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Virginas Feek Training her dog Sam
Saturday Morning Message: A Sense of Accomplishment

January 14, 2017

Good Morning,

The picture this week is from Ginny, mother of Patrick. You will read about what she is doing later in the message. Since there were so many wonderful replies this week, I will keep my comments short.

One thing that gives me a sense of accomplishment each week is seeing the Saturday Morning Message come to my mailbox. Then, I know you have all received it, too. For those of you who find writing a comfort, there are two ways to be creative and write about your loved one. The first is the Saturday Morning Message, which is a weekly form of communication in which survivors respond to questions about their journey. It not only goes to survivors who sign up, but it is also posted on the TAPS blog at www.taps.org/blog. The second is the Writers' Circle Newsletter. This is a monthly publication of longer pieces, poems and pictures that is sent to a closed group of survivors who sign up for it. The pieces can be used in other TAPS publications. If you would like to sign up for one or both of these groups, contact online@taps.org.

If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed in the Saturday Morning Message, you can email me at online@taps.org. In addition to replies that are placed in the message, I also look for thoughts you have. You can write to me anytime just to communicate or if you have thoughts on what could make the Saturday Morning Message more helpful. Replies to the weekly question are best sent to me by Tuesday afternoon. You are an important part of this message, and I look forward to your questions or any ideas you may have. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them. Thank you to all who respond and to those who read this message. 


Question for Next Week's Saturday Morning Message 

Linda, mother of Eric, sent this week's question: Does "feeling better" make you feel like you're letting go or forgetting your loved one? What are you doing to keep the memories so you aren't afraid of losing them? This may sound a bit like this week's question, but there were so many wonderful responses this week, I hope to encourage more survivors to share what they do. 

Song for the Week 

Caryn, mother of Nathan and spouse of Micheal, sent the song for this week, which is "Awakening" by Celtic Woman. Listening to the song's lyrics and bright music made me think about going from the depths of grief toward the light, especially when someone holds out a hand like the women in this video do. If you have a favorite song, please send it to me. I am always looking for more songs.    

Answers from Survivors

 Virginas Feek Training her dog Sam Pic 2From Ginny, mother of Patrick: I know that my son would want me to live my life to the fullest and do what I love. I have started competing in agility with our dog, Sam! It has been fun to see him get better and better! He is such a happy dog and loves his job. He brings me joy. Working with him gives me a focus and seeing his (our) progress gives me a sense of accomplishment.

We have also formed a group of swimmers who will be swimming in the 3.1-mile Tampa Bay Frogman Swim on Jan. 15 in memory of Patrick and in support of the Navy SEAL foundation. The foundation has been such a great support to us. We want to pay it forward by raising funds for the foundation. So far our team, TEAM CRY HAVOC, has raised $18,000! Our team has five swimmers: our daughter, two of my husband's roommates from the Naval Academy, a former swim teammate of Pat's and a family friend.

From Tabitha, spouse of Michael: Since my husband's passing, I've been having a hard time just going from day to day. I have been fairly remiss in taking care of myself, the house, etc. Every little thing is exhausting, and every little thing just seems so hard. I've had a few people reach out to help. However, they are much younger than me and have not experienced loss. Because of this, their patience has worn thin. Whenever I ask for help, it usually comes with a price. It can be a lecture, someone talking down to me and a look of utter disappointment. This then makes it even harder to ask for help later on and makes the task that I need help with even harder. In an effort to correct this, I'm trying to rely on others less and myself more. I imagine there will still be instances where I will need outside assistance. But, I am hopeful that if I try to do stuff myself more then the irritation to my friends will be less. And, if I'm relying on myself more, that means each task (even though still exhausting) leaves me with a great feeling of accomplishment.

From Anne, mother of Michael: My husband, "Buddy," and I used to always plan trips to go to different places and we traveled quite a bit. When I became his caretaker, our life changed drastically, and he was taken from me on June 6, 2015. He was my best friend and I still miss him dearly, but I was a lucky woman to have had such a man in my life. What made me happy this year was to book a flight to Charleston, South Carolina, to visit my niece for a week. I know it will not be the same without my husband, but I feel happy that I had the incentive and the desire to go!

From Chris, mother of Darin: As I continue along my grief journey, I want to know if my son and his fallen comrades made a difference in the lives of the Afghan people. When I learn that girls and women are once again allowed an education, the Afghan National Police have gained strength and the Afghan women are becoming entrepreneurs and leaders, I have hope. As we move into a new year and will soon observe the five-year anniversary of my son's death, I will continue to seek stories of success of the Afghan people and will promote the efforts of non-government organizations as they continue their support, especially through education.

Editor's Note: Last Memorial Day, Chris wrote a blog called "Pockets of Hope" that includes more information about the difference these brave young people have made in the lives of the Afghan people.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: What I am going to do is press myself to perform. I have scheduled myself to perform piano pieces at Steinway and Sons in Boca Raton, Florida, in April. I am performing a large number of pieces. There are three rounds in all with a total of one hour of piano music to be learned!

I am then applying to the Washington International Piano Arts Council, which is an amateur piano competition in Washington, D.C. This is in August. So I am keeping busy! If anyone would like to come to either or both, send a request to online@taps.org and I will forward it to Leslie.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: There are so many things that I can't control. I have been downsizing, getting rid of those things that just take up space. I don't do it every day, but sometimes when I'm overwhelmed, just going through a closet or drawer and getting rid of clothes and other things gives me a feeling of accomplishment - for that moment. Organizing a little at a time, in this life where everything seems out of order, helps as well. Oh, things were organized at one time, but since life is so different now, my filing/organization is completely different - it is a whole new journey.

From Robert and Katherine, parents of John: The majority of our activities or ministries will be a continuation into the new year. We participate weekly in Grief Share at our local church, assisting others on their grief journey. There is a feeling of joy when they actually "turn the corner" on their way to a new normal. Completing the book of John in both Women of Grace and Bible Study Fellowship is a goal worthy of time and study in furthering knowledge of the Bible. Speaking and listening to fellow TAPS survivors through the TAPS Peer Mentor program is fulfilling for both the mentor and the mentee as they learn to honor their loved one. Bob enjoys speaking with the children who have lost a parent. He hopes to continue this at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar in Washington, D.C., this May.

Our new venture is the establishment of the John M. Conant Memorial Scholarship to be awarded annually to a graduating senior, either male or female, entering the military. The recipient is to maintain a B or better academic average, participate in school and community activities/sports, and exemplify the characteristic of encouragement - John's most valued attribute. It will be awarded in May for the first time at John's alma mater. 

Upcoming Video and Text Chats

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, January 17, 2017 
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs  

Peer Mentor Video Chat  
Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Don Lipstein  

Survivors of Suicide Loss Video Chat  
Date: Thursday, January 19, 2017 
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 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, TAPS is available to you 24/7 at800-959-8277.  

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New Years Celebration
Saturday Morning Message: Thoughts on A New Year

January 7, 2017

Good Morning,

It is a new year and for many people that means making resolutions that involve revising our present pattern of behavior or adding something to it. Before changing things, we need to ask if our lives will benefit from changing our behavior or continuing in the same way. When I ask myself questions like that, I find it most helpful to read or ask what others think to get some new ideas. The latest TAPS Magazine included an article titled "Letters from TAPS: Will There Be Continuity or Change?" by Emily Muñoz, TAPS Senior Advisor, Strategy and Communications. Emily talks about looking at what you are doing and deciding if it is causing you to feel a "sense of accomplishment" or a "nagging restlessness or dissatisfaction."

Anne, mother of Michael, wrote to share an activity that helps her feel a sense of accomplishment. Anne wrote, "What I always do to uplift my spirits at holiday time is that I reach out to others who I feel are hurting or have experienced a loss of a loved one. I had four friends from high school who have kept in contact for so many years. One of them recently passed away, and I call her husband frequently because I know what he is going through. On June 6, 2015, I lost my sweet husband John (Buddy), so I know the pain of loss! My husband was my rock after we lost our sweet son, Michael, in the Marine Corps while test piloting the Osprey helicopter. Unless someone has walked the walk they do not have any knowledge of losing a loved one! I am so happy that I can uplift others who are hurting!"

Some more thoughts on how to make small changes to support ourselves come from another TAPS Magazine article titled "Seven Grief Strategies for the New Year" by Bradley Stetson, Ph.D. Often, we think about things that will help others, but we also need to consider what might help us to heal from the death of a loved one. His article lists things we can do to focus on ourselves when determining what is working and what isn't. 

Here is a partial list from that article:

  1. Write yourself a comforting and encouraging letter.   Imagine you had a friend for whom you cared deeply, and imagine that friend just experienced the death of someone they love very much. You would want to help them, comfort them and encourage them. Now substitute yourself for that friend.
  2. Buy a big calendar, and use it. Appointments like "movie with me" or "journaling with me" make it possible for you to always tell others, when asked to go somewhere or do something, "Let me check my calendar, I may have an appointment." This way you can decline in a socially graceful way. If you want to accept someone's invitation, you can always break an appointment with yourself. 
  3. Move your body, move your mind. Pick short, achievable goals, like a short hike, a walk around the block, a bike ride to the park.
  4. Listen to the music. Music is therapeutic and soothing. Throughout history, music has been central to the expression of human values and sentiments. 

You can listen to the music from previous Saturday Morning Message songs of the week. Andy, father of Danny, makes a playlist of the songs that are shared along with a few other songs special to him. The playlist is free and called "Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Songs of Love and Remembrance."

Taking care of yourself is not a natural thing we are taught as children, but it is important when we are grieving - even after what others consider a long period of time. Birthdays, angelversaries and special holidays can be hard no matter how long it has been since the death. I like these ideas in Bradley Stetson's article because they are not what people typically think of as New Year's resolutions.

TAPS can also help in various ways. You can find a consolidated list of ways TAPS can support you on the TAPS website. It is titled New to TAPS. This list is worth considering even if you are not new to TAPS.

Would you like to share a question or 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. If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who wrote this week, send it to me and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them. 

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 emailing online@taps.org. 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 

At TAPS, we look at one day at a time, so these ideas are not meant to be yearlong accomplishments, but it would be interesting to hear what survivors are thinking as we put one foot in front of the other in the new year, so the question of the week is: What are you planning to start or continue to do that will give you a sense of accomplishment? I look forward to hearing from you. 

 Song for the Week 

Caryn, mother of Nathan, sent the song of the week, which is "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison. She wrote, "It's a reminder to me to be patient, and in time I'll be with my family again. And in the meantime, they are in good hands!" 

Upcoming Video and Text

Parent Chat 
Date: Monday, January 09, 2017
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson 

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs 

West Coast Support Video Chat 
Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Time: 11 PM - 12 AM Eastern, 8 PM Pacific
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Peer Mentor 

Honoring the Memory and New Relationship Video Chat 
Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett and Peer Mentor 

Widow-Widower Chat 
Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2017
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.

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Professional education
TAPS Professionals Help Survivors in Darkest Moments

December 27, 2016

TAPS has been the front-line resource for families of America's Fallen Heroes for over 22 years. We continue to meet that high standard because we bring together professional staff and grief experts who understand the complex grief our families face. Providing hope and healing to our families is a great honor. Whether our staff and professional partners are assigned that duty, chose it as their profession or share the grief experience, they are willing to walk through the darkest moments with our surviving families.

That is why the TAPS Professional Education program took the lead in hosting more than 10 professional development webinars this year, many in community partnership with the Hospice Foundation of America. Among the highlights: TAPS program director Zaneta M. Gileno presented with world-renowned grief expert Dr. Ken Doka on "Grief Surges." In addition, Kim Ruocco shared her expertise on Traumatic and Sudden Loss and launched our suicide prevention PSA in an effort to help those struggling with thoughts of suicide to seek help. We were also honored to partner with The Wendt Center for Loss and Healing to provide the seasonal webinar, "New Traditions and Tips for the Holidays." And for school-based programs, Jonathan Kirkendall presented "Grief Support for Military Children: A Guide for School Personnel."

Lalaine and ZanetaThe team also spent part of 2016 traveling and training our military, corporate and community partners, sharing best practices and effective tools in working with bereaved military families.  We held training with places like USAA's Survivor Relations Teams, Air Force and Coast Guard casualty officers, and USO volunteers in North Carolina.

TAPS understands that our survivors may seek the opportunity to learn new coping skills and ways to find healing in the comfort of their own homes. Our recent webinar, "New Traditions and Tips for the Holidays," was an excellent chance for survivors to focus on specific tips and insights to navigating the emotional holiday season. One survivor who attended the webinar said, "I cannot thank you and the rest of TAPS for doing what you do and for understanding and helping people like me get through this time in our lives. Looking forward to future webinars like those that I have been able to attend to get some help in my journey."

Both survivors and professionals can look forward to many new offerings in 2017 as part of our commitment to sharing our model of care and empowering surviving loved ones with the tools they need to find hope and healing.

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Volunteers 3
Volunteers Make the TAPS Mission Possible

December 26, 2016

Our dedicated and hard-working team of volunteers across the nation made it possible for survivors to find hope and healing on their grief journey in 2016. TAPS volunteers were able to give their time to further the TAPS mission, all while having fun.

"This was the most fun and most fulfilling volunteer activity I've ever participated in, and volunteering has been a part of my monthly life for several years. I've never been a part of anything this incredible before," a TAPS volunteer said.

Volunteers supported almost every program within TAPS, from our Good Grief Camps to adult programming to Team TAPS races. Over the course of 2016, more than 1,400 military mentors were paired with nearly 1,600 children at two National Seminars, nine Regional Seminars and four Campouts. By caring for our youngest survivors, mentors were able to remind them that the military hasn't forgotten about their sacrifice.

You could also find TAPS volunteers at sporting events, helping to support teams4taps. Through the 2015-2016 Washington Capitals NHL season, nearly 100 volunteers mobilized to staff 19 home games at the Verizon Center in support of the Courage Caps fundraiser. With the help of these volunteers, we raised over $140,000 dollars in sales with 100% of proceeds going to TAPS.

Over 100 TAPS volunteers supported Team TAPS efforts across the nation, staffing over a dozen Team TAPS races to support runners who were fundraising and running in honor of fallen heroes. Nearly 500 hours of service work was dedicated through race weekends to staff expo booths, man finisher tents and pass out water.

As we head into 2017, TAPS is forever grateful for the continued support from volunteers. In 2017, we'll continue to need volunteers for our Seminars, Team TAPS races, fundraisers and monthly service projects local and abroad. Complete the volunteer application to get involved today.

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teams4taps 6
From Basketball to NASCAR, Survivors Honored Loved Ones Through Sports

December 25, 2016

2016 was quite a year for teams4taps. You could find teams4taps at more than 150 sporting events with over 2,500 survivors taking part. Through different sports teams, events and activities, TAPS families were able to honor and remember their loved ones and create new memories of favorite shared pastimes. The joy and impact was felt all across America.

TAPS families participated in several send off events for the Summer Olympics in Rio with USA Basketball and attended games with all 30 NBA teams. We honored our heroes at baseball games in a dozen cities, hung out in the pits at NASCAR, watched horses soar over jumps and were spectators at tennis matches in the desert, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Survivors also took part in NFL Salute to Service events from coast to coast. We took to the ice to cheer on our friends in the NHL and celebrated our loved ones with the U.S. Men's and Women's soccer teams. The joy of sport was ever present this year for our TAPS families.

2017 will be just as amazing as we launch Courage Caps for the fifth year and attend the NFL Pro Bowl and other sporting events across the country!

If you want to join teams4taps at a sporting event this year, we want to hear from you! Email us at teams4taps@taps.org to share a story about a special connection your family has to a sporting event or team.

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Sue's Son Marcus
Saturday Morning Message: Memories

December 24, 2016

Good Morning,

This week's message is laid out a bit differently. Since the picture this week is a picture Sue, mother of Marcus, sent in response to last week's question about sharing a memory of our loved ones, I thought it would be good to include her memory in the first part of the message.

Here is her memory:

"Oct. 25, 2007, started out like a normal Christmas day for our family. WHAT? Christmas in October? Most military families understand that any holiday can be adjusted due to leave times and deployments. That was exactly the case for us. Marcus was home, and we were celebrating a year's worth of holidays and special days because he would be deploying in November or December. We received word that a family friend's brother was killed in a car accident out of state. (This was his second brother to die from a car accident in two years.) He asked if he could spend the day with us. Marcus, always a caring and sensitive young man, sensed that everyone was 'just too sad.' He and his wife had to go shopping for a bit, and when they returned they were laughing and giggling like two school girls. A few minutes later we heard his wife's laughter and music. Marcus came dancing into the room wearing this Santa hat and flashing his contagious smile. It was an instant mood lifter. Thanks for all your smiles and laughter for those 26 years, Marcus!"

The Answers from Survivors section of the Saturday Morning Message is also different this week. James, father of Andy, sent a song and a special reading of "'A Visit from St. Nicholas" that you can find in the Answers from Survivors. Thanks, also, to Leslie, mother of Eugene, who responded with a lovely memory of her son's kindness. To all who reply or read this message each week, thank you. You are all a very special gift to me.

Questions are the backbone of the Saturday Morning Message. In order to keep the Saturday Morning Message fresh, I am looking for more questions. If you have questions or topics you would like to see addressed in the Saturday Morning Message, you can email me at online@taps.org. In addition to replies that are placed in the message, I also look for thoughts you have. You can write to me anytime just to communicate or share your  thoughts on what could make the Saturday Morning Message more helpful. You are an important part of this message, and I look forward to your questions or any ideas you may have. 

Because the holidays are a busy time, the next Saturday Morning Message will come to you on Jan. 7, 2017. You can always reach out to TAPS by calling the 24/7 Survivor Helpline at 800-959-8277. 


Question for the Next Saturday Morning Message

The holiday season can be stressful, so I thought the question asked last year at this time about  rewarding yourself would be a good one to ask. What are you going to do to treat yourself for getting through this holiday season? It doesn't have to be a large thing. It can be just giving yourself the treat of calling a TAPS friend once a month. You may submit your response anytime until Jan. 3. 

Answers from Survivors 

Leslie, mother of Eugene: In December 2010, Eugene graduated from Pennsylvania State University early. He was fortunate to have his choice of jobs and moved to Annapolis. Basically he moved all of his belongings to his new apartment from Penn State, unloaded and drove to New York to help me. I was having knee surgery, and no one was available but Gene to help. This was on his birthday, too. I don't think I was ever so amazed at my son's selfless act.

From James, father to Andy: My story is about our family holiday tradition that began with a folk song workshop at our boys' elementary school by local folk singers and storytellers, Chris Shaw and Bridget Ball. Andy was in first or second grade. We learned about their annual holiday concert held at the "acoustically perfect" Troy, New York, Music Hall. Andy fell in love with Chris Shaw's Adirondack tall tale of his Uncle Walt, who was a "patient man and a good hunter!"

That December, we attended our first "Mountain Snow and Mistletoe" concert, which normally included Chris, Bridget, John Kirk, Kevin McKrell (of The McKrells), and Brian Melick. Thus began our holiday tradition of attending their concert every year. After the first year, we found out we could purchase tickets for upper level box seats. Being secluded in the box seats and looking down onto the stage was the absolute best for two young boys!

Andy always had a flair for fashion. He'd dress up for their shows, normally in a dress shirt and tie, sometimes a sportcoat. And he always wore his Adirondack Red Suspenders, just like Chris Shaw wore! Sitting in box seats on the right side, we sat above percussionist, Brian Melick. He is a master of the udu drum and many unique instruments. Brian and Kevin McKrell performed a memorable reading of "A Visit from St Nicholas," with Brian playing a menagerie of instruments and generating many unique sights and sounds! 

Here is a link to the unique reading and antics of "A Visit from St Nicholas"  by Kevin McKrell and Brian Melick. 

When Andy was younger, my wife literally held him back by his red suspenders because he leaned so far over the edge, mesmerized by Brian and his instruments. Andy eventually owned quite a few instruments, many inspired by Brian. Being a tall tale, the Uncle Walt story changed from year to year. For two young boys, what could be better? Our boys looked forward to the concert every year.

Last year, Andy was stationed on a Coast Guard ice cutter and for the first time he wasn't able to be home for Christmas. My wife and I attended the final "Mountain Snow and Mistletoe" concert; it was Chris and Bridget's last concert. We spoke with Chris after the show and told him how we got started coming to their concerts years ago, how Andy always wore his red suspenders, just like Chris, and how Andy was always mesmerized by Brian's instruments and antics. Some days after, Andy happened to text me asking about a the title of a song by Chris that  he couldn't remember. It was "10 Dollar Christmas." I passed the information along to Andy, glad that he had thought of that. To me, that song expresses a real and simple meaning of the holidays. 

It is not like being there, few things ever are, but you can watch or listen to the song "10 Dollar Christmas" by Chris Shaw here

I'm thankful the circumstances that led to us starting this family tradition; one where we got to share such wonder and joy with our boys. What I wrote may not have told a lot about Andy, but thank you for allowing me to share; this gift of writing has helped me relive those wonderfully special times. 

Upcoming Video and Text Chats 

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, December 27, 2016 
Time: 9 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 at1-800-959-8277.   

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Caregroup 1
You’re Never Alone with TAPS Community Based Care

December 23, 2016

TAPS hosts Seminars, Retreats and Care Groups across the country, but many survivors just aren't ready yet to attend a big event or cannot travel to one of our event locations. That is why our Community Based Care program is a vital part of making sure our survivors never feel alone and are always connected to the resources and support they need right in their own community.

We currently have Care Groups that meet monthly in 19 locations across 14 states. These are informal gatherings with other grieving military survivors and loved ones hosted by a TAPS Peer Mentor or mental health professional. These free monthly meetings are not designed to be therapy groups, but they are therapeutic and offer a safe space with others who lost a hero serving in the military. When you need the support of your TAPS family we are there.

Care Groups often meet for special gatherings at Memorial Day or other holidays and may take field trips to participate in local equine therapy or other healing outdoor spaces. TAPS is thrilled to announce we are set to launch new Care Group locations in 2017 in Florida, Maryland and New Mexico, to list a few. Our Care Groups meet at restaurants, churches and other easily accessible locations and many provide child care as needed. The most important thing is that they offer a listening ear and true understanding about the grief journey we share.

For those who don't live near a Care Group, TAPS has other resources available to you. In 2016, we launched a partnership with VideoMedicine to offer a telemedicine option available through an app for iOS and Android devices or a webcam-enabled computer. That means you can receive private counseling in the convenience of your home or on the go. If technology is not your cup of tea, TAPS Community Based Care staff can also connect you to a list of local bereavement, hospice or other mental health resources right where you live.  

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Education 2
TAPS Makes Access to Education Benefits Easier

December 22, 2016

2016 has been an incredible year for TAPS Education Services. With new staff on board we have been able to support more than 500 surviving families in accessing college education through the VA, state waivers and private scholarships. The education program took it on the road for presentations to parents and students at TAPS National and Regional Seminars and at Snowball Express. TAPS partnerships with the VA have expanded to make access to education benefits easier for all of our families.

In 2017, TAPS will be launching initiatives focusing heavily on high school sophomores and juniors with the goal of preparing them for college and understanding all of the benefits they are eligible for to enable them to attend the schools of their dreams.

But TAPS Education Services aren't just for high school students. They are also for spouses returning to school. "Thanks to TAPS Education Services, I was able to go back to school using the Fry Scholarship opportunities. I had been using Chapter 35 benefits and was going into debt trying to get my graduate degree.  They walked me through the Fry Scholarship and helped me navigate it with my school. My education is now paid for - along with a monthly stipend that helps out so much. I could not be pursuing this degree with TAPS," writes a surviving spouse.  

The 2017 scholarship season is fast approaching, and we encourage all surviving families to reach out to TAPS Education Services to help make the process of applying for scholarships and benefits easier. We shared some scholarship tips in the most recent TAPS Magazine and you can contact us at education@taps.org or 800-959-8277.

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Casework 2016
Casework Helps Survivors Move Mountains

December 20, 2016

No two stories of military loss are the same. And no two TAPS families deal with the aftermath of grief in the same way. Many of us face mountains of benefit paperwork at a time when we still struggle to face the day. Perhaps your benefits are delayed, and you are facing financial struggles. Whatever the situation, TAPS Casework is there to offer you help as you navigate complex processes and unfamiliar requirements.

Brodsky, AaronAccess to benefits is not all that TAPS helps make possible for our survivors. In partnership with public and charitable organizations, we are also able to ensure that every survivor receives financial support if they need it. Sometimes this assistance comes in the form of a miracle and other times just a helpful nudge in the right direction when you need it most.

The dedicated and experienced Casework team is standing by to deliver support and assistance to all of our survivors. One mom said, "Services from the TAPS Casework program have helped fulfill many miracles for my family. After the loss of my son, we had some terrible struggles, but your casework staff helped us figure out all the paperwork. Please know that we are so grateful."

In 2016, TAPS Casework Support Services assisted survivors in obtaining more than $1.2 million in retroactive benefits from the VA, DFAS and Office of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (OSGLI). In addition, TAPS Casework Support Services has connected survivors to transportation assistance, liaised obtaining copies of records, emergency resources, relocation assistance, financial counseling, health and dental care, any many other areas of need.  

You can find Casework Support Services at the TAPS National and Regional Survivor Seminars, or you can contact us at 800-959-8277 or casework@taps.org.

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Young Survivors Find Hope and Friendship

December 18, 2016

At TAPS, we want every child who has lost a fallen hero to know they don't have to grow up alone. Their TAPS family is always here for them, to offer comfort during the hard times and to celebrate life's happy moments. Led by experts in the fields of child development, mental health and education, TAPS Youth Programs provide safe spaces for exploring grief and embracing healing.

In 2016, Youth Programs welcomed 1,600 TAPS kiddos at 11 Good Grief Camps, two Good Grief Campouts and two family retreats. These events took place all across the country from California to Texas to South Carolina. More than 1,400 military mentors paired with our children to let them know the military hasn't forgotten their fallen heroes.

At our Good Grief Camps, Campouts and family retreats, TAPS kids are able to share, heal and have fun in a loving, supportive environment. Our living legacies learn how to honor and remember their loved ones. Lasting friendships are made among kids who have experienced the same loss.

"Good Grief Camp is a beautiful gift for these children," said one mom about her child's experience at Good Grief Camp. "The entire atmosphere teaches love and compassion and offers parents and other adults the opportunity to let go and 'be.' Already, the children are seeing and making lifelong friendships."

In 2017, we'll be expanding our programming and offering events for the 18- to 22-year-old crowd with our new Young Adult programming. We are also excited to begin offering smaller, overnight experiences for our kids throughout the country in unique venues - think zoos, aquariums and Navy ships! We are also working to develop the National Military Mentor Program to pair TAPS families with mentors whether or not they attend an event.

All of of us the Youth Program team are so grateful to accompany the TAPS youth on their journey. We look forward to even more opportunities to work with the TAPS youth to remember their heroes and tell their stories in 2017!

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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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