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2015 Rachael Hill
A letter to Jeff on his 5th Angelversary

~ Rachael Hill , Survivor

July 28, 2015

My Dearest Jeffrey,

 It has been five years since I wrote my last letter to you, and it was the one I read at your memorial service.  This fifth angelversary feels like a momentous milestone, although not in a fun way like our fifth wedding anniversary was.  As each year goes by, your anniversary just feels like a stinging reminder that we have gone through another year without you here.  It has now been five years since I watched you put on your boots, grab your coffee cup, and head off to work for the very last time.  I vividly remember wrapping my arms around you and holding that hug just a little bit longer than normal, then I kissed you good-bye, and watched you walk out the door.  Little did I know that would be the last time I would see your face.  These memories are another beautiful, yet stinging reminder of what we used to have.

 In my last letter I made you a lot of promises, and I have done my best to follow through with as many as I could.  I promised you we would be ok…and we are.  We miss you all day, every day, but the boys and I have all made a choice to continue your legacy by living our lives to the fullest. Our family and friends have been an amazing support, and I know I couldn't have done any of this without them.  I promised you that I would continue to take the boys on any adventure we could find, and oh how we have.  We have done so many things and have made tons of memories along the way.  We've been 4-wheeling, snow-machining, drove across the country from Alaska to Minnesota, and so much more.  You would have loved all of these adventures. 

 You would be so proud of your two sons.  TJ is like you in so many ways, which is both beautiful and scary at the same time.  He is now 10 years old and starting to find his personality.  He has your quick wit, and he presents a loyalty to those he cares about just like you did.  Tyler just turned 8 and brings a sunshine to everyone around him.  He has your love for "toys" and most incredibly, your compassion for others.  It is amazing to watch these boys grow and see how your influence in them continues to develop.  It is a beautiful thing to see how your legacy truly lives on in them, and that you will always be a part of their lives.

As for me, I am finally starting to come into my own.  It has been a long journey and I have taken my time maneuvering through, but I am getting there.  The day you died, my life felt shattered.  I felt like everything I knew had disappeared, and I was so incredibly lost without you.  Somehow, I started to find my way and began putting the pieces back together again.  Some days have been easier than others, but no matter what the day holds, I always try to make the best out of what I am given.  It is not always easy, but I at least try.  More than anything, I just want to make you proud.

Well Jeff, this is the end of my letter and it is time for me to sign off.  Don't worry, we are doing alright.  We have an amazing family, amazing friends, and your love in our hearts.  I love you so much and I promise I will continue to share your stories and memories with the boys.  Here's to you.  Happy Angelversary, Handsome.

All my Love,

Rachael

 

 

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Gold Star
The Strength In Our Stars

July 28, 2015

In the past week, the Gold Star Family community has lost 3 precious souls, while a 4th fights for life. We who have mourned so greatly the losses of loved ones already, feel the depths of grief and the senseless inequity of tragedy renewed. In the wake of wounds reopened by Chattanooga, these added hurts seem relentless in their distribution and pace. We ask all for your continued support and prayers. In time, it is promised by those who have traveled this journey, there will be smiles again where tears were shed. And this unique blended family, forged by the loss of our heroes, will be ever stronger in its foundation of love.

Greg, Alex, and Destiny, your Gold Stars now add luster to the heavens while your legacy remains as glitter upon our hearts.

To anyone needing extra support during this time, TAPS is here as always 24/7 to listen and help.  Call us anytime, any hour at 1-800-959-TAPS. 

  TAPS

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Edinger, Vicky's Frozen Iris
Saturday Morning Message: Self Care Part 2

July 25, 2015

Good Morning,

Self care includes healthy patterns for your body and your mind. This week, survivors have shared what they have found helpful in their lives.

You may be  interested in a new group I  started that is separate from the Saturday Morning Message. It is called  the TAPS Writers' Group. This group is different, because it can include poems or longer written pieces that have nothing to do with the question of the week. It goes out to the group once a month, so you have plenty of time to work on your writing. If that is interesting to you, just send me an email.

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 sending it directly to carol.lane@taps.org. 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

In the July 4th Saturday Morning Message, Vicky, mother of Derek, wrote about the iris in her garden that started blooming in the fall and the spring only after her son died. She wanted to share the picture with all of you. It is the iris frozen in the snow after it bloomed in September. In the latest TAPS magazine, there was an article titled  "Messages of Love" by Claire Perkins, surviving mother of Cameron. In the article, Claire wrote about messages that she had from her son. She says they have been in dreams, songs on the radio, or finding heart shapes. Looking at the picture and reading the information from these two survivors provided inspiration for the question for the week: What things remind you of your loved one?

♫ Song for the Week

The songs for this week were suggested by Shannon, significant other of Gavin. One is an instrumental, "A Thousand Years" played by the Piano Guys. The other, "Groovy Kind of Love" with Phil Collins. This version includes music and  words with a beautiful poem embedded in the video.

Answers from Survivors: What do you do for Self Care?

From Donn,  father of Todd:  The last five years have been an eternity and yet flew by.  For me, I was back at work within days of Todd's death and had to be forced into retirement four years later by a loving wife.  My work supports Todd's legacy and I have even found volunteer ways to do the same.  Self-care for this graying old man was the last thing on my agenda.  Men are tough.  Dads and Grandpas have to show strength and press on to help the rest of the family.  In my case my eighty-nine year old dad, who is a WWII veteran, was crushed when he lost his grandson even though he survived Pacific naval battles and D-Day. He needed that strength from me or at least I thought he did.  Then it hit me  -  that was my self care.  It helped me sustain Todd's memory and give him a voice, along with of all those men and women whose sacrifice have created TAPS families. Now I have stopped working save a couple months per year at my old job, but volunteer like crazy at local veteran organizations and keep our family's ways of honoring Todd going forth.  Being busy ensures I am caring for myself and will not drop into despair.  However, now I also have time to say, "How can we visit our other kids and grandkids more often?  Why not take a road trip to see the countryside on the way to a business or volunteer meeting? Why not schedule our first ever cruise which is coming up for a week in December? Why not plan more family visits, even to Arlington? Why not drive two hours to catch a major league ball game?"  Losing Todd has given me an entirely new life.  It is one I live in part for him and all the others who have fallen, but also one that makes me appreciate life so much more.  I have found spontaneous ways to treat myself while never forgetting him or being sad about his loss.  When I play with or talk on the phone with the grandchildren or take in a ballgame, I am reinvigorated and I know Todd would be happy.

From Diane, mother of Caleb:  My vehicle was rear-ended on the 4th of July-not real bad, but it meant insurance, police/accident reports, call after call...you get the picture. We are also having some work done on our house. Things are not falling into place or going as smoothly as I thought they would. Imagine that! Holidays and days after holidays are tough anyway. I started feeling very overwhelmed. I realized what was happening and knew I had to step away from everything for a bit. I sat and played the piano. After I did that, I sat - just sat. I didn't read, didn't watch TV. I just sat and listened to the silence. I cleared my mind, and just let peace come. I reminded myself that I'm all right and I can only do so much. I  used to be the energizer rabbit, but am not anymore. I have to realize that I can only do so much and it's OK to stop and regroup. I also had a call during that time where a person wanted me to do something and tried to manipulate me with guilt to do it. I was able to politely, but firmly say, "No!" That is huge for me.  I have to make it through these days and take care of myself.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: What have I done for myself lately? I am the luckiest person to be married to the greatest guy. He is going to retire this October. Right now I am in Florida where I just closed on a place. We are going to be snowbirds.  No more frigid winters! I am getting things together to make it a home so when we come down in November we can enjoy ourselves. My son must be chuckling in heaven!

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake:  Well, we just got back from a "get out of Dodge" long weekend. It seems, at times, things start to pile up on us emotionally. This has been the case for both  my husband and me lately. When that happens, as soon as it is possible, we get out of town for a while. We did so this past week for a few days just to get away to relax where no one knows us who would be asking questions about the past bringing up painful memories we're trying to put behind us, as best as is possible. It doesn't always come when we can easily handle them. At those times, we've found that we just need to remove ourselves from the questioning people! By doing so it gives us time to get some fresh air, so to speak, then come back home more able and ready to face the world again.

From Karen, spouse of Charlie:  After Charlie died I started playing the guitar. She was a wonderful player and would write songs for Casey and I and play them to us at night.  We had a collection of songs that we both loved. She would play guitar and I would sing.  Casey was always a temperamental sleeper and we often lulled her into reluctant sleep with a song late at night.  I missed those songs and the sound of the guitar being strummed in a room somewhere across the house after she died. I decided to take some lessons and I have learned a few chords, but I just love holding the guitar and the repetitive feel of strumming which seems to have a calming effect on me now. Sometimes Casey will ask me to play a song to help her fall asleep and I'm happy that I can carry on that tradition for Charlie.  Music is amazingly therapeutic and I think there's a healing quality to playing it even if just for your own ears.

From Merry, mother of Wesley:

Self care for me is:
Dialogue and prayer with the Holy Trinity.
Gardening, which I love. It keeps me grounded in an activity I began as a five-year-old.  
Getting a one hour massage at my favorite spa, or a twenty-minute massage at the local health food store.
Driving to the mountains.

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane 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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Andy Burris
When Tragedy Comes Home

~ Karen Burris, Survivor

July 24, 2015

July 9, 1988 was the happiest day of my life.  I was marrying my best friend, Andy Burris.  We joined hands and walked underneath the Arch of Sabers not knowing exactly what that whack on the hind end with a saber and shout of "Welcome to the Army, ma'am" meant but we knew we would face it together.  

 
Our first duty station for me as a military wife was Ft. Bragg.  It was there I figured out what that tap with the sword meant.  Andy and I calculated we were together for a year and a half out of the first four years of marriage.  Naturally, I worried about him jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.  I worried about him during training exercises.  I worried for over nine months while he served during Desert Storm.  But then he came home and went to Command and General Staff College in Kansas and life slowed down.  We had a little girl by then.  He came home every night.  We spent entire weekends together.  Life was good.  But as any paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne he was thrilled to be heading back to Ft. Bragg to do what he loved best.  I began the cycle of worry yet again.  I worried about another deployment so when he was tasked to evaluate a training exercise in Florida I was happy he would only be gone for 2 weeks and be safe in the United States.   

Andy Burris Family
I received the knock on the door that all military spouses fear.  My husband of nine years, best friend, father of my child had been killed in a training accident.  A fear that I hadn't considered.  As a military spouse you brace yourself for many things.  You prepare yourself for the obvious risks.  People can say "you knew the risks"... but risks evolve too, and now, our soldiers are at risk on American soil.  The Chattanooga shootings, on the heals of other stateside attacks targeting our service members, destroyed families and families-to-be.  Military spouses suddenly no longer have the respite from fear if their husband/wife has a "safe job" simply because they are assigned stateside.  The enemy is just as domestic as it has ever been foreign.  Our soldiers and their families are warned to be aware and take precautions even at home now.  I can assure you "Welcome to the Army, ma'am" did not translate to this, all this worry and added stress that the safe places are dwindling.  My heart goes out to the families of those who lost a loved one in a manner they never expected - nor should they have had to - and whose fears were not only preyed upon but brought to a whole new level.  My heart breaks for them and I pray they are surrounded by people who give them strength and love to maneuver through this new life forced upon them.  If I could tell them anything, it would be to say simply, "You are not alone. I too have shared your journey and am here to listen and walk yours now with you." 

 

 

 

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Ambard
The Ties That Bind Unseen

~ Linda Ambard, Survivor

July 22, 2015

A mirror displays a reflection of something  that is solid and real, but reflection is only manifested by what the eye can see.  Those mirrored reflections are only part of the story for behind what the eye can see is something bigger, something truer, and something more permanent.  Time has changed the planes of my face.  No longer does a young girl peer back.  Instead, my skin is ravaged by life and the lines reflect laughter and a life well lived.  The ravages and the eyes belie of something deeper, however.  The quiet longing, the look of having been through something bigger than one’s self, and a maturity well beyond my years plays out in the visage people can see.  There is more to me than what the eye can see.

As I face another birthday alone, I am looking at what people cannot see or know about me.  The mirror tells a person what others can see, but can they see the changes inside?  Can they see what pushes me and compels me forward?  Can they see that although the physical relationship with Phil is gone, that the spiritual connection and love live on?  Sometimes it is easy to think that what we see is the only reality, but I know better.

Looking at a dead person is never easy, but every person that has done this can testify to the same truism—the person’s body is right in front of them, but something is missing.  The body is the body, but somehow the essence of what was once is gone.  That spirit is that presence that lives on inside of a person and I would argue, is more acutely felt in the pain that gouges the heart with longing.  Like  love, I cannot see it, but I know it.  I know that people love me even if I don’t see love.  I think understanding of the nature of an ongoing relationship is in the idea of a reflection.  Phil is gone from this earth, but it doesn’t change his love for me or my love for him.  I sense his presence and I see it reflected in the lives of our children.  Phil’s legacy of duty, honor, commitment, faith, life, and  love did not end with the death of his physical body, but the legacy grows and shines through my work, my ability to stand strong and to embrace life, and it lives on reflected in the five children who called him dad.

Recognizing that the physical presence is gone is painful, heart shattering agony, but time has brought me to looking for the shadows and reflections.  I am not living in denial or in the past, but looking for how I can step forward without giving up the unseen ties of the past.  I simply cannot let those ties go, for in letting the unseen go, I am letting go of Phil’s physical presence.  No matter what my days ahead will bring, and even if I one day let someone else in, it will never sever or end the relationship with Phil.  I am who I am because I loved well and he loved me well.  With quiet confidence, I can look at what remains and know with surety that what is seen is only a small part of the story.

(Editor's Note: Click on Linda's photo for a special video message!)


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Apple - Health
Saturday Morning Message: Self Care

July 18, 2015

Good Morning, 

This weekend I am visiting my family in the northern part of New York state. Since coming online to put together a Saturday Morning Message may be difficult, I am using the same question for this week, so keep sending your answers. They will appear in the Message for July 25th.

If you find you would like to talk to someone at TAPS, please call 800-959-8277 anytime. Our helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for support.

Would you like to share a meaningful song 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 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. Next 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

Taking  time for self-care is important for the grieving person. Tips for Self-Care by Judy Tatelbaum, LCSW is an article from a past TAPS Magazine giving suggestions on how this could be done. I thought it would be good to share some of the ways we do this, so this week's question is: What have you done to take care of yourself recently?

♫ Song for the Week

Andy, father of Daniel, made a playlist of the songs that have been on the Saturday Morning Message called TAPS Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Playlist - Suggested Memories of Love along with a few other songs special to him. He adds the new song from the Saturday Message each week. To hear it, you need to download a free program called Spotify. I want to thank Andy for this gift.

Answers from Survivors

From Roseanne, mother of Christopher: Some of the strategies I use are as follows:

  • I use my mind for good thoughts.
  • I use my lips for kind words.
  • I use my hands for prayer.
  • I use my heart for compassion.
  • I use my feet to walk in the right direction.
  • I work at it. I push negative thoughts out of my mind and let in positive ones.
  • I compliment someone every day. If we look around there is always something nice to say about someone, even if we are hurting.
  • I simply put my hands together and pray.
  • I feel the pain in my heart, then realize perhaps someone else may be feeling the same pain.
  • I just started walking up to a veteran asking if I would be able to give him a hug, smile and say thanks. They're easy to recognize, most wear their hats, showing us they are also proud they served this country.

Allow me to explain.

I was not always this way. It is a process, the journey we are on. I am twenty months out from when Chris was found. I did not feel then the way I feel today. Healing is a choice and has started for me. I attribute a lot of that to TAPS. They do have a way of helping you remember the love, celebrate the life, and share the journey.

Like Lee Greenwood once sang, "God Bless the USA"

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Daytime General Support Chat 
Date: Thursday, July 23, 2015
Time: 1 PM - 2:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and 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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OB and Daniel
Remembering the Ride

~ Dana O'Brien, Survivor

July 16, 2015

My wife received a call from our grandson whose duty station was at MCAS Miramar, Calif. He had just returned from his second tour in Iraq and his wife, who also is a Marine and had gotten orders for MCAS Beaufort, S.C. She had left her car in California and wanted Daniel to bring it to her.

Grandma got off the phone and told me that Daniel was going to drive the car from San Diego to Beaufort. I asked when he was planning his adventure. She told me, and I said to call Daniel back and tell him I would fly out to the West Coast and help him drive east.

Daniel met me at the airport in San Diego, and when we saw each other, I don't know whose eyes were the biggest. We hugged and headed for the base to spend the night.

It took us four and a half days to make the journey across the states. There was only one thing wrong. You guessed it; grandpa ended up doing almost all the driving while someone played games on his phone. But I didn't mind as we were enjoying each other's company.

Daniel and I had a very close relationship, and we talked about several things on our long trip. He was excited to get to South Carolina to see his baby girl Alexis. He asked me several questions about my time in Vietnam as a Marine, and I gave him my honest answers. He talked about some of his time in Iraq and other things.

Daniel was a very caring giving person. We stopped somewhere in Texas and I bought a couple of bags of beef jerky for us to munch on while driving. We stopped at a rest area in Louisiana and when I came back to the car, Daniel was sitting on the sidewalk petting this old rough-looking dog. He just hated leaving that poor stray dog behind.

We got down the road a ways and I told Daniel to reach in the back seat and get a bag of that jerky so we could have a snack. He looked at me the way he did when he was a small boy with that "I did something wrong" look. Yep, he had fed both bags to that dog.

Six months later, he died by suicide on July 6, 2009. But I am so glad that I made that trip with him and had that special bonding time with my grandson.

I miss you every day, Daniel.

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2014 National Seminar
Saturday Morning Message: Connecting with other Survivors

July 11, 2015

Good Morning,

Connecting with other survivors can offer support and healing for those who are grieving. When I went through the brochures the casualty officers left us after our son died, I found a pamphlet from TAPS. After calling their 800 number, I met another survivor named Ellen, fiancée of David, who helped me in so many ways. Just talking to someone else who suffered a military loss was healing. We shared memories of our loved ones and my grief began to be more manageable. Eventually, I went to the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar in order to meet her. By attending, I met not only this woman, but many others as well. We began writing to each other through email. That is how the Saturday Morning Message came to be. It started as an email I sent to others who I met at TAPS events. Writing has been an important tool for me.  "Healing Through Writing" by Artis Henderson, surviving spouse of CW2 Miles Henderson and author of Unremarried Widow, is an article that offers ideas on how to use writing to help with grief.

Each survivor is different. That is why TAPS offers so many ways to bring survivors together. Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D., CHT, CT, GMS wrote an wonderful article, "Reaching Out to Others," about sharing with others through listening. Coming to a TAPS event can be helpful for this. To find one of interest, click on this link to the Events section on the TAPS website.

Chats are another way to connect with others. There is a list of this week's chats at the bottom of this message. To attend them, register for the Online Community at the top right side of the main TAPS page.

Would you like to share a meaningful song or see 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 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. 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

Taking the time for self-care is important for the grieving person. Tips for Self-Care by Judy Tatelbaum, LCSW is an article giving suggestions on how this can be done. I thought it would be good to share some of the ways we do this with each other, so this week's question is: What have you done to take care of yourself recently? I will be away next week, so the answers will be compiled and posted in the July 25th Saturday Morning Message.

♫ Song for the Week

Kim, spouse of Milton, sent in this song. Kim wrote, "Milton loved "Amazing Grace". I heard that [Chris Tomlin] version after his death....thought it was appropriate, because now his chains of this earth have gone and he has been set free of his troubles of life here."

Click here to hear Chris Tomlin singing "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)." The video of this particular version shows some beautiful pictures of our country.

In addition, one of our amazing Peer Mentors has compiled a link to listen to all of the songs featured in the Saturday Morning Message as well as a few other songs from friends and family that speak to survivors.  This is great to have for all the times music is needed to inspire us forward.  Click this link to listen to the playlist - TAPS Spotify Playlist - Songs of Remembrance and Love. You must have an account to listen, but you can easily sign up for free using your email.

Answers from Survivors

From Monica, spouse of Dameshvar: I connected with another widow at the TAPS National Seminar. It was comforting to meet someone else who knew what I was feeling. I still have difficulties discussing my husband, his injury, and sudden death, but I am a Mother who has to care for two beautiful children who miss their Daddy very much. So it's imperative I reach out to other widows to find out how they've been able to manage it all. There are many days it's difficult to get out of bed and start my day.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Whether or not I answer every week I read everything that comes from Carol and my fellow club members. We are a club. A club no one wants to join, but we need one another. To know your thoughts and feelings are acknowledged and appreciated is key to holding life together. I thank Carol and all of you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to express myself. The loss of my first child has been devastating to me, my family, and the country just as your losses have been. What should have or might have been rests wearily with all of us. Yet, this forum gives us peace and hope.

In the four and a half years since my son has been gone, I got married; my surviving son married and has a daughter; and I have three additional children and their families. My dad survived major cancer surgery and is OK. We just had our eighth grandchild, a princess who is built like a fullback! Life goes on. We have plenty to celebrate.

I learned from this blog that I can celebrate. I learned how to miss my son and still live without feeling guilty if I smile. Thanks to all.

From Cait, spouse of Robb: I think connecting with other families is important, because the civilian world doesn't understand a military death. When I meet someone and they find out about Robb, I get a pity look. I don't mention Robb's death, I just say I'm a widow and leave it at that. At my church I'm the only military widow, so no one really gets it. When I do a TAPS event, I'm around other women who are feeling the same as I am. It's nice to know that you aren't the only one. When I'm with TAPS folks I can talk about Robb and it's OK. A guy I've traveled with to Guatemala told me that I'm more than just a widow and that I need to get beyond that whole widow thing. What he doesn't understand is that now I identify myself as a widow. Part of that is not wanting others to look at me and think, "Ah, that poor woman. She's all alone in this world." That is because I'm not with some guy. That statement isn't true. I'm alone, because someone shot Robb on a street in Baghdad. Big difference than just being a poor lonely older woman.  I was married once to a great guy. I hate it when I'm told I need to get beyond this widow thing. I really don't know how to do that, because that's who I am right now. AND people at TAPS understand that. That's the main reason I think it's important to connect with others at TAPS events.

From Ruth, mother of James: The first time I came to TAPS, I found myself across the table from a young mother who had lost her daughter and a young woman whose husband had died in Iraq.  It was there that I learned that it was OK to smile, talk, exchange ideas, and memories  As I listened I did not hear them talking about how their loved one had died, but how they lived and how these families were living without their family members.

I learned this journey we are on is like making a quilt.  Little squares are made. Oh yes, one was part of the pajamas he wore as a baby. Another represents his favorite shirt in high school and a picture transferred of high school graduation. There is a picture of a soldier going off to a foreign land.  Oh, the squares were made one by one..... and suddenly you are sewing the pieces together into a beautiful quilt. The stories I hear from others, the memories we share, the hugs and tears all come together. They are my quilt. On cold winter nights I wrap myself in the love of those who have given me the gift of a quilt square better known as a memory.  On warm summer days you can stand back and see the beauty as the sun shines through a bedroom window.

My journey has been long, but my friends are many. Thank you for walking with me, holding my hand, and listening to my stories.  I have become a stronger person, because you allowed me to walk with you. You let me hold your hand and you took time to share your stories.  You will be my friends forever.

Upcoming Chats

Parent Chat
Date: Monday, July 13, 2015
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson
 
General Support Chat
Date: Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs
 
 
Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat
Date: Thursday, July 16, 2015
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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Noreen Doloughty
In Between Days

~ Noreen Doloughty, Survivor

July 7, 2015

The stretch of time between Father's Day and the anniversary of my dad's death is a rest stop along my journey each year. I was eight months old when my dad, Army SSG James C. Doloughty was killed in Vietnam. He served in Alpha Company of 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. My dad stepped forward to rescue the wounded, until he himself was wounded, in an ambush on July 8, 1969 in the foothills west of Tam Ky. He died the following day in the 27th Surgical Hospital in Chu Lai. At this rest stop, I spend a lot of time trying to piece together the man my dad was.

Memories shared by those who grew up with my dad help me do that. Last year, a man remembered my dad letting him wear his jacket on a chilly night at a high school football game. Men who were in combat with my dad have told me he made sure they had dry socks and enough ammunition. My dad wrote letters to my mom encouraging her to learn to drive and establish credit. He wanted me to learn how to swim. And he wanted to go back to college to study journalism. However, it turned out I was the one who landed in journalism, working at a newspaper as an online graphic designer.

In 2002, Veterans Day would mark the 20th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A Reading of the Names was planned and my dad's name would be read on November 10, my birthday. I had never been to the Wall. I knew I needed to go but I was terrified. I talked with the paper's writing coach, Peter, who asked, "why not write about it?" I had never written anything for the paper, but with Peter's encouragement, I did. I had a lot of encouragement from other men in the newsroom, as well.

Reg, a columnist and Vietnam veteran, was one of those men. One day in 2005 Reg suggested I meet some friends of his that night for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. Thinking of the food, I walked into the restaurant and met a group of mostly veterans who built schools in Vietnam. They were planning a Vietnam trip for March 2006 and asked me to join them. And I did! I was able to travel to the area where my dad had been wounded. Fearful to arrive there, I felt an overflow of peace and warmth and love once I had. Now that I had made it to that point in my journey, I wanted to find a way to help others on theirs.

Leaving a newspaper for a hospital helped. It felt good to be a part of a team caring for others. I had heard about TAPS, and I had wanted to volunteer at the National Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp, but I was afraid. Eventually, I worked with a surgeon named Mark, who nudged me out of my comfort zone with suggestions like these: Edit a book chapter. Build a web site. Go on a mission trip. So I signed up to be a general volunteer with TAPS in 2012 and my first assignment was as a greeter in the hotel lobby at the National Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp. That's when I learned other people shared my fear of walking through those hotel doors! I was so humbled by the understanding and love and acceptance shared by everyone in the TAPS family.

I like to think my dad helped me to see him through the actions of the men who've stepped forward for me. And I hope by encouraging others along our shared journey by volunteering with TAPS I've found a great way to honor my dad.

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Fireworks
Saturday Morning Message: Strategies for the Holiday

July 4, 2015

Good Morning,

I love history. When I taught 5th grade, the American Revolution was part of the curriculum. Each year, we would discuss the connection between the holiday and American Independance, usually at the end of the school year, since the children were not in school on the actual holiday. Leslie, mother of Eugene, suggested the finale of the "1812 Overture" to be the song of the week. When I hear it, a strong feeling of pride comes over me.  I am proud of all Americans--from the beginning up to the present--making this country great. However, Independence Day celebrations can bring a variety of emotions to those who have survived the death of a loved one in service to our country. The replies this week in the Answers from Survivors section are from those who wanted to share their plans for the 4th of July. Remember whatever choice you make, it is the right one for you.

The format is a little different this week, because there were several emails I wanted to share with you.

Annie, mother of Michael, is a frequent contributor to the Saturday Morning Message. Her husband, Michael's father, John (Buddy) recently died on June 6, 2015 at the age of 86. Annie wanted to say something in the Saturday Morning Message to honor her husband. She wrote, "He was a true American hero. He served two tours of duty in the Korean War earning him a Purple Heart.  Before he was shipped off to Korea, he was one of the honor guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery in VA.  When he came out of the military, he became a New York City police officer for twenty-five years. He was a man of service and a quiet person never boasting or bragging about anything that he did.  He joined the Korean War Association and joined the Honor Guard to bury the dead.  He buried over 1,000 veterans. On Dec. 11, 2000, our son LTC Michael L. Murphy, USMC, age thirty-eight, was a test pilot for the MV 22 Osprey helicopter on a night training mission in North Carolina along with three other brave warriors when the plane had mechanical problems. They all died in an air crash.  Even after the loss of his son, my husband continued to bury veterans. God bless him and I will miss him terribly, but was a fortunate person to have him as my husband!"

Survivors write to me when the theme of the Saturday Morning Message sparks a memory. This week two survivors shared their thoughts on last week's garden theme.

Vicky, mother of Derek,  wrote about an unusual event that has taken place in her garden. In the northern part of our country, irises bloom in the spring. Vicky wrote: "I have iris that started blooming in September the year I lost my son. They continued to bloom through the end of November, despite the cold and snow. Last year they bloomed again through the fall months. In the spring, when they bloom it's only for a few weeks. They were planted over twenty years ago and had never bloomed in the fall."  

From Judy, mother of William: I have now planted very big gardens...in them I have some bleeding hearts and some sweet Williams. As you know, my son's name is William, so it just seemed appropriate to plant them. As I walk in my garden, I often think of a song we used to sing at my old church, "Walk in the Garden"

The lyrics are:

'I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.'

Now I know it is talking about my God, but I often hear my son's voice in the whispers of the birds and the flowers. He was a photographer and the beauty he saw in so many things appear in my garden. I have butterflies and birds of all species including cardinals. That is a joy I get to have that 'none other has ever known."

Would you like to share a meaningful song or see 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 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 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 has many ways to connect with other survivors. That is the main purpose of the Saturday Morning Message and chats, but there are other ways that link survivors from different geographical areas, so the question for this week is: What has connecting with other survivors and hearing their stories meant to you?

♫ Song for the Week

Leslie, mother of Eugene suggested that the finale of the  Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture be this week's song of the week. She wrote, "The finale of this symphony is mostly associated with the 4th of July. Normally fireworks are part of this." Enjoy.

Answers from Survivors

From Mary-Ann, mother of David: I have found things that worked for me from year to year have changed somewhat, but the biggest help of all has been a combination of prayers and close family ties. We tend to do our own thing as a family whenever possible, so we have each other to lean on. When we can't do so, as bad as it may sound, I tend to go in hiding until the holiday is over. The patriotic ones have become the hardest for me, especially Memorial Day when people want to have us participate in the activities. I know they are honoring our loved ones and for that I'm grateful. What they don't seem to understand is how such holidays reopen the wounds over and over again never giving the wound a chance to heal.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: It's four and a half years since Eugene has been gone. I'm still amazed that I celebrate anything, but I do. Even with that empty spot in my heart, I find the strength to move forward. I have tons to be grateful for and know my son would be upset with me if I didn't enjoy my life. Surrounding yourself with joy and giving yourself permission to enjoy is key.

From Judy, mother of William: To be honest, nobody ever invites me to things like that anymore. I guess too many years of turning them down saying I needed to stay home and away from crowds. They just gave up. So I usually do stay home and work in my garden. On occasion, my husband who is not Billy's dad. (We met more than a year after Billy's death) takes me out for a ride and maybe a BBQ place. He tries to tell by my mood. I never go for fireworks anymore. I can only imagine the sound of my son's Bradley being hit and  I can't do crowds anymore without panicking.

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, July 07, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower Chat 
Date: Wednesday, July 08, 2015
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.

Photo By Fcb981 (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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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