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Folded Flag - Rose
Saturday Morning Message: Memorial Day Weekend

May 23, 2015

Good Morning,

This weekend there are many events to honor those who gave their lives in our country's military. It is hard to decide what to do.

On Memorial Day, survivors can be found in many different places:

Some are at the TAPS National Seminar in Washington, DC; others can be found at an activity in their home state; still others may choose a location that is special to their loved ones; some may prefer to stay at home.

Wherever you chose to spend this Memorial Day, you are in the right place and the thoughts of your TAPS family are with you. If you find you would like to talk to someone at TAPS, please call 800-959-8277 anytime as our helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for support. 

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

Responses to this question will be gathered and posted on May 30th to give time for those who are away to reply.  So let's share our activities. What did you do over the Memorial Day weekend?

 

♫ Song for the Week

The band called the Knuckledusters is the band playing at TAPS National Seminar this weekend. Clicking on their name will bring you to their site with a variety of videos highlighting their music, so you will feel the energy if you can't actually be with us.

 

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Daytime General Support Chat 
Date: Thursday, May 28, 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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Child in Arlington Cemetery
Who is Memorial Day For?

May 21, 2015

Who is Memorial Day for? It's for all of us. It's for all Americans to remember we enjoy our many freedoms because of a brave few who dedicated their lives to this country and who died much too soon from wounds seen and unseen.

Many are easily confused by the various holidays honoring military service members. There's a day for those who have served (Veterans Day), one for those who are currently serving (Armed Forces Day), and one for those who died in service (Memorial Day). Add to that an array of military branch birthdays, Flag Day, and Independence Day and it seems our country has an abundance of opportunities to appreciate all who contribute to keeping our nation free and secure. This was not always the case for previous generations and many heroes went to their graves unmarked and unnoticed by history.

What a blessing then to have so many forums to express our gratitude. What a gift that in a country where less than one half of one percent of the population serve, such a small percentage has still produced so many heroes to celebrate and honor. This is what makes America "the last best hope of earth," in the words of President Abraham Lincoln.

2015-05-21-1432232447-9747264-IMG_0281.JPG

This weekend begins another opportunity for gratitude. Memorial Day attests to the world how we as a nation honor the men and women who pledge their lives to protect Americans against all enemies, foreign and domestic. It is a holiday that asks us to remember not just the lost heroes, but also the families they leave behind. Across this nation there are parents, spouses, fiancés, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and grandparents whose entire family unit was irrevocably changed by a knock on the door from a casualty notification officer.

Where one service member stood up for his or her country, at least 11 family members stood up in support of that hero. For them, Memorial Day is every day. For them, every holiday weekend, every tradition, every barbecue will be filled by the palpable absence of a precious loved one. But also, it's a reminder of their hero's life and legacy.

For the families of the fallen, we will mark this Memorial Day with pride, remembrance, and celebration. We are honored to be the living legacies of such amazing, selfless souls. We will share their names, their photos, and their stories proudly all weekend long, for all to know them as we know them. For the rest of the country, you are asked only for a single moment out of three days to reflect and remember that every action, every liberty, and every joy of your weekend was made possible, not simply because our fallen heroes died, but because such heroes lived.

So who is Memorial Day for? It's for every one of us who needs to remember and for those of us who will never forget.

~ Bonnie Carroll, President and Founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors 

 

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Lighthouse
Saturday Morning Message: Positive Lessons Learned

May 16, 2015

Good Morning,

The question last week was about sharing positive lessons learned on this grief journey. Lighthouses have special meaning for me. They light the way for those encountering difficulties while traveling. We do the same when we write about our experiences in the Saturday Morning Message.

Sometimes we encounter these concepts in the form of surprises. This past Sunday was Mother's Day and one mother wrote about a wonderful phone call she received on a special day. She wanted to share it.

From Ruth, mother of Jim: The phone rang and I almost didn't answer it as I didn't recognize the number. I thought it might be a telemarketer on Mother's' Day. I don't know why I answered, but I did.  It went something like this,  "Hello, hello, my name is Luke and I am stationed at Fort Lewis Washington.  I knew with the loss of your son this would be a hard day. My four buddies and I just wanted to wish you a Happy Mother's Day."  To my great surprise, I discovered that this young man's mother lives nearby.  He and his four friends are coming to visit here soon and want to stop by to meet us. I think we have been adopted.

Another idea was posted recently on the TAPS Facebook page featuring Brantley Gilbert. From his personal tragedy, Brantley is now reaching out to others. He wrote the song "One Hell of an Amen" to honor two friends, Jonathan Lootens and Kory Potts. One died in service to our country and the other died of cancer. He created the "Bring It On"  campaign which is a place you can  post pictures of your loved one. Visitors to the site can also choose to donate to TAPS.

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

Since I will be at the TAPS National Seminar over the Memorial Day weekend, let's use the same question for the next two weeks.  The replies will be posted Saturday, May 30, 2015. This will give you time to answer if you would like to write about the event after it happens. I will also be checking my email frequently during the National seminar and would love to hear from you. The question is: What did you do over the Memorial Day weekend?

 

♫ Song for the Week

The song this week came from Donna, mother of Derek: I would like to suggest this song of the week. It is Hero  by Enrique Iglesias. When my son first shipped off to the Navy, I couldn't help crying every time I heard it. In my mind, I made the lyrics fit my son being my Hero. When I lost Derek, I added this song to his tribute CD that played with pictures and music at his funeral.  

 

Answers from Survivors

Lynn, mother of Blake: The thought is interesting as to what lessons I have learned along my journey's path. For me, it has been more  intensified and heightened emotions. The lessons which have been reinforced and I continue to work toward are:

  1. Never, never miss an opportunity to tell someone you love them.
  2. Forgiveness is something I need to do for me.
  3. Take nothing for granted.
  4. Remember to be kind and take care of myself. This has been challenging.
  5. Be in the moment to embrace and appreciate life's joy. Don't wait to value a moment until it becomes a memory.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake:   There are so many things life taught me. It would be difficult to mention them all, but here are some of them. I guess the first positive thing I learned was how many wonderful, loving, caring people make up our community which is a wonderful place to live. People came out of the woodwork to express their love and concern for us. People we knew well, people we barely knew, and those we didn't know at all were here for us. We learned just how loved and respected our son was by his shipmates, as well as his childhood friends. We received hundreds of letters, cards, emails, calls, visits etc. from many of Blake's military friends. They just wanted to let us know how special Blake was to them and tell us special things he had done for them. People still come by leaving little items on his grave like glow sticks and coins. It warms my heart every time I go to his grave and see that another friend went out of the way to pay him a visit. I have learned NEVER to take anything for granted or to assume anything will go the way you expect it to go. Sometimes life will throw things at you that are least expected--some are good and sometimes they're anything but good. When things get tough, you just have to pick up the pieces.  Thank God for the good times you had, the blessed memories with your loved one, and just keep on going. If you didn't have bad times, you wouldn't appreciate the good ones. Learn from both of them and when you have someone cross your path in need, you will know how best to help them. God sends us the help we need in unexpected ways to help us get through our most difficult times. Remember them and become one of God's blessings for others in need. This is only the tip of the iceberg of things I've learned.

 

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, May 21, 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.

Photo Credit: Ladies Delight Light, 2005 by I, Lmichaud. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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Horse Drawn Carriage in Spring
Saturday Morning Message: Shared Stories

May 9, 2015

Good Morning, 

As spring arrives across the country, pleasure reaches us in many forms. I chose this picture, because I would love to take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage to observe the magnificence of the flowers and smell the fragrance of the spring air. Doing activities like this gladdens my heart. The same thing happens when we share stories of our loved ones that brought laughter. These stories introduce others to this spectacular person so loved by you and bring joy to those who read them.

In addition to this Saturday Morning Message, you may be thinking about attending a TAPS seminar or retreat. There you will meet other survivors from all over the country and listen to memorable stories in a comfortable and safe environment. There are some people in my local area who can't believe that in addition to tears, we laugh at these seminars especially while conversing with others about humorous experiences. Today some survivors have shared an experience when their loved one brought laughter. Thanks to all who wrote this week and to those who read the Saturday Messages. 

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

As you travel this road after the loss of your loved one, you may realize that you are a slightly different person than you were. For next week, let's share some of those ways we have changed. So the question for next week is: What valuable positive lessons have you learned following tragic loss?

♫ Song for the Week

This week's song came from a friend of mine. " Stand by Me" was sung by Ben E. King, who died recently. It speaks to the strong support survivors have through TAPS standing beside each other for support.

Answers from Survivors

From Annie, mother of Michael: I just was thinking of a very funny story about Michael!  When he was 11 years old, he came home one day and told me that he gave up smoking, and I said, "When did you start?" He always brings a smile to my face when I think of him!

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Eugene had to be about four years old. I called him Genie when he was little. I put the boys at the kitchen table to draw pictures on a Saturday morning so I could get dressed. I heard, "Mom, how do you spell Gene?" So I tell him, "G...E...N...E."   I heard the boys sharing crayons and laughing and then came,  "Mom, how do you spell knee?" So I said, "K...N...E...E." I was then dressed and came into the kitchen to see my son busy with electrical black tape putting three pages together the way he wanted. At the bottom, he signed his name as "Gene Knee." I framed it, and it hung till I moved. Somehow that box of framed art was never seen again. But, I treasure the memory.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: Caleb was always so funny. When he talked about joining the Marines, I told him he should go to comedian school. He always had us in stitches. You never knew what Caleb was going to say --ever. I remember when he was just a little guy. We were in the grocery store, and he was sitting in that seat in the grocery cart, so you know he was pretty little. He was a cute little boy with big brown sparkly eyes and a big smile. He always had a smile--his trademark in dire situations, even in the military. A lady stopped and looked at him. She smiled and said, "What a cute little boy." She walked over to him and leaned over. "What is your name, little boy?" I, of course, am a proud mom of such a sweet little boy.  Caleb looked at the lady with a big smile and said, "Christopher!"  My mouth dropped. I have no idea where he came up with that, but that was my Caleb. Thank you for years of smiles and laughter, Caleb.

Upcoming Chats

Parent Chat
Date: Monday, May 11, 2015
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson    

General Support Chat
Date: Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower Chat
Date: Wednesday, May 13, 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 Credit: Spring DSC 0807" by Flemming - Flickr: DSC_0807. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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Grandparents Hug
Saturday Morning Message: Helping Extended Family

May 2, 2015

Good Morning,

This week's question about noticing or helping extended family through grief came from an article in the last TAPS Magazine titled "Helping a Grandparent Who Is Grieving" By Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD.  As I read it, I thought about my husband's father who was the only grandparent alive when our son, Bryon, died. The picture of him sitting in our living room hardly able to speak during those early days came to mind. This article helped me understand what he might have been thinking at the time. I especially liked the section about a grandparent's grief being unique as they suffer for both their grandchild as well as their child.

Leslie, mother of Eugene, wrote a beautiful letter to her dad in the 'Answers from Survivors' section of this week's message. I can really identify with her thoughts. The emotions for me at the time were so overwhelming, it was impossible to think about anyone else. As time passes, the ideas written in this article may be helpful when talking to extended family members about your loved one. Offering to talk together when you are able might be just right to help support the healing of your family.

Would  you like to see how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have?  It is often helpful to read how others cope.  I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages.  You can also send in a song that is meaningful to your family. This week there is a blog post on the main TAPS web page called "The Dance" which talks about this song which is so special to a survivor. When it was placed on the TAPS Facebook page, it received many comments and shares. You never know how the song you send may touch others.

In addition to the ideas shared below, we can also honor our loved ones by sharing 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

Next week let's send along a memory.  Write a funny story about your loved one. It can be a story about anytime in your loved one's life. Sharing those recollections is so much fun and we are able to know this special person better.

 

♫  Song for the Week

Last week on the TAPS Facebook page, there was a song that seemed to be just the thing for this week's message since the topic is grandparent loss. This song had special meaning to many and it has been shared across the generations. The song  "I'll Be Seeing You"   sung by Rosemary Clooney is a favorite of a member of our TAPS staff.

 

Answers from Survivors

From Leslie, mother of Eugene:

Dear Dad,

It has taken me four years to apologize to you for ignoring your grief and pain. I knew you had a close relationship with your grandson, my son. However, I had been wrapped up in my grief. As his mom, I felt that my grief counted more than anyone else's. I was his mother. I raised him and his brother by myself. I pounded my chest and cried till tears would no longer come. I thought of myself. I did not think anyone could suffer as much as I.

I am sorry I ignored your pain.

I am sorry that I didn't respect your grief.

Your loving daughter,

Leslie

From Roseanne, mother of Chris: After thinking a while about extended family grieving the loss of my son, I must now let you know I just attended a beautifully family affair, my granddaughter's baptism. There alongside her cake was a candle that read, "We know that you would be here today if heaven weren't so far away." Earlier in the week, I received a text from my brother about covering my vegetables due to possible frost. He went on to say Chris was the one who always used to remind him about such things. My extended family mentions his name and remembers the love. I'm sure behind closed doors they have moments of hurting and thoughts, wishing they would have done more.

For additional comments from survivors on this topic, visit the April 2, 2015 TAPS Facebook entry which shared the TAPS magazine article "Helping a Grandparent Who Is Grieving".

 

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, May 07, 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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The Dance
The Dance

~ Ashlynne Haycock, Survivor

April 28, 2015

Music has always been an important part of my family. Some of my earliest memories of my father involve him singing and dancing in the kitchen while making breakfast. I remember my mother playing the cassette version of Garth Brooks albums in her minivan driving me to school in the mornings. Don't get me wrong, I cannot sing to save my life, but that has never stopped me from singing along, horribly, while driving or in the shower.

One of the most significant memories I have of music though was a few weeks after my father died when I was 10 years old. My mother and I were driving around town in my dad's old Mustang convertible with the top down, and Garth Brooks' "The Dance" came on the radio. We had always loved the song, but now it had a greater meaning. The lyrics, "And now I'm glad I didn't know the way it all would end, the way it all would go, our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain but I'd have had to miss the dance," described how we were feeling about the sudden loss of my dad. From that point on, every time "The Dance" came on the radio we knew it was a sign from my dad. As much as we missed him, we were grateful for the short amount of time we had with him.

My mom and I made a pact that some day if Garth ever went on tour again nothing would stop us from going. It was the number one item on our bucket list. We never had the chance; she completed suicide on April 25, 2011, on what would have been her and my father's 19th wedding anniversary. I played "The Dance" at her funeral, and every time I hear it, I think of my parents.

Angelversaries are always hard. I spent the first three for my mother hiding in a room waiting for the day to end; however, this year, for the four-year angelversary, I got a God wink. A few months ago, I learned that Garth was going on tour again, and I immediately knew that I would have to go see him in concert for my mother. I did not, however, anticipate the date. He was going to be three hours away from my home on April 25, the four-year angelversary. I immediately knew that this was the concert I was meant to attend and instead of hiding in a dark room this year, I would be fulfilling a pact my mother and I made almost 13 years ago.

The day of the concert came and I was so excited and sad at once because I knew my mom should have been there. This was our thing, but I was fortunate enough that my boyfriend was coming with me to support me. Before the concert began, an older man stopped me and informed me that Garth does not sell the front four rows of tickets, and instead upgrades fans who already bought tickets. He asked if we were interested in being upgraded to fourth row. I burst into tears. I told him it was the number one item on my mother's bucket list, and it was the anniversary of her passing. He was so emotional, that he said, "Let's give you front row center tonight so you can honor your mother in true style." I was able to listen to Garth sing my mom's favorite song from less than two feet away. It was, by far, one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I know that my mother facilitated this.

Signs from our loved ones come in all shapes and sizes, and this was the largest one I have ever received from my mom. I could physically feel her presence there, and I know that those tickets were a gift from her. It was her way of reminding me that she loved me, and even though I have sad days she is always there for me.

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Writing Pen
Saturday Morning Message: Progress and Discovery Continued..

April 25, 2015

Good Morning,

I have always liked chatting with people, but after my son died, I found that keeping in touch with other survivors was very uplifting to me. I don't live in an area with many military bases, so connecting with other survivors through TAPS and keeping in touch was progress for me. It helped me know that I was not alone. I used that discovery to start the Saturday Morning Message--it joined me with survivors from all over the country even though we did not live close enough to visit in person.

As I was reading the replies to the question for the past two weeks, I thought about writing and the qualities it has to help us on this journey called grief. I found two articles from the TAPS magazine that were helpful to me in this process. They were: "How Writing Helped Me Heal" by Julie Schrock, Surviving mom of Corporal Max Donahue and "Healing Through Writing" by Artis Henderson, Surviving spouse of CW2 Miles Henderson. While reading the second article, which listed ways to start your own writing practice, I thought about adding a writing group separate from the Saturday Morning Message for those who like to write longer pieces. Normally, writers read what they have written to each other in local groups. Since we live far away, you could send your piece to me and I would put it in a group email. Then you could read each of the entries and send your thoughts back to me and I would forward them to the author. The piece you send does not have to answer the Saturday Morning Message question…..it will just be your thoughts on the journey. We could decide to do it weekly or monthly. What do you think? If you would like to start something like this, send me an email at carol.lane@taps.org.  The Saturday Morning Message will continue as it always has.

Would  you like to see how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have?  It is often helpful to read how others cope.  I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages.  You can also send in a song that is meaningful to you.

In addition to the ideas shared below, we can also honor our loved ones by sharing 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

This week's question came from Claire, daughter of William, who noticed the many responses on the TAPS Facebook page when the article "Helping a Grandparent Who Is Grieving" was posted. She thought this week's question could be, "have you noticed how your extended family grieves the loss of your loved one or how you have helped extended family through their grief?"  

 

♫ Song for the Week

From Thomas and Virginia, parents of Patrick: I love the song "I Drive Your Truck" by Lee Brice. It is so Patrick. He had a pickup truck, he loved his ratty old ball caps and always had a half empty bottle of gatorade rolling around in the floorboards. Even though we gave Patrick's truck to his wife's brother, I still think of him as I drive my truck....I have shed a lot of tears in that truck.  I know he would punch me in the arm if he saw the tears running down my face! 

 

Answers from Survivors: How has your personality changed or what have you discovered about yourself on your grief journey?

A survivor sent in a poem that she would like to share with you. You can find it by clicking on "I Shall Not Cry Return" by Ellen Gates

From Diane, mother of Caleb: I have always been a people pleaser. On this grief journey, I am less that person. There are certain people I cannot be around--those who are toxic and enjoy gossip and drama-- which means certain 'friends'  are not part of my life now. I just don't have the energy.  Priorities have changed. There are so many things that are not important now. I know I am not the same person I was; actually, I am still discovering this 'new' person!

From Sarah, spouse of David: Everything about me changed after my loss!  My world view turned upside down and became unrecognizable and I was surprised my loss affected every aspect of my life: the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.  I tried hard to protect this tectonic shift in my life from outwardly being detected. However, I could not keep the changes from being discovered and let my "new normal" surface. I  now embrace my new normal and I feel like I am always evolving. We humans are all a work in progress, thankfully! In the past, I was compassionate, but I feel more so now. I was much more of a control freak before my loss. I have become much more spiritual. I have learned to "let it go" and I try to laugh more. I still struggle with certain issues related to my loss, especially if it is something that affects my kids. However, I am grateful each day for the opportunity to try better and be better.  I take a lot of comfort in a quote I saw on Pintrest: "A part of me went with him when he died, but a part of him remains with me as I live". This quote helps remind me that my husband's memory lives on in my heart, where he will be treasured the rest of my days!

From Georgianna, mother of Jamie: I have discovered how much more I can trust in God with my faith. I have discovered a new maturity within myself, as my son's mother, to know the peace of him is with me at all times. I have also discovered how to recognize emotions of grief and not to eat on those emotions to make myself feel better. I have discovered that my mind is starting to clear and I am beginning to lift my head up again. These discoveries didn't happen overnight. It started a new walk in my life as soon as I got the phone call. March 17, 2014 started a new walk in my life. Each day is an opportunity to be beautiful like the rainbow on the horizon. There is so so much more to be discovered. So, within the first year that I have worked to keep myself healthy, I cannot thank TAPS enough for being there.  I continue to look forward to meeting new lifelong friends to grow even healthier.

From Kelly, sister of Sam: Honestly, I don't recognize the person I was on December 13, 2011. I feel like Sam's death changed my whole perspective on life. Now, I choose to live for us both. I try to fill my life with people and experiences that both make me happy and I know he would love. I think this new me has always been inside, but losing Sam made me dig deep to find her. And I think Sam would be proud of that accomplishment.

From Claire, daughter of William: We focus so much on what a loss takes from us.  Loss is depletion, subtraction, an emptying.  Yet, months and years down the grief road we can often see what has also been added having survived the loss. Where something was missing, something filled in.  Coming out of back to back tragic experiences - the experience of 9/11, the service connected death of my father, the loss of colleagues in war - over a decade later, I know I would not be the same person I am now without those hard episodes of my reality show . . . and I rather like who I've become. "God enlarged me in my time of distress." Psalm 4:1

I'm a person who has learned:

  1. To not sweat the small stuff; the small stuff are the problems I'd rather have actually compared to the big stuff.
  2. To enjoy the small things in life; the small things are often what we remember most and therefore are really the big things.
  3. To not take things personally; not everything is about me.
  4. To think before reacting; allow myself to see the second and third order effects of my words or deeds before engaging.
  5. To lead with kindness as much as possible; everyone has their own crosses they are bearing and mine should never be an excuse to treat someone poorly.
  6. To not be afraid to assert myself firmly when necessary; sometimes a situation requires a heavier hand.
  7. To not lose my cool much; when I do get firm, people know I am serious.
  8. Yelling is not an effective means to make a point; concise, clear, even toned directions are better heard.
  9. To assume the best in people; not everyone has a hidden agenda. Even if they are doing something the wrong way; everyone deserves a positive learning experience.
  10. Forgiving and forgetting are not the same thing; it's ok to separate myself from situations or individuals completely for my own sake.
  11. Time is the most precious commodity; there's no lottery that wins days back or a paycheck that will supplement hours whiled away.
  12. To never stop talking about those I've lost no matter what others think; my dad IS my dad. He always will be. His location changed, not his position.
 

Upcoming Chats

 General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, April 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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Butterfly
Saturday Morning Message: Progress and Discovery

April 18, 2015

Good Morning,

A butterfly comes out of a cocoon keeping its life as a caterpillar in its body, but adding something new - wings. Walking the journey of grief can be like that. We will always keep our loved ones in our heart, but we discover new abilities which we didn't know we possessed. This week survivors share how they have changed. They wrote honest and thoughtful responses about their emotions and how events affect them on this journey called grief. I am going to keep my comments short this week and give you more time to read their thoughts.

Would you like to see how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have?  It is often helpful to read how others cope. I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. You can also send in a song that is meaningful to you.

In addition to the ideas shared below, we can also honor our loved ones by sharing 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 me at 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

There was an overwhelming response to this week's question.  As we could not fit them all into one BLOG, we will continue the discussion for another week. If you haven't sent your thoughts yet, please feel free to send them along. The questions is: When you to look at the progress you have made since the loss of your loved one, how has your personality changed or what have you discovered about yourself?

 

♫ Song for the Week

Roseanne, mother of Chris, sent the song this week which is "My Way" sung by Frank Sinatra. It is a song about looking back at your life, realizing that there were some difficult times, but that you lived it your way.

 

Answers from Survivors: How has your personality changed or what have you discovered about yourself on your grief journey?

From Donn, father of Todd:  Some days, I reflect more on what has not changed about me since Todd was killed almost five years ago, rather than what has changed.  His death forced me to rise above myself, not just to support our family Todd left behind, but to decide how I could reshape and improve my own life to make sure his sacrifice had one worthy advocate in his dad.  I wear a Gold Star pin every day no matter what I wear. We retired earlier than I really wanted to in order to find time to volunteer with several veteran organizations to impact our military and those who have served.  When I meet new people, very often they are able to "meet" Todd and other fallen heroes and learn what they all mean to our country. This experience has taught me to find ways to fight back my tears when talking to many groups about military courage and sacrifice. Todd's mom, Jeanne, and I have looked at every day as a gift much more so than we did before September 9, 2010.  Part of each day is dedicated to remembering and honoring Todd. We also try to move fully forward daily with our family toward making sure Todd-- and all those others who have sacrificed so much--see me not as a victim, but as a proud parent who is stronger for having Todd, his siblings and their families as Jeanne and I remember and share.

From Donna, mother of Rob: My outlook on life is so very different.  I feel as if I am this elephant in the room and no one knows what to say to me. I am drowning and it takes everything I have to stay above water. I'm not as outgoing and excited as I was before my son died. I don't have the energy that I used to have.  I am trying to find the new norm, and trying to be positive. I find that I have a hard time making decisions. What happens if I make the wrong decision? One change is that I try to read the Bible almost every night.  I'm closer to God than I ever was before losing Rob.

Recently a puppy was given to me on my birthday. My husband at first said we have two other dogs we don't need another one.  We tried her for a week and in that week I was on the floor while she was attacking me and all I could do was laugh.  My husband said we are keeping her. He said he hasn't heard me laugh like that since our son died.  He thinks our son brought her into our life, so I would remember what happiness was again. When I am crying, Ginger, the dog, comes, bites my nose, and kisses my tears.  She is so full of life and excited about everything and that is why she is in our lives.  

I'm looking for the answer, because I don't know the new norm yet. I don't think I will ever be happy, as I was when my son was alive.  I'm sitting here today waiting for his phone call because he always called me. I feel loneliness and isolation. I hide my feelings, because I don't want people to think, "Wow, she is not over it yet?" I will never be over the death of my son. I WANT HIM BACK. I want the way life was before he died. We did so much as a family. Just recently I have started reaching out to TAPS.  A friend asked me, "Why are you going to Washington D.C.?  Won't that just make you relive your son's death?  Don't you just get so tired of all of the things they do?" I didn't know what to say. I told her that I wanted to honor my son, but I truly don't know. I am just drawn to TAPS.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: It's over 4 years since my son passed. I have good days and some not so good days. Not a day goes by that I don't think of my son. There are more good days as time has passed. I try hard to think how he lived and not think about his death. That's progress.

It really took the wrongful death trial to really start to make 'progress' for me. Nothing sounded right and I desperately needed answers. Although extremely difficult to go through the legal process I did get my answers. I felt my son could rest in peace now that I knew exactly what happened to him. It was closure of a sort. I also found that my other son has the same issues, so he is medically watched carefully.

How has my personality changed.... I really try not to "sweat the small stuff" and not to let anyone engage me in doing so. I basically try to enjoy my time. I also make more time for family and friends.  I am big on organ donation and speak my mind about registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles which is a national registry supported by even the most religious.

What I have discovered is that I am stronger than I thought I was.

From Roseanne, mother of Chris: To understand how my personality has changed, I first want to tell you about my personality and traits. I am a very outgoing person. I will go up to people and talk with them; I talk a lot, too much, without knowing them. I am a take charge, let's get it done now person.

Since Chris's passing just a short sixteen months ago, I've noticed I've changed not by choice, but rather by trauma. I couldn't say this until now, because my thinking is, "Why did Chris's death change me for the better?" I was or wanted to always be in control--whether it be planning a party, a road trip, arranging things in the house, etc. After all I was a meeting planner for a pharmaceutical  company back in the day.

I've come to learn I am not in control. God is in control.

I've come to learn to listen and see the many benefits to that. I've come to learn to think before I react. It's OK to pause, hear, listen and react to other people's opinions. Chris often said to me, "Mom, if you just stop and think you can use a compass or you can pitch a tent." Well you got to me Chris. This now is a tribute to you. I am learning patience is a virtue that is so challenging for me to master. I sit in silence every evening and reflect on my day, still feeling the pain, but I thank God and Chris for looking after us in our earthly bodies. I do feel a sense of peace and calmness. I can honestly say that Chris is working through me. He knew how high strung I was at times, and now I've discovered that it's OK to take a step back. At the end of the day it will all work out.

 

Upcoming Chats

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

Daytime General Support Chat 
Date: Thursday, April 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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Carol's Rock
Saturday Morning Message: Ways to Honor Loved Ones

April 11, 2015

Good Morning,

Finding a way to honor our loved ones can seem overwhelming at first. If you start with something you enjoy, it makes the task less daunting and you may find that in addition to tears, it brings memories helping to celebrate the life of the one we hold so close.

The picture this week I have posted before, but it is an answer to this week's question about honoring our loved ones.  It is from the garden by our house that we made to honor our son, Bryon. The small deer to the right is one he bought us with his own paycheck.

The words on the stone are:

No Farewell Words were spoken,
No time to say good-bye,
You were gone before we knew it,
And only God knows why.

Would you like to 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 sharing 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 an email 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:

Recently on the TAPS Facebook page, there was this quote from C. S. Lewis:  "Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny." This week's question asks you to look at the progress you have made since the loss of your loved one.  How has your personality changed or what have you discovered about yourself on your grief journey?

 

Song for the Week:

 Deb, mother of Beth: The River by Garth Brooks reminds me of Beth as well as  all our loved ones.  They were following their dreams, not sitting on the shore and watching life go by, fighting to stay between the shores until their river went dry.

 

Answers from Survivors: How do other survivors honor their loved ones?

From Heather, mother of Alex: We honor our son Alex by lightning a candle beside his picture. In the beginning we had his portrait on a table surrounded with a few plants from his funeral and a large candle which we lit at dinner time until bedtime every evening. Now we have his portrait over the fireplace and we light a candle which is on the mantle directly under. We do many other things to honor Alex, but we have been lighting a candle every evening since his funeral.

From Rebecca, mother of Griff: In Griffs' memory and honor, I crochet scarves, hats, afghans, lunch placemats, and coasters to give away. It says "Wraps of Love  In Memory of Sgt. Griff".  There is also a heart on the label sewn into everything.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake:  I don't think any of us can forget how helpless and dependent on others we were at the beginning of our journeys! It takes quite a while to get ourselves back together after being knocked with such a hard blow. Some things we did early on were wear survival bracelets, like our son did in honor of a lost shipmate of his when he served in Iraq. We planted a tree in our backyard in Blake's honor and later added a bleeding heart plant from my daughter-in-law. Each spring it shoots up and seems to hug the tree as if it were Blake and Kate instead of two plants. In time we have made a nice little garden under the tree we originally planted. Some from our community sent money for us to start a scholarship fund in his name. In time as I got a little stronger, at least where I could think straight again, I looked into having a run to support the scholarship fund to keep it going. We have had two runs so far and been blessed to be able to give out nine scholarships thus far. My goal is to continue to have the fund raiser each year as long as God blesses me with the health to do so, at that time my hope is that my other children will continue the event.

 

Upcoming Chats:

Parent Chat 
Date: Monday, April 13, 2015
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, April 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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2013 National Parade
Saturday Morning Message: Making Friends at a TAPS Event

April 4, 2015

Good Morning,

Coming to a TAPS event alone can make us wonder how "we will fit in, how we will be treated, and what the event will be like". That was the question last week and many have written to say they will be waiting for this week's answers. Some who answered this question talked about attending a TAPS event and others addressed going out socially after the loss. In the Spring 2014 edition of the TAPS Magazine, there is an article, "Attending TAPS Events: Encouragement for the Newcomer", dealing with exactly this question. The article has answers from other survivors adding more ideas to the ones in this week's message. Thanks to all who responded to this week's question and those who read the Saturday Morning Message.

The discussion topic for next week came from some newer survivors: What are some ways other survivors honor their loved ones? Since those who most often ask the question are new to the journey, what are some things you have done that don't take a lot of emotional energy?

I invite you to respond to this week's question or share a topic you would like to ask the group by sending a message to carol.lane@taps.org.  I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. Sometimes writing to someone can be helpful.

Hugs,
Carol

⇛The newest way to keep in touch with the TAPS Online community is through Twitter. We will be posting times for chats and other Online community events that might interest you.  You can find us by clicking on this link - TAPS_Chat. If you don't have a Twitter account, you can make one through this link.

From TAPS Survivors:

Mary-Ann, mother of Blake sent the song for this week. Kate Smith was a radio and TV personality in the United States particularly known for her rendition of God Bless America composed by Irving Berlin. In a walk back in history, Mary-Ann sent this link which includes an introduction of the song by an announcer as well as the song's introduction sung by Kate Smith which is not usually included when singing the song in modern times.

From Rebecca, mother of Griff: You will not be alone. When I went to my first TAPS seminar, I was greeted with warmth and many hugs. You can sit anywhere you want and soon realize that we all have one thing in common. Our hearts hurt, because our much loved servicemembers are not on earth anymore...but in Heaven's Military. When you register online, please write your concerns about sitting by yourself and eating alone. There is only understanding at the seminars. We are never alone, because we are free to express all of our feelings.

From Christine, mother of Adam: Everyone was so nice. I went to eat and ordered it to go. Even the waiter asked me if I was sure I didn't want to stay. The picture I had of Adam was so  crumbled, but they really worked on it and had a  button for me the next day. Everyone tried to get me to at least stay for lunch, but I was panicking. I was the last one to enter this whole room. I sat beside a mentor, and she was so nice. Very loving room full of people.

From Ruth, mother of James: This is such a hard time...  you don't know how people will react to you... somehow you suddenly feel like everyone is staring and whispering.... you feel so different....  you worry about someone seeing a tear in your eye....  I found that I had to put all of these things in a box...  an empty box that sat on my dresser and still remains there.  I don't use it as often these days, but in the first steps of my journey it was opened a lot.  The bottom of the box has a picture of my son attached to it.

Walking into a room for the first time is hard, but I found that if I went up to a group of people I found so much love and warmth.  Each time I would go into a room, I would imagine what was going to happen, but I could hear my son saying, "Mom, these are your friends.  Let them embrace you.  Let them know that you are still my mother and you still want to talk about me, to learn new things about me and know that they will never forget your little blond haired boy.  Most of all remember that they too will need your love and support when they suffer a loss.  It is always good to repay a kindness."   

Each time I would go out I would open my box.  It seems as though the young boy that I loved so much was pushing me forward...  I know that he would not want me to put myself into a box, so I cherish the time that I spend with others.  You see I feel as though my son is sharing the wings that he has earned in heaven to lift me up and inspire me to go on....

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: I was a single parent for many years and always felt awkward coming to an event alone. I found that you just sit with a group and start talking. People are usually very nice. I found after I lost my son, people didn't know what to say. A big smile from me usually broke the ice. Sometimes I would add that Eugene would have enjoyed the wedding or whatever. That relaxes people as well.

From Merry, mother of Wesley: The only event from TAPS I've attended was at Fort Carson last year.  I would have to say, I never felt alone or unaccounted for even though I did not know anyone.  Paul took me by the hand and made sure I was immediately in contact with a friend of his family.  My mentor, Angelika was there in the evening, but I can't remember if she was there during the day.

The break-out session was good although I did not know anyone in that group either.  I felt we were all in the same boat and have a story to tell.  My personality points me in a direction that keeps me alone at times, but I'm not intimidated to step up and introduce myself.  I am not sure everyone feels that comfortable in groups where they do not know people.

This week's chat schedule:

General Support 
Date: Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11:00 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower 
Date: Wednesday, April 08, 2015
Time: 9:00 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. 

 

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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