National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp
October 5 - 8, 2018
Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida

National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp
October 5 - 8, 2018
Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida


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.

Workshop and Activity Descriptions

Special Activities
Friday, October 6, 3 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Saturday, October 7, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday, October 8, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Open Writing Studio
The Open Writer's Studio will be open to all throughout the weekend. It is a place for survivors to come and reflect on their journey by chronicling their stories of loss through journaling. In addition, for those survivors hoping to eventually tell their stories publicly, TAPS staff will be on hand at certain points during the weekend to offer guidance in exploring, crafting, editing, and delivering those stories.

The 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 attendees to explore their grief in creative ways. The studio is a richly appointed “art making sanctuary,” curated and hosted by skilled and compassionate art therapists. Whether you are a curious novice, a seasoned artist or someone who isn’t sure where to begin, the studio will meet your ongoing needs throughout the weekend. No talent required, only the willingness to be with what is in your heart, because “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Saturday, October 7, 1: 30 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Creating a Life Worth Living after Grief and Trauma: An Introduction to Helpful Therapy Skills - Dr. Louis Chow and Dr. Lauren Richards
This session will address the deeper understanding of the nature and symptoms of trauma, how it can impact daily activities and how it differs from grief. We’ll discuss various effective treatments, and how therapeutic skills can help cope with emotional pain in healthy ways. This session is presented by the clinical treatment team from Home Base Programs of Boston, Massachusetts.

Telling Your Story Strategically and Safely - Kim Ruocco, MSW and 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 Fabric of our Lives: Comfort from Creating - Sharon Strouse, MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT
The craft of doll-making has been woven into the fabric of our lives from ancient to modern times. The symbolic figure of the doll is important to adults and children alike, serving variety of functions from being a passionate hobby, to symbols of healing and remembrance. Create a doll of your choosing; one of personal reflection and symbolic of self, or one which commemorates a lost love and explores your continuing bond. We will provide a soft pliable muslin doll form, fabric, lace, trim, yarn, buttons, and a variety of materials to help adorn your creation.  Feel free to bring personal fabrics and/or articles of clothing that belong to yourself or your loved one, which will be cut, deconstructed, and then reconstructed into a lasting, loving and tangible object. We will process the experience as a group at the end of the workshop.

Metaphors: Communicating What You Really Mean - Dr. Frank Campbell
By using metaphor to communicate to others your real emotions you can be congruent with your grief and others have an opportunity to more clearly picture your insights.  once they understand how you are really doing they can support you more appropriately. saying you are fine when you are not is incongruent and leads to unforeseen issues. 

Strengthening Relationships After Loss: Becoming Stronger as a Couple* - Dr. Shauna Springer
Sometimes we tell ourselves the story that traumatic loss breaks relationships apart. While suicide loss of a loved one can have a negative impact on relationships, there is also the possibility that couples can become stronger after loss. We will explore the possibility of this alternate narrative and will discuss specific ways that partners in a committed relationship can have each other’s back and rebuild their relationship to become stronger than it has ever been.
*This is a couples session and is intended for couples who are already in a relationship together.

Dating and Relationships After Intimate Partner Suicide Loss: Opportunities to Talk and Share - Dr. Jill Harrington-LaMorie
Dating after the death of spouse or intimate partner dies has no timeline and is a very personal decision based on many factors.  Dating and relationships after loss are complex topics for everyone, but there can be specific challenges for spouses/partners bereaved by intimate partner suicide that can feel especially sensitive and taboo to think about and discuss with others.  This workshop will provide opportunities for survivors to learn about issues specific to dating after suicide loss, gain new insights about your emotional healing and dating readiness and share experiences among peers.

Special Activity
Saturday, October 7, 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.

Real Talk about Religious Responses to Suicide - A panel of faith leaders
Faith, spirituality, and religious affiliations often change after a suicide. Many questions arise:

  • Where do our loved ones dwell now?
  • How could God be so powerful and let this happen to us?
  • My house of worship was once a safe haven, but now I feel lost, vulnerable, and confused. How can I return to a sense of belonging and safety?
  • The messages I got from my religious institution made me think that suicide was unforgivable, but I don't believe that anymore. Where is the truth?
  • How can I trust my relationship with God in the new story of my life?
  • I am so angry with God. I feel guilty and ashamed. I need help! 

Clergy and faith leaders from six different traditions will be available to address these questions and more. The session will include an opening and closing prayer, a brief presentation from each panelist, and time for a compassionate conversation. All are welcome!

Saturday, October 7, 3:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Putting Techniques and Skills into Use: Practicing Mindfulness and Working on Relationships - Dr. Louis Chow and Dr. Lauren Richards
Session two will be a continuation from the topics presented in session one and will be more interactive in nature, based on the application of the techniques and skills discussed in session one. This will include lots of audience participation and interaction as guided by the clinical treatment team from Home Base Programs of Boston, Massachusetts.

Crafting your Story of Suicide Loss - Matt Mabe
This session is  intended for survivors who have completed the first session in the series Telling your story safely and strategically. The session will equip participants with the tools to tell their own stories to a public audience -- whether by speaking or writing. It will cover fundamentals like knowing one's audience, identifying goals, focusing on a central idea, and getting organized. It will then offer guidance on how to structure a story to achieve maximum effectiveness. Finally, the session will offer tips on what to keep in mind when delivering one's story in a public setting.

The Grace of Forgiveness - Rev. Laura Biddle
"Amazing Grace" is often sung as a hymn at funerals. Grace is the gift of undying love that can't be earned because it is freely given. Grace is a blessing said before a meal. Grace is the rhythm of bodies and souls connected forever.

Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. Forgiveness frees the spirit and allows people to move forward. After a suicide, we repeat the phrase "woulda,coulda,shoulda" in all kinds of ways, beating up on ourselves. Our bodies hold the shame of words spoken and unspoken. Our hearts break over and over again as we blame ourselves and others for the pain and grief we feel. Please join Laura and take a journey towards forgiveness. This workshop will offer ways to shed some of the shame and begin to forgive ourselves. Through gentle music, writing, prayer, healing conversations, and quiet reflection, we will open ourselves to the power of forgiveness. Bring stories and dreams about your beloved who has died by suicide. Let's turn the journey forward, in a new direction, trusting in the grace of forgiveness.

Why Can't We all just get along? Family dynamics after loss - Dr. Frank Campbell
This presentation will examine the conflicts that arise within a family system when grief changes the dynamics.  Survivors attending will have an opportunity to share struggles they have experienced to determine what support might be available or ways they can change the dynamics.

Updates in Suicide Prevention from the Deprartment of Defense and VA - Dr. Megan McCarthy and Dr. Adam Walsh
Come hear updates on previous DoD and VA 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 and Veterans Affairs Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. This session is suggested for Peer Mentors and longer-term survivors only.

Finding your Grief Rhythm: A Journey toward Healing - Dr. Carla Stumpf-Patton and Dr. Jill Harrington-LaMorie
After the death of a loved one, it can seem as if time stands still and the pain of loss will never end.  In response to grief, survivors often feel unprepared by being left with the unfamiliar, and often fearful task, to cope with a sudden loss such as a death by suicide.  Grief can bring with it, a rhythm or pattern of emotions which twist and turn, wax and wane, and ebb and flow, where the bereaved attempt to find ways to make it through each day in spite of the physical absence of their loved one. This session will discuss options to effectively cope with the rhythms of grief, how to regulate emotions in anticipation of significant dates or milestones, and how such concepts can help us to integrate loss in our lives as we navigate the healing process.

Sunday, October 8, 1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Branching Out with TAPS: Exploring Ways to Grow in Grief - Kellie Hazlett, Nora ONeil, Sharon Paz, and Lalaine Estella
This workshop will offer ways you can take the next step in your journey and help others through TAPS programs and events. Discussions will focus on TAPS Peer Mentor program; how to use writing to give your journey a voice; what it takes to host a TAPS event in your hometown; and other volunteer opportunities. You will come away with the building blocks to use your talents and experience to be an inspiration to others and be an active participant in the loving support of 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.

Laughter and Grief, Why Not? Amber James and Lalaine Estella
Have you ever wanted to test the old saying “Laughter is the best medicine?” Well, laughter after loss is possible and you don’t even have to be in a good mood to try it. Dr. Madan Kataria, a laughing guru, says that the practice of laughter can be particularly useful in grief;laughter exercises coupled with deep breathing changes the physiology, thereby changing the mood state and helping a person to view the situation differently. It is a cathartic exercise which helps release pent up feelings and helps people emotionally balanced. The first 45 minutes lead by Amber James will be introducing Laughter Yoga and last 45 minutes lead by Lalaine Estella will explore breathing and stretching techniques to help us relax. No yoga pants required, but you may be asked to remove your shoes. 

Evaluation of Growth Potential Among TAPS Participants - Dr. Melinda Moore and Dr. Jerry Palmer
We present the results of a survey of several hundred TAPS participants and peer mentors. Among the quantitative survey findings are that active participation as a peer mentor results in less depression and stress, lower suicidality, and greater posttraumatic growth.  Among the many qualitative results we present are participants and peer mentors personal stories of the challenges and successes of helping others. 

Healing Improv - Bart Sumner
Healing Improv is an interactive workshop where participants play improv games together to find the way back to laughter. After the death of his 10-year-old son David, Bart discovered it was his life’s work in improv comedy that helped him find a way forward. Bart will lead the group in fun interactive games to increase communications, relieve stress, and most importantly, give the participants the tools to give themselves permission to laugh and find joy again in their lives.  All this in a safe environment of group love and support. Good for all grievers who feel ready to find some laughter again.