There were many responses to the question about what survivors do on special days like birthdays and angelversaries. By sharing what we do, we're able to give ideas to other survivors - and that is why the Saturday Morning Message was created. Caryn, mother of Nathan and spouse of Micheal, sent this picture of the dream catcher she will add to her son's collection next week on his birthday. Since it is so close to his birthday, I thought it would be a great opening picture. You will read more about the way she commemorates special days in the Answers from Survivors section of today's Saturday Morning Message.
I also found a helpful article in the TAPS Magazine archives, written by Betsy Beard, mother of Bradley, titled "Anniversary Blues: Handling the Most Dreaded Day of the Year." Here are a few of her ideas, but you may want to read more suggestions from the article to help on those days that are difficult for you:
- "Plan a memorial ceremony. The creation of memorial rituals can be part of the ongoing healing process, and these remembrances can take many forms. In the first weeks of loss, rituals helped to carry us through the pain-filled days and brought some meaning and stability to our otherwise chaotic lives.
- Take a personal day off work to sleep and rest. Grieving is hard work and takes its toll on your mind, body and spirit. Do what you need to do to care for yourself. You will be better able to function in the future when you take to time to be kind to yourself.
- Engage in one of your loved one's favorite activities. It could be watching the latest movie, going bowling, boating, gaming, hiking or even skydiving.
- Visit and tend to the gravesite. Some survivors bring chairs, food, books, and music and spend the day there. One tradition is to scatter rose petals over the grave. Another is to pour their favorite drink there or 'share' it with them."
Would you like to read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. You can also submit favorite songs that are meaningful to you. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope.
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 respond to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. 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 who reads or sends comments.
Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message
This week we are going to have an update on our pets. Bonnie Jo, mother of Andrew, wrote, "My cat, named Dandylion, is there for me every day and wakes me up with a tap on the forehead or nose because she thinks it is time to get up and have chicken stew. How can anyone wake up depressed with an adorable orange feline tapping on her nose?" Bonnie's question is: How have your pets helped or how do they help you on a daily basis?
♫ Song for the Week
Linda, mother of Gene, sent the song this week, which is "Turn My Grief to Grace." Linda wrote, "The words of this song touched my heart. Many inappropriate things were said to me by family and friends who truly wanted to offer me comfort.There was one person who hugged me really tight and simply said, 'I am going to pray for peace and comfort for you and your family.' That truly helped me. Not the 'He is in a better place, or time will heal your pains.' Just those simple words: prayers for peace and comfort. Those were the very things I needed. Comfort for my breaking heart and peace to help me make it on these days I feel I may fall. When I heard 'Turn My Grief to Grace,' I felt comfort. I feel that the line 'Come what may, I won't fade away, but I know I might change' is a true statement. So on the days when the grief gets me at my lowest, I pray that my grief will turn to grace.
I now work on many projects to help veterans and families of the fallen. One example is the Warriors Walk at Fort Stewart, Georgia, which has trees planted in honor of the fallen heroes. We decorate all of the trees in coordination with Wreaths Across America. By grace I am able to give. Giving beats grieving every time."
Answers from Survivors
From Caryn, mother of Nathan and spouse of Micheal: Over the years, my daughter and I have adapted how we spend those special days to adjust to her children growing up. They seemed so young when their uncle and grandpa died. Now, one is in the Army about to deploy and another is off to college already. Next year, both her son and Nate's son will be off to college.
We still visit the national cemetery and the national park where we planted a Douglas Fir on my son's first birthday after his death. In the evenings on those special days, I also burn special candles. And I still try to add to Nathan's dream catcher collection each year on his birthday.
From Eunah, mother of Eben: We gathered at the cemetery three weeks ago on Saturday, March 25, for the first anniversary of Eben's death. I brought a bundle of red and yellow balloons - Marine Corps colors - and gave one to every person in our group of family and friends. We took a little time to write personal messages on each balloon before sending them to him. It was peaceful to watch them fly into the distance.
From Diane, mother of Caleb: In my journey, I have found I don't do the exact same thing on every "remembrance" day. One year for Caleb's birthday, I lit a candle for his 26 years of lighting up our lives (these were taper candles or bigger). I just had to do it. Another year, I invited some special people to the cemetery, and we put messages in red, white and blue balloons and sent them off. This year, I baked cinnamon rolls for Caleb's birthday, remembering the year he said, "Mom, could I have cinnamon rolls instead of a cake for my birthday?" Now, there is one thing I do on his birthday every year - I have tuna on flatbread from Subway and drink a bottle of Hank's Root Beer. I remember going to Subway with Caleb, and he'd get tuna on flatbread. Hank's Root Beer was his favorite. Ultimately, I follow my heart and do what makes me feel closer to Caleb. No matter how the days of remembrance are marked, they begin with tears and a longing for this wonderful son. Missing him never gets easier.
From Adra, mother of Kyle: Oh, the dreaded days that mark another day my son, Kyle, is not with us. My key to coping with these days is to plan ahead. The first year, some days took me by surprise. I found myself inexplicably incapacitated on days that I hadn't expected to hit me so hard. My birthday, for example, blindsided me. I realized with the first angelversary that "the day" was only one of several days of remembrance surrounding Kyle's death. I found that I walked the days prior and the days after almost like an internal pilgrimage. Five days before Kyle was ... Then there was the day we planned Kyle's funeral, the day of the funeral, the day we watched the sunset over the bald cypress at the lake, the day we got the autopsy results, the last day we saw the grandkids, and on and on.
It wasn't just the typical days like Christmas and Thanksgiving, it was the days surrounding the days, too. So I planned on not working on the days I knew would be the hardest and planned trips to beautiful places. For example, on the first Christmas, we took the trip to the Grand Canyon that we had always intended to take as a family. We keep a small flag flying at Kyle's gravesite, which we change out every season when it starts to look ratty. We took one of Kyle's flags with us, and at sunset, at one of the most beautiful places on earth, we flew Kyle's flag over the canyon, into the red, gold and purple of the fading light. We then presented the flag to a family member who went there with us. Doing these things keeps the best of Kyle close to my heart and helps me to find some peace.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. I think this one expresses what I'm trying to say more eloquently than I am able.
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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.