National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp
October 6 - 9, 2017
Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, Phoenix, Arizona

National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp
October 6 - 9, 2017
Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, Phoenix, Arizona


We have a variety of sessions available throughout the weekend. Our workshop presenters are leading experts in the field of grief and loss, and you'll have the opportunity to gain tools and resources for your grief journey. You may choose which workshops and activities to attend at your leisure.

Make sure to download the TAPS seminar mobile app. This mobile app puts advance details about the seminar right in the palm of your hand. Recommended session schedules for different grief programming and speaker information are all built into the easy-to-navigate app. There will be information about off-site activities, evening events and reminders for Good Grief Camp parents. 

You can also check out the seminar schedule and presenters


A Return to Creativity — Writing the Way — Rev Laura Biddle: Writing is a wonderful tool for healing after loss by suicide. Through letter writing, creative writing and journaling, we will return to the art of creating words that heal and help us keep hope alive.

Artful Grief: Open Art Studio — Sharon Strouse, MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT: The Artful Grief: Open Art Studio is a safe, sacred and quiet space for participants to create their own artwork in response to their personal journey and experience healing and transformation. The studio will serve as an "art-making" sanctuary that meets the ongoing needs of attendees throughout the conference. No talent required, only the willingness to be with what is in your heart, for “a picture is worth a thousand words.” As part of the Artful Grief: Open Art Studio experience, Sharon will share her own journey of healing through the creative process of collage making. A few of the collages she created will be on display as she answers questions about the images that arose from her loss. There will be a designated TAPS Exhibition Space where participants may display their artwork. These heartfelt images will serve as markers along the path to healing, will stimulate conversation and make sacred the shared journey.

Artful Grief Studio Special Project: Healing Sticks/Medicine Sticks/Prayer Sticks or Talking Sticks: Healing Sticks, Medicine Sticks, Prayer Sticks and/or Talking Sticks come out of aboriginal and native American traditions. They are symbolically important to those of us who are crossing the “desert” while on our grief journeys. These long, narrow ceremonial objects, crafted from tree branches, and measuring the distance between your elbow and fingertips, are decorated with paint, feathers, beads, twine, leather and various found objects. They serve to empower us on our difficult journey through the sun-baked desert, embodying our prayers or petitions, clarifying intentions, strengthening inner resources and emboldening our voice through freedom of expression.  They are tangible objects of hope and healing, reflecting our choices as we move through the wasteland toward growth and new life. Join us and craft your personal Healing, Medicine, Prayer and/or Talking Stick of Hope.

Combined 12-Step Group Meeting: Open to members of any 12-Step Fellowship, these meetings are being held Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m. The meetings will be conducted based on the 12-Step model first developed by Alcoholics Anonymous and will be chaired by Franklin Campbell, a longtime member of several 12-Step Fellowships. TAPS welcomes anyone attending this weekend's survivor seminar who is a member of a 12-Step Fellowship to attend the meetings, but the meetings are not affiliated with TAPS.

Education Services: Understanding your Education Benefits — Ashlynne Haycock: Are you or your children heading off to college in the near future? Considering going back but not sure if you can afford to? Want to know about how the new Forever GI Bill impacts you? Or just looking to get an overview of the many benefits and scholarships available to survivors? Then this session is for you. We will discuss federal, state and private scholarship opportunities available to survivors as well as FAFSA, VA paperwork, college applications and address any questions you may have about higher education.

Faith in the Desert — Hope in the Wilderness — Rev. Laura Biddle: With the guidance of a few Psalms, we will talk about the wilderness of grief. Learning to trust that hope shines gently from the wilderness, we will find glimmers of hope in the desert. Come feel what you feel, find hope in the honest connections with one another, and remember the power of love that never dies. Adapted from Psalm 77: I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. I found myself in trouble and went looking for God, my life was an open wound that would not heal. When friends said, “Everything will be alright.” I didn’t believe a word they said. I remember God — and shake my head. I bow my head — then wring my hands. I’m awake all night — not a wink of sleep; I can’t even say what’s bothering me. I go over the days one by one. I ponder the years gone by. I strum my lute through the night, wondering how to get my life together. Adapted from Psalm 121: I look into the desert; will my strength come from the vast wilderness? My strength comes from the creator of heaven, earth, mountains and desert. I won’t be left alone to stumble. I will be sheltered, guided and shielded from the sun that burns and the moon that feels like darkness never ends. Today, I will see glimmers of hope in the desert.

Finding Hope in the Desert of Your Grief — Dr. Frank Campbell: This workshop will return to the morning theme of finding hope in the desert after a suicide death and claiming it for yourself. Once you discover the hope and drink from it you will learn how to replenish that hope and even share it with others.

Finding Love (Again) After Loss — Dr. Shauna Springer: This workshop will focus on common emotional experiences among survivors who have lost a spouse, with a specific focus on the multiple potential layers of traumatic loss for suicide survivors. Common fears associated with finding love again will also be explored through discussion and reflective writing. Finally, workshop participants will be offered tools, critical insights and an understanding of a process for restoring their inner guide and moving forward in finding new love relationships.

Grieving Couples: How to Survive a Desert of Loss Together — Dr. Shauna Springer: This workshop will focus on three central questions that together determine what makes committed partnerships satisfying or distressed. The impact of traumatic loss on relationships will then be discussed and explored using a private reflective exercise. Couples will learn about common ways that relationships get stuck after loss. Most importantly, participants will be equipped with insights that will allow them to navigate loss while keeping their relationship strong.

Hope Glows: On Saturday, directly after our TAPS dinner for adults on the West Courtyard, we will head to the adult pool area to create a beautiful glowing display together of messages of hope, love and care — for ourselves, for our loved ones and for each other.

Illuminate the Night with Hope: During dinner on Sunday we will decorate luminary bags to honor our loved ones — and maybe even our new (renewed?) feelings of hope for our grief journey. Directly after dinner, we will head over to the beautiful Falls Water Village area. We’ll greet the setting desert sun with pathways of our luminary bags to light the way. Enjoy the peaceful sunset amid the glow of your TAPS family.

LGBTQ Meet-up: All are welcome to attend this meet-up, held Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., whether you identify within the LGBTQ community, are an ally, or if you feel you need additional support on how to support someone you love who is struggling with their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. A loss of self (who am I?) is something that naturally occurs in both identities of being bereaved, as well as identifying within the LGBTQ community. This group will allow you to be your authentic self and to mourn without fear of judgment while you share your lived experience.

Maintaining (Honoring) the New Relationship — Rev. Laura Biddle: Discover once again that love endures all things, hopes all things, believes all things. Relationships, like love, continue to inform our lives; they never die. Learning to forgive ourselves and others is a sign that relationships yearn for attention, even after death. Come and share your story — and discover ways to attend to the lasting nature of relationships that are rooted in love.

Mask Making — Sharon Strouse, MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT: Masks and mask making are ancient and powerful tools, used in the process of healing and the journey toward wholeness. Evidence of their use can be found on the walls of caves as far back as 12,000 years ago. You will harness your innate gifts of imagination and your ability to create and, like your ancestors, use the magic of mask making to explore various aspects of your persona, find new ways to communicate hidden thoughts, feelings and memories, reclaim joy and reopen locked doors. Masks reveal, conceal and forever memorialize all at the same time. The mask making process is an opportunity for healing and transformation. Casting material will be used to create an authentic mask of your face. Vaseline will be applied to your face and then wet casting material will be overlaid. This will set and dry for a time and then be removed from your face. You will work in pairs throughout the creative process and share your experience at the end of the workshop. Your mask will dry completely overnight and you will be able to decorate it the following day in the Artful Grief Studio.

Men’s Grief: Yes, It IS Different — Dr. Frank Campbell: Men grieve in different ways and have different needs when it comes to talking about the grief they are experiencing. This workshop allows that expression in an informal and open manner for those men who are attending our event. Please come and gather for this men-only session.

Mind-Body Medicine for Healing Trauma — Dr. James Gordon: The sudden death of a loved one is traumatic. It often causes anxiety and agitation and fills our mind with disturbing, as well as loving, memories and images. Sometimes we have difficulty moving ahead with our lives, and with maintaining an intimate connection with others whom we love. This workshop will provide participants with practical techniques for reducing stress, moving beyond emotional and physical stuck places, and balancing love and honor for the one who has died with a mindful embrace of present reality and future possibilities.

Moving Through and Beyond Trauma and Grief — Dr. James Gordon: This workshop will focus on integrating the various tools that participants have learned to use in the Saturday workshops on "Mind-Body Medicine for Healing Trauma" and "The Trauma Healing Diet." Dr. Gordon will help participants to deal with obstacles in implementing programs of self-care of family and community healing. He will use a guided imagery exercise to mobilize each participant's capacity to take the next steps in healing.

Our TAPS Garden of Hope in the Desert: On Saturday in the East Courtyard and Sunday in the Palm Terrace, adults are welcome to come contribute to our TAPS Garden of Hope. We’ll have a mini succulent potted plant for you to decorate, add your loved one’s photo and display on our Garden of Hope Wall. Hope can grow, and does, even in climates where growth may seem all but impossible. Our Garden of Hope in the Desert will honor our loved ones and be a beautiful example of how much hope, support and love our TAPS family gives us! Sunday evening, after dinner, the garden will be in the Falls Water Village area; you can come and remove your succulent from the wall to take home with you.

Parents Panel: Surviving the Loss of Your Adult Child — Moderated by TAPS Surviving Dad/Staff Member Don Lipstein: Parents on the panel will share their stories while being asked specific questions about how they managed to move through their own grief together and apart. We’ll explore the challenges many face, as well as offer some ideas to help navigate through those challenges.

POUND Fitness Class — Instructor Jessica Aguilar: It's time to bring a different sound to your grief. And that is the sound of noise! We won't be tiptoeing quietly around our feelings; we'll be using weighted drumsticks to create a connection between music, movement and everything you want to let go. Bring your feelings, your frustrations and readiness to sweat. Modifications exist for all fitness levels.

Talking About Suicide: At Work, At Home, At the Supermarket — Dr. Frank Campbell: This is a workshop that can help you find your voice and tell your story your way. Routinely, survivors have the challenge of telling their story in a way that gives others information while keeping you safe from the stigma and confusion surrounding a death by suicide. Knowing a few simple techniques can help change discomfort of the past into education for those who are able to learn from you.

Telling Your Story Publicly: Safe and Strategic Sharing — Linda Langford, Sc.D.: Losing a loved one to suicide is a devastating event, and, for many survivors, there is a need to make meaning out of their loss. Some survivors chose to tell their story in hopes of saving a life and to honor the legacy of their loved one. If you are thinking about telling your story publicly or would like to learn more about how to tell your story safely and strategically, this session is for you.  Come talk about sharing your story publicly – if you do it, when you do it, why you do it, and the potential impact of sharing your story on yourself and for those with whom you share your story.  We’ll share key practices of professional presenters and resources to guide your journey. 

The Sibling’s Journey: Family Changes When You Lose a Sibling — Facilitated by TAPS Surviving Sibling Staff Members: Losing a sibling to suicide can be, for the surviving siblings, utterly life-altering. This panel of surviving siblings will candidly share their feelings on what this loss has been like for them, the changes in their own lives and family since the loss, and what insight they can share with other siblings and family members grieving a suicide loss.

The Trauma-Healing Diet — D. James Gordon: Psychological trauma disturbs every aspect of our physiology as well as our psychology. Emotional distress compounds the disturbance to our GI tract and to every aspect of digestion. This workshop provides an overview of the damage that trauma does to our brain and our gut and practical, evidence-based ways to use food, supplements and herbs to repair the GI tract and restore resiliency to our brains.

Troops Together: Remembering our Battle Buddies Group: If you’ve served alongside someone who died by suicide your grief and loss matters. Come together with other active duty military members and veterans in our safe space to honor those losses and discover that you are not alone. Share as much or as little as you feel comfortable, knowing that TAPS is here to support you as a grieving survivor, too.

Understanding Why People Died by Suicide — Dr. Carla Stumpf-Patton: When someone we love and care for dies by suicide, it can be overwhelming and confusing and bring with it many emotions and questions. It can feel like our world has been split into countless fragments where we become detectives trying to understand how and if it will ever fit back together again, which often includes an endless list of questions around why and how this could have happened. While we may never fully understand the exact thoughts in the mind of our loved ones at the time they died, researchers and specialists in the field do know a lot about the suicidal mind. Understanding more around this subject matter can often help suicide loss survivors in the grieving process as they struggle with the self-directed questions of blame, guilt, doubt and regret. This session will address some of the prominent theories around why people die by suicide. It will also explore some of the contributories and risk factors that can come together in forming the “perfect storm” that leads to suicide, and how survivors of loss can continue to heal with this knowledge. 

Updates in Suicide Prevention From the Department of Defense and VA — Dr. Keita Frankin and Dr. Adam Walsh: Come hear updates on previous DoD suicide prevention initiatives, learn about the latest research and outcomes and have an opportunity to share and ask questions with senior executives from the Defense Suicide Prevention Office. This session is suggested for TAPS Peer Mentors and longer-term survivors only.

Young Adults Meet-up: Please join us Friday from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. for a gathering for surviving children or siblings ages 18 to 25. We will find ourselves among our peers, those who walk a similar path. We will come together to build a community to comfort each other as we learn new lessons and skills this weekend that will aid us in developing a healthy lifestyle we can sustain. Together we can build resilience, find balance and plan for our futures.