Saturday Morning Message: Healing While Remembering Our Loved Ones
Author: Carol Lane
It is winter in the part of the country where I live. For many, it is a time of contemplation about what we have accomplished in the past year and where we are going. This week, survivors have replied to the question about how we keep our loved ones close to us while we move on with our lives. One person who responded, Linda, mother of Gene, sent pictures along with her reply, which you will read later.
While looking for articles in the TAPS Magazine archives, I found one called "Tending the Garden of Grief With Mindfulness Meditation" by Heather Stang. In it, Heather equates thinking about your grief journey with a farmer coming to the end of the season and reflecting on the fruits of the harvest. She gives examples of how to use meditation for looking at what you have accomplished and planning on how you would like to move forward. Those who responded this week have written about what they have done. I hope you are inspired by what you read. If you would like to comment on any of the responses, send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make sure the author receives your message.
One way we can honor our loved ones is 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 question of the week by emailing email@example.com. In order to have your reply included in the week's Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send them to me by Tuesday of the following week. This week's question is located below my signature. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message.
QUESTION FOR NEXT WEEK'S SATURDAY MORNING MESSAGE
In the past few weeks, there have been many comments about animals, especially pets helping support the grieving. I am looking forward to including some of these responses and adding your thoughts on the question: How have your pets comforted you as you grieve?
♫ SONG FOR THE WEEK
Debbie, mother of Cale, sent the song this week, which is "Only Time" by Enya. The beautiful and haunting voice of Enya asks who knows about the future and the answer is "only time." It is a song that will be a relaxing addition to a time when you choose to reflect.
ANSWERS FROM SURVIVORS
From Linda, mother of Gene: How I move forward and keep my son's memory alive is by spending time at the Warriors Walk at Fort Stewart in Georgia. This was the last base where my son was stationed before he deployed the second and last time. The Warriors Walk is a path of 468 trees planted in honor of the fallen heroes of Fort Stewart. It is, by the way, the only living memorial in America. Each year since 2009 my husband, myself and volunteers decorate every tree the Friday before Wreaths Across America on Saturday. We spend time at each tree and honor each hero. Then in January we go back to Warriors Walk and take down the decorations, save the good ones, discard any damaged ones and store them for next year. Before Gene deployed for his final tour I said to him, "Please be safe." He looked right in my eyes and told me, "Mom, it does not matter if I make it home; it matters if the men under me make it home." So I feel I am taking care of his men because he can't. When I am there, I truly feel the spirits of these great men and women. I keep Gene's memory alive by doing my best to finish his job.
From James, father of Andrew: I don't know if I'll ever "feel better" after this, and I don't necessarily expect to. I think a lot of us understand that. To me, it's similar to talking about when I'll "get over it." I won't - there aren't rules to this, and it's not required to "get over it," even though many others might expect that. As we realize, you get over a cold, you get over scraped knees, but you don't get over this. But it also doesn't mean that I'm eternally sad, or down or unhappy. I'm now able to be OK with feeling more normal feelings, not just heartache, and many are good and happy feelings - laughing, being satisfied, being glad, enjoying things.
But, with that, do I feel like I'm letting go or forgetting our son? No.That had been part of my deep concerns after our son, Andy, passed away this past year. How long before I don't think about him? And how can I even believe that I might not think about him? But, as always, we eventually grow and learn. I hold him deeper in my heart now, likely since that's the only physical way that I ever can hold him.
Also, Andy doesn't allow me to forget him - I'm glad for that! I've always talked about paying attention to things, and it frustrated Andy to no end when people didn't pay attention to the obvious. I hope "signs" are there for you; they are for me. And I hope I pay enough attention to them that I don't frustrate Andy too much. Sometimes he even provides the answer to my question before I ask it. I ask the question, hope that sometime I might get an answer, then realize that I was already given the answer.
In that light, as I ramble on here, I guess I need to realize that my answer was already there before I started answering this question! And it's much simpler than all that I already wrote. I don't feel like I'm letting go or forgetting Andy when I'm feeling better because a big part of my "feeling better" now is knowing that Andy is still here. But I need to make sure that I pay attention. He keeps showing me that often the answer comes before the question.
From Cheryl, mother of Jack: This past Christmas as we gathered as a family, I felt peaceful. I went through the feelings of not missing Jack and I did experience some guilt - or maybe a feeling of "neglecting my child." I also felt, all at the same time, that it was OK. This was all a new feeling for me seven years from his death. I don't know all the previous adjustments I made or all that I will make with these new feelings inside me.
In the months before Christmas, I went through a lot of changes. I have been focusing on what I need to do to heal. I have been going to a counselor, and I have no intention of thinking about stopping at this point. I was laid off my job, but instead of getting a job, I am keeping focus. I think I was working to avoid "going there," if you know what I mean. I let myself feel sad. I cry if something occurs (usually daily) that brings a tear to my eye, like a picture I see, something on a show, something I read. You name it and there is usually something that brings a memory of Jack. It's OK to cry; it's OK to laugh; it's OK to feel like your world has just cracked wide open because your child died and you go through Christmas without them - that special day, that day you had where you felt like your family would be all together.
I am going to go to my grandson's graduation from Navy basic training in February. Do you think that we won't miss Jack? That hole will always be there. That taste of sadness. We will probably shed a tear not only for the moment, but for the absence. Do you know how happy and proud Jack would be to see his nephew DJ that day?!
Yes, we go on and celebrate things like Christmas, graduations, etc. and feel the ache inside and know that it is OK.
Not good, not bad, but it is OK.
From Merry, mother of Wesley: "Feeling better" is all a part of a process my loved one would want me to experience. That thought has taken three years to embrace, but I think Wes would really want me to have a good life while remembering and honoring him. As mothers, we can never forget anything about our children. That's part of being a mom.
I had a good time visiting my son and daughter-in-law in California the first part of this month. On the last evening, we watched a three-hour documentary about the Eagles. I've been dancing to their music on YouTube and was doing that in front of Wes's Honor Wall. There are so many experiences that just bring me back to remembering Wes, and he would probably be joining me.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.