  I wrapped the shroud of grief around me so tightly that as time lapsed I could no longer see how I could ever let anyone else in.  I found myself shutting down and closing doors with males because it was easier and it seemed almost expected.  Military widows are young widows and the people around us seem to have ideas of how we should grieve, how long we should grieve for, and how much of a badge of honor it is to stay committed to the memory of a love that once was.  That memory does not provide companionship, joy, or life.  

The problem is trying to navigate letting someone in while there are still memories and still days that will poke the heart.  The problem is compounded by the thoughts that something bad might happen to this one too.  Fear is very real and at times it seems easier to shut off and shut down, but almost five years later, I am at the point where I know there must be something more in my life.  I want to love and to be loved again.  I want to have someone who knows me well and that I run to.  I want to be the steady force behind someone.  I want to be better with someone than stand alone cold.  

It is very difficult to think about taking a chance because I already have myself convinced that surely my grieving widow status makes me somehow off-putting.  I don't know how to explain the melancholy on certain days or weeks. I don't even see it coming sometimes, but I do recognize there is room to love again.  I recognized it long before I was ready to do something about it. When I was married to Phil, I had needs that were not met.  I didn't know it.  I was happy.  When he died and I started to come out of my fog, I recognized I was pursuing and doing things Phil would not have enjoyed.  I started telling my story and living in a pretty public manner--something Phil would have detested. In the growth and in that moment, I realized I could love differently and well in a different way.  With Phil, I did not know there were holes, but the difference now is that while someone else may feel the spaces between the holes, there will always be gaps Phil left.

Learning to love again does not negate or cheapen the love I had for Phil.  In fact, I wouldn't be able to love if he had not loved me well. The scary part is the vulnerability of widows.  It really doesn't matter how much time has passed.  I think widows who had good marriages tend to put too much validity into relationships too quick.  We want what we once had.  I also think military widows are in a unique position where if we remarry, we lose our benefits to include medical.  Knowing these components was the largest reason I shut people off the past two years.  It was just simply easier to wrap the shroud of grief tighter, but it is cold.

Recently, I have started to let someone in.  I do not know where the relationship is going.  Each and every day, I have to talk myself off of the ledge of sabotaging the friendship we have.  Relationships are a risk, a big risk, but it comes down to this:  I know Phil would want me to be happy again and I know that while I do not know the outcome of this relationship, I do want to see where it will go.  There is still so much to navigate and it all scares me.  I do not need to know the answers today or even a year from now.  Maybe the relationship will end, but if it does, I have been through much, much worse. There are still conversations we need to have, but I am not looking to replace Phil, I am looking to give my heart.  I am not looking for the human touch--and though I want that aspect of a relationship, it isn't the reason to be in a relationship.  If and when I give myself to someone, I  am giving them my heart.  In the giving of my heart, I am baring my soul.  Be gentle with me.

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Karls photo
Saturday Morning Message: Good Deeds

January 23, 2016

Good Morning,

Karl, father of Tre, sent this picture of a bench in his yard as the thought for the week. It adds to this week's topic, of sharing a good deed that happened because our loved ones took action. Talking or writing about our loved ones introduces them to those who read the Saturday Morning Message and continues the "love they brought to our lives." Thank you so much to those who contributed to this week's message and those who read it.

I will keep my comments short since there were so many wonderful replies today. Since we are focusing on good deeds, I thought you might like to see what the military volunteers do for the children in the Good Grief Camps at the TAPS seminars. Enjoy this video from Youtube called Behind the Scenes at 2015 TAPS Good Grief Camp.

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.

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

Sometimes we have feelings related to grief that overwhelm us. We can help each other know we are not alone when we share ideas. This week's question is: What is a feeling related to grief that is difficult for you to handle? Include a strategy you use to manage the emotion.

♫ Song for the Week

Please send songs that are meaningful to you or help you rest. It is great when survivors send songs for the Saturday Morning Message. Leslie, mother of Gene, sent the song this week. It is Barbra Streisand singing "Smile." She also sent the the original lyrics written by Nat King Cole:

Smile

Smile though your heart is aching

Smile even though it's breaking

When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by

If you smile through your fear and sorrow

Smile and maybe tomorrow

You'll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness

Although a tear may be ever so near

That's the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what's the use of crying?

You'll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just smile

That's the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what's the use of crying?

You'll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just smile

Answers from Survivors

From Merry, mother of Wes: A month before Wes died, he was dating a young woman who lived in downtown Denver. One particular night, he decided to take the Light Rail downtown and had to make a connection at a large station. During the time he was waiting, there was a group of bridesmaids who had recently attended a party. One of the bridesmaids started choking and lost consciousness. Wes intervened in the situation and gave CPR to this woman and saved her life.  

From Teresa, mother of Donald: After I was laid off and lost my house, my 23-year-old Marine son, Donald, told me to come and live with him in San Antonio, TX, and he would help me start over. He was recently out of boot camp and had his own apartment. So I sold as much as I could, shipped the rest, then put my German Shepherd, Ava, in the back seat of my car and drove 1,400 miles from Michigan. I am so grateful for my son's good deed of taking me in and caring for me. Semper Fi, my son!

From Patricia, mother of Kyle: One of the things that our loved ones did was to be brave enough to defend our country, making it safer for the rest of us. In addition to being a soldier, Kyle choose to be a fireman. He was also a state certified fire medic. He was so kind that he would reach out to help anyone, whether he knew them or not. His love of dogs made it impossible not to help anyone who had a dog and needed help caring for it. His love for helping kids was one of his other things. While he was at medic school, there was one day each week when they went to the hospital to work. Well, he always choose to help in the children's ward. When checked on by his professor as to his progress, he could only be found playing with the kids or reading books to them. That did not stop him from graduating top of his class. He has always been a loving, caring person, not only to me, but to whoever comes into his life.

From Amy, mother of Christiaan: My son Christiaan was a hunter. Even before he enlisted, he donated his deer to a local group, Hunters for the Hungry. This was his way of giving back and helping the community.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: I discovered after Gene passed that he had become quite the philanthropist. I found notes in his records that he had organized charity events in the area he was stationed. He helped raise money so no child would be without a Chanukah or Christmas gift.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: When thinking of things Blake did for others, I can't help but think of the many letters we received from his comrades. Blake was always one to lend a helping hand when one was needed. That part of him really came to light after his death when we received emails and letters saying, "He saved my life." We received at least three such letters from others with whom he fought side by side! I could make a long list of the caring things he did, but saving another person's life would have to be the top of the mountain of things he did for others!

From Diane, mother of Caleb: Caleb did so many seen and unseen good deeds. His heart was always there to give to others. He was the most giving, generous person I've ever known. I will share a deed we would've never known about, had Collen, my youngest son, not been with him.

It was Christmas time. The boys, Caleb and Collen, wanted a snack, so they drove to the local convenience store. While they were looking around, Caleb overheard the checker telling a young man he was going to call the police. As Caleb got closer, he heard the young man saying, "But, it should've worked." He approached the checkout and asked the young man what the problem was. The young man said his debit card had money, but it wouldn't work. He had gotten gas and didn't have enough cash to pay for it. The checker was eager to do his job and call the police because the young man didn't have enough cash. He kept saying, "I'm just going to call the police." Caleb reached into his wallet and gave the young man the cash, so he could be on his way to see his family for Christmas.

My son, my hero - he continues to teach me so much.

From Bob, father of John: Our son, a combat medic serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, came across a soldier from his unit who had sustained a life-threatening back injury. He was in extreme pain with possible paralysis, or worse, facing him without immediate transfer and back surgery treatment at Fort Carson, CO. The facilities in Germany were not an option as correct treatment was not the available there. The surgery at Fort Carson was successful with no adverse effects. When rehabilitated, the soldier went to my son's wife in Colorado Springs to thank her for John's commitment to treating his fellow soldiers with the utmost care, knowledge and speed. The soldier now lives a pain free life because John was persistent in getting him sent to the Fort Carson medical facility.

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Daytime General Support Chat 
Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Time: 1 PM - 2:30 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 at 1-800-959-8277. 

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A Good Deed Brightens a Dark World
Saturday Morning Message: Permission to Enjoy Life Again

January 16, 2016

Good Morning,

Last week, I asked you to send suggestions for sections readers might like added to the Saturday Morning Message. Kitty, mother of John, answered that she would like to see a thought for the week. I can't promise that there will be one every week, but I included a thought that fit perfectly today. Sometimes grief makes the whole world seems dark and it is hard to motivate ourselves. I thank the survivors who wrote this week to share suggestions on how they continue with their lives. I hope you will find some ideas to add to your list of strategies.

Knowing there are others who can truly understand the emotional pain that is felt when a loved one dies is so important. That is where TAPS comes in the picture. In the TAPS Magazine article titled "Unity is What Makes Us Stronger" by Amy Dozier, surviving wife of Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Kilian Dozier, Amy talks about many things, but the passage about combining the love that we feel with the ability to continue was so strong I wanted to include it. Amy wrote, "I realized that our potential does not stop because our loved one is gone. Indeed, do they not watch over us as we take fledgling steps into tomorrow? Do they not still see us as we cross the finish line of a race or the graduation stage with a new diploma? We must find a unity of purpose to unlock the future potential that still awaits each of us. I know I can't find it without you to walk beside me."

Together, we learn about each other and share stories of our loved ones, which we haven't done for a long time in the Saturday Morning Message, so this week's question will allow us to share the good deeds our loved ones did. I look forward to reading your submissions.   

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.

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

Our loved ones did so many things in their lives. This week, let's talk about one thing they did to help others. The question for the week is: What was one good deed your loved one did?

♫ Song for the Week

One of my favorite songs is "You've Got a Friend" by James Taylor. This song reminds me of TAPS. There is always someone there to support you no matter the time of day or night you need it. I hope you will enjoy this song.

Answers from Survivors

Annie, mother of Michael: I try to give myself permission each and every day to have a good day filled with many blessings. It is not always an easy task, but I do try. If I am feeling lonely, I will pick up a phone to call someone just to chat or reach out to someone to help them in some small way. Our hearts will never be the same since our losses, but we are only here on earth for a short time and we have to do positive things!  

Kathy, mother of Charles: In answer to this week's question, I think of something my son once told me: "I want my mom to be happy." He would want my life to be amazing, even though he is no longer here to share that life with me. I know one day I will see my son again, and when I do, I don't want him to ask me why I didn't enjoy my life. I want him to say, "Wow, Mom, you really had a great life."

From Annette, mother of Joseph: Shortly after we lost Joe, my friend said that if she passes she knows she had a good life and is OK with it, but if she had to look down on her loved ones and saw them sad, she would be devastated. Those words resonate in my head often and keep me going. I can hear Joe's words, "Mom, you always told me it was a better place, and you know where I am." He wants us to go on and enjoy life.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: It's been over five years since we lost our Blake, and we still have problems at times with giving ourselves permission to be happy. I just have to continue to remind myself that Blake was a loving, caring young man and he would never want anyone he cared about to be hurt because of him in any way. He believed in enjoying life to it's fullest and I know he would want that for his loved ones as well. I also remind myself that he is in a much better place than we are. I know if he were to see us in pain, it would sadden him to no end. Blake always loved Christmastime and would never want to put a damper on it for us! I know that and continuously work on reminding my heart of that. I also remind myself that he gave his life for those he loved and doing the job he loved, that of being a professional Navy man! I know it's really hard the first couple of years, but in time you'll find bits and pieces of your life's enjoyments coming back to you. I don't know that it ever could be completely as joyful as life was, but we all just have to take the good moments as they come and live them to the fullest.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: When my children are home, I enjoy every moment with them. They are treasures. I give myself permission to enjoy them, even though sometimes there are tears behind the smiles. I know they miss Caleb, too, and things are not the same without him. But when we are together we are allowed to laugh and kid around -  and tell "Caleb stories." Time with my children is an amazing blessing. As for other areas of my life, I find the wonders of creation amazing -  more so now since Caleb's been gone. I see the glory of God who loves me. His amazing love shows me that there is even more beauty than this, beyond this life. I am reminded of the TAPS events I attend. I have to make an effort to go, but when I am there, it is amazing to be able to laugh and cry with people who share this journey, to be able to talk about Caleb freely and hear about others' loved ones. I've met some wonderful people and have made some great friends. I've had enjoyable times these past two years. As for life being amazing again, it takes effort every day to take notice and not let the sweet moments pass unnoticed. The innocence of life as I once knew it is gone. There is amazement in moments, though, and for that I am grateful.

Caryn, mother of Nathan: Jan. 28 will be five years, and I'm still having difficulties with this question! For me, it wasn't just the loss of Nathan, but my husband eight months later. I'm not sure it's a matter of giving permission, but more accepting change as the new normal. Everything is different, multiplied by two. I'm a widow who also lost my only son! For now, I do as much as I can. As time goes on I've been able to accept more into my new normal-  slowly! When things feel overwhelming, I take a step back and try again at a later time. Nothing is ever the same, but my new normal does have its good moments, and I treasure those probably more than I ever had before. I'm happy with peace!

Upcoming Chats      

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Time: 8:30 p.m. - 11 p.m. EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs  

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, January 21, 2016
Time: 9 p.m. - 11 p.m. EST
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.

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obrien
Meet a Mentor: Dana O'Brien

~ Dana O'Brien, Survivor

January 12, 2016

There is a distinct difference between listening and hearing. Hearing is simply processing sounds, but listening is intentional and takes great focus. Listening means feeling the emotions behind each word and interpreting the silence between each sentence. Listening is a skill upon which Dana O’Brien prides himself. 

Dana, known as OB by many, believes listening is the key to success as a Peer Mentor. “You have to listen,” Dana said. “Don’t think you’re going to go out there and give a bunch of advice. You just need to listen.”

Peer mentoring brings great joy to Dana’s life, but it was not the original path he intended his grief journey to take. Dana and his wife, Linda, heard about TAPS and decided to attend an event at the last minute. After that, they were hooked, and 11 months into their grief journey, Linda decided she wanted to become a Peer Mentor. With some prodding, she was able to convince Dana to attend a training with her, although he still had his hesitations. During the training, he became interested and ended up sticking with it to become a Peer Mentor.

For Dana, mentoring became an opportunity to give back to people who are in the same place where he was soon after losing his grandson. Dana said he felt shame and embarrassment after his grandson died by suicide, and he’s able to offer support and understanding to new survivors wrestling with the same emotions. 

“It makes me feel great to have people open up and talk about their loved one and not hold it in anymore and release their pain,” Dana said. 

Despite all the work Dana has done to help other survivors, he says peer mentoring actually helps him more than anything. After serving in the Vietnam War, Dana had his own personal struggles that he needed to confront. He said he locked away many memories and emotions from that time in his life for more than 45 years. 

Being involved with TAPS and peer mentoring allows him to open up and talk to others about his emotions. Dana said he used to be closed off and uninterested. “You become a Peer Mentor, and you think you’re helping the other person,” Dana said. “And you are to some degree, but you’re actually helping yourself.”

Dana’s advice to other Peer Mentors, aside from listening, is simple: don’t give up. It may take months, or even years, for a new survivor to feel ready to connect with another person, but being persistent can lead to fruitful relationships. Dana recalls tirelessly working for two years to form a connection with a mentee. When the mentee was finally ready to talk, Dana made it clear that he would always be there for the survivor. He said it felt so rewarding to finally get a call from the survivor after two years.

Peer mentoring is something Dana takes to heart, and despite his initial hesitations, he says he has gained so much from his time as a Peer Mentor. “We lost our grandson, but we’ve gained grandchildren, children and friends through TAPS. TAPS is our family.”

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contedu
The Companioning Philosophy of Grief Care: Being Present to Pain

January 12, 2016

By Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.


While I was trained in the classical medical model of bereavement care, I have come to advocate for, instead, a caregiving model I call “companioning.” I’ve always found it intriguing that the word “treat” comes from the Latin root word “tractare,” which means “to drag.” If we combine that with “patient,” we can really get in trouble. “Patient” means “passive long-term sufferer,” so if we treat patients, we drag passive, long-term sufferers. Simply stated, that’s not very empowering.

On the other hand, the word “companion,” when broken down into its original Latin roots, means “messmate”: com for “with” and pan for “bread.” Someone you would share a meal with, a friend, an equal. I have taken liberties with the noun “companion” and made it into the verb “companioning” because it so well captures the type of counseling relationship I support and advocate.

That is the image of companioning – sitting at a table together, being present to one another, sharing, communing, abiding in the fellowship of hospitality.

Companioning the bereaved is not about assessing, analyzing, fixing or resolving another’s grief. Instead, it is about being totally present to the mourner, even being a temporary guardian of her soul. The companioning model is anchored in the “teach me” perspective. It is about learning and observing. In fact, the meaning of “observance” comes to us from ritual. It means not only to “watch out for” but also “to keep and honor,” “to bear witness.” The caregiver’s awareness of this need to learn is the essence of true companioning.

As a bereavement caregiver, I am a companion, not a “guide”– which assumes a knowledge of another’s soul I cannot claim. To companion our fellow humans means to watch and learn. Our awareness of the need to learn (as opposed to our tendency to play the expert) is the essence of true companioning. My companioning philosophy of bereavement care includes eleven main tenets. The remainder of this article explores the first tenet, which is about the role of pain in grief. 

Tenet One: Companioning is about being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain. 

To be bereaved literally means to be "torn apart." When someone is torn apart, there is a natural need to embrace the heartfelt pain of the loss. There is no pill we can take to relieve the pain and suffering and no surgery that can reassemble the pieces of a broken heart. The way in which we care for fellow humans who are suffering the pain of loss has much to do with the ways in which we will be able to supportively companion others.

Sadly, current North American culture often makes the person in grief feel intense shame and embarrassment about feelings of pain and suffering. People who are perceived as "doing well" with their grief are considered "strong" and "under control." Society erroneously implies that if grieving people openly express feelings of pain and suffering, they are immature or overly emotional.

In contemporary North American culture, pain and feelings of loss are experiences most people try to avoid. Why? Because the role of suffering is misunderstood. Normal thoughts and feelings that result from loss are typically seen as unnecessary and inappropriate. Yet, only in gathering courage to move toward this hurt is anyone able to ultimately heal.

Grief Is Not Shameful

As the bereaved experience grief, they are often greeted with what I call "buck-up therapy" – messages like "carry on," "keep your chin up," or "just keep busy." And combined with these messages is often another unstated but strong belief: "You have a right not to hurt – so do whatever is necessary to avoid it." In sum, the person in grief is often encouraged to deny, avoid, or numb themselves to the pain of the experience. 

When personal feelings of grief are met with shame-based messages or silent indifference, discovering how to integrate the loss becomes all but impossible. If the bereaved person internalizes stated and unstated messages that encourage the repression, avoidance or numbing of grief, they often become powerless to help themselves. I often say that finding the way into and through grief is often more difficult than finding a way beyond it. In fact, internalizing the belief that mourning is wrong or bad tempts many people to act as if they feel better than they really do. Ultimately, denying the grief denies one the essence of life and puts one at risk of for living in the "shadow of the ghosts of grief."

When we as caregivers experience the pain and suffering of a fellow human being, we instinctively want to take the pain away.

Yet, to truly companion another human being requires that we sit with the pain as we overcome the instinct to want to "fix." We may discover that we want to fix another's pain because it is hurting us too much.

Suffering doesn't mean something is wrong. It isn't happening because we made the wrong move or said the wrong thing. As Thomas Moore wisely noted, "The basic intention of any caring – -physical or psychological – -is to alleviate suffering. But in relation to the symptom itself, observance means first of all listening and looking carefully at what is being revealed in the suffering. An intent to heal can get in the way of seeing. By doing less, more is accomplished."

Ultimately, if we rush in to take away a person's grief pain, we also take away the opportunity for her to integrate the loss into her life. To be truly a healing presence, we must be able to share another person's pain while realizing there is nothing we can do to instantly relieve it and knowing that we are not responsible for it – -all the while seeking to empathetically understand what the pain feels like. The paradox of entering into the pain lies in the truth that as you affirm someone's feelings of suffering, you are also affirming his eventual capacity to move beyond those feelings. As Helen Keller taught us years ago, "The only way to the other side is through."

The Wisdom of the Soul

Yes, sometimes it may seem as if you are "doing" very little as you open your heart to a fellow struggler. And yet this is an example of how companioning inspires an attribute of the soul: wisdom. Wisdom is the sense of recognizing that in your helplessness you ultimately become helpful. A wise caregiver will have the wisdom to know what she can do, accept what she can't do, and have the spirit of the heart engaged in ways that can and do make a difference.

In providing a soulful response to another person's pain, we must discover and nurture two qualities that are within us: humility and "unknowing." We must first be present with an open mind and an open heart. To be open in this way of being is not an absence of thought, however. In fact, it is a clear, focused attentiveness to the moment. It is about immediacy – -being present in the here and now.

When we as caregivers focus the power of our attention on the suffering of another human being, the full measure of our soul becomes available to her. Releasing any preconceptions of the need to take away pain allows our hearts to open wide and be infinitely more present, loving and compassionate. Presence in the fullness of the moment is where the soul resides.

And being present to people in the pain of their grief is about being present to them in their "soul work." There is a lovely Jungian distinction between "soul work" and "spirit work."

  • Soul work: a downward movement in the psyche; a willingness to connect with what is dark, deep, and not necessarily pleasant.

  • Spirit work: a quality of moving toward the light; upward, ascending.

In part, being present to another person's pain of grief is about being willing to descend with them into their soul work, -which precedes their spirit work. A large part of being present to someone in soul work is to bear witness to the pain and suffering and not to think of it as a door to someplace else. This can help keep you in the moment. Dark, deep and unpleasant emotions need to be held in the same way happiness and joy need to be held – -with respect and humility.

Acknowledging Our Own Suffering

As our hearts begin to open to the presence of suffering, challenging thoughts may creep in. Can I really help this person? Is the pain of his loss touching my own losses? If I reach out to support, what will happen to me? In the push-pull this experience triggers, there is little wonder that being present to the suffering of others seems so difficult.

The capacity to acknowledge our own discomfort when confronted with suffering is usually less overwhelming when it is no longer minimized or denied. To give attention to our helplessness can free us to open more fully to another as well as to our own pain and suffering. We no longer find ourselves wanting to run away. We can slow down, be still and open to the presence of the pain. We can witness what is without feeling the need to fix it!

When we become conscious that any part of us wants to run away from the pain, we can gently embrace it; an entire new level of receptiveness becomes possible. As we become the companion, we begin to see what is being asked of us that is not so much about "doing" but instead about "being." We discover what anxieties and fears might be inhibiting our helping hearts, and come to trust the healing power of presence.

Finally, we can begin to listen –- truly listen – and give honor to the pain. Instead of pushing away suffering or merely releasing the need to "fix" it, we are able to enter into it. We are not indifferent or passive; we are fully available and open. We are truly being hospitable to the pain of another person.

In opening to our own suffering from life losses, we enhance our desire to be of service to those around us. We become truly available at deeper levels of our souls. We do not deny pain but open to it and learn what it is trying to teach us. In becoming more sensitive and responsive to one's own pain as well as the pain of others, we continue to see ourselves as students always learning to become more heartfelt companions to our fellow strugglers. What an honor!

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Walking Together Through Our Grief

~ Jennifer Burns , Survivor

January 12, 2016

The definition of “mentor” is “a trusted counselor or guide.” The word that stands out to me the most is “trusted.” When going through a tragedy, we are often spoken to with cliches and half truths to make us feel better, such as, “They are better off where they are now. You are young.  You will find someone new and move on.”  Someone may say, “Just put on a happy face, and soon you will get over this.” While some of these statements aren't necessarily “lies” they aren't what we need to hear when we are in the midst of our pain and grief. What we long for is someone who doesn't have all of the answers for us but listens to our hearts and let us cry when we need to cry. I know this because it is what I longed for when I lost my husband. I didn't want someone who was constantly trying to fix things or cheer me up, I wanted someone to acknowledge that my pain was understandable and if I needed to scream or to cry then they would be right beside me, screaming and crying with me. This is why I decided to be a Peer Mentor.

I lost my husband 1st Sgt. Ronald R. Keeling to suicide on Jan. 11, 2009. I remember receiving a phone call from TAPS, but I didn't know who they were, and I was so tired of talking to investigators and high ranking officers about what had happened, so I ignored the phone call. Several years later, I was determined to use my own tragedy to prevent other soldiers from taking the same path my husband did. I knew that my “mission” was to get involved with a suicide prevention program and work with soldiers and their family members. However, I was met with a lot of red tape. Every phone call I made and every person I spoke with pointed me to TAPS. I was frustrated because I didn't want to be involved with the aftermath of death but the effort to prevent it. But, I called TAPS, and I am so thankful that I did!

I was told that the best way to use my own tragedy to help others was to become a Peer Mentor, and I was put in touch with Don Lipstein. I told him my desire was to help soldiers stop from choosing suicide and to help families look for signs and symptoms and learn how to get help. I shared with Don that I wasn't sure being a Peer Mentor was the right fit for me. He was so kind and graciously enlightened me to the fact that a lot of survivors are at high risk of taking their lives and that I could potentially prevent other suicides by being a Peer Mentor. Suddenly, my eyes opened, and I realized there were plenty of times after my husband passed that I dreamed I could go with him, too. Maybe being a Peer Mentor would be a good fit for me, and maybe I could use what I had been through to help others.

I signed up to become a Peer Mentor and went through the online training. I then attended the training in Colorado Springs at the National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar in 2013. Shortly after, I was matched with my first mentee. I remember being so nervous when I made that first phone call. I knew from firsthand experience how vulnerable survivors are during those first few months. I wanted to help someone, not say the wrong thing and make things worse for them. Then I remembered what it was like when I was in their shoes and how I longed for someone to just come beside me and say, “I know what you are going through and it sucks, but I will be here for you every step of the way!” It may not have been the most eloquent or meaningful expression, but it was just what my mentee needed to hear. I have walked with her through her grief for over a year now, and we continually say to each other, “It just sucks.”

I tell all of my mentees that I will never lie to them. If they have a question, I will always give them an honest answer. I refuse to sugarcoat anything because too many other people try to do that in our lives. When I say that I will be there for them every step of the way, I mean it! During that first year, so many people let us down that we start to not trust anyone. So, when I say that I will call them, I call! I take mentoring very seriously because I know how desperate I was for someone who understood me, and I imagine that my mentees are just as desperate.

Being a mentor isn’t just about helping others through their grief, it is also about helping myself. I find comfort in walking with others through their grief journey because often times I am not just taking their hands, but they are taking mine as well. When I reach out to them, they reach out to me as well. By sharing my story and my experiences with them, I learn things that help me with my grief and also things that hinder my healing. We walk this journey together, hand-in-hand and step-by-step. In the dictionary, a mentor is a “trusted counselor or guide,” but my definition of a mentor is a “trusted friend and a heart healer.” We are never alone as we navigate through this grief journey, because two is always better than one!

 

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TAPS Coffee Mug, Calendar
Saturday Morning Message: Treating Yourself

January 9, 2016

Good Morning,

The latest TAPS Magazine features an article written by Bradley Stetson, Ph.D., called "Seven Grief Strategies for the New Year." Reading it makes me think of the question in the last Saturday Morning Message, which asked, "What do you do to treat yourself for getting through the holidays?"

Several ideas from this article can be applied as treats after the holidays. The first is to write a letter to yourself as if writing to a good friend whose loved one has passed. This can be composed just for yourself, or you may want to share it with other survivors. In addition to the Saturday Morning Message, TAPS publishes a monthly Writers' Group Newsletter, which includes longer pieces from those who like to write. Your letter would be perfect for this communication. You can sign up to receive the Writers' Group Newsletter by sending an email to me.

Stetson suggests making appointments with yourself to go somewhere. The question this week centers around that. It is good to share plans and ideas with each other as the suggestions may be just what another survivor needs. They don't have to be elaborate. Something as simple as walking your dog can be healing.

Music is also therapeutic. One of our survivors adds the songs of the week to a playlist on Spotify. I often listen to these tunes while I am working. Make yourself a list of songs that give you comfort and send a few to me to put into future Saturday Morning Messages. This week, the link to Spotify, a free music site, is listed in the Song for the Week portion of this newsletter.

Thanks to Diane and Karl who added their thoughts about treating themselves.

I am always looking for suggestions to make the Saturday Morning Message meet the needs of survivors. Right now, each weekly message includes replies to last week's question, a new question, a song of the week and a list of upcoming chats. TAPS has so many events and resources to help survivors on their grief journey. Is there something else that you would like to see posted weekly?

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.

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 sending it directly to 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

TAPS talks about creating a "new normal" after the death of our loved one. It starts with one step at a time, possibly by going somewhere special or sharing coffee with a friend. Leslie, mother of Eugene, wrote the following question: What can we do to give ourselves permission for life to be amazing again even though our hearts have a hole in them?

♫ Song for the Week

I want to thank Andy, father of Daniel, who adds the songs that appear in the Saturday Morning Messages along with a few other songs special to him. You can listen to the playlist, titled "TAPS Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Playlist - Suggested Memories of Love," by signing up for Spotify.

Answers from Survivors

From Diane, mother of Caleb: I'm going to start a fire in the fireplace, curl up with a cup of hot tea, continue reading the "Harry Potter" series and watch the Hallmark Christmas movies I didn't get to watch!

From Karl, father of Tre: I know it sounds squirrely, but I like to go gambling. I pretend/hope my son is standing behind me watching and cheering me on. I talk to him. My friend even caught me once and said, "You were talking to Tre, weren't you?" I confessed. She said, "I knew you were." There are so many better things I could do with the money, but I don't smoke or drink, so it's my vice.  I also go to the annual candle lighting ceremony of Compassionate Friends.

I buried my son in December, so Christmas is that reminder for me. I am a Christian, and I do celebrate Christ's birth, as well. At Christmas Mass, I can feel the tears well up in my eyes as I stare at the babe in the manger, wishing my son were back with the living. It is an emotional roller coaster, so I feel we all must do what we must do. I have quit trying to give an explanation for my feelings.

Upcoming Chats   

Parent Chat 
Date: Monday, January 11, 2016
Time: 9 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson 

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Time: 8:30 p.m. - 11 p.m. EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower Chat 
Date: Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Time: 9 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. EST
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.

 

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.

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