QUICK LINKS    CONTACT US
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Caring for the Families of the Fallen
Call 24/7
800-959-TAPS (8277)
Caring for the Families of our Fallen Heroes
Donate Today
 
TAPS Online Community - Blog
add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

2012 Seattle Sibling Retreat
Saturday Morning Message: Sibling Inclusion

June 25, 2016

Good Morning,

The answers to last  week's question was about helping siblings and others in the extended family feel that their grief matters. So the first person I asked was my daughter, Bethany. I wanted to know what she found comforting when her brother died. She told me people sending her a separate card was very comforting as well as when friends and relatives asked how she was doing. This week there are replies from several survivors about sibling grief and the things that can be beneficial. Thanks to those who wrote and those who read the Saturday Morning Message.

Sibling death is something most of us don't expect. In the article "Sibling Loss" by Heidi Horsley, Psy.D., MSW, M.S., the author writes about the change in her behavior toward others who have suffered a loss after her brother died. Many times, when someone who served in the military dies, the media wants to interview those who are grieving. Ami Neiberger-Miller, APR, wrote a wonderful article, "Dealing with the Media," which gives helpful ideas on how to work with the media if you and your family decide that it is all right. Both of these articles are worth reading. 

Start thinking now about your favorite sports story of your loved one for an upcoming Saturday Morning Message question. 

There are many activities in the TAPS organization. One of them is the partnership with the NBA and USA Basketball. TAPS families across the country are invited to be a part of the Road To Rio with the USA Men's and USA Women's National Basketball Teams. 

TAPS will take part in the following event locations:

  • Las Vegas: July 21-22
  • Los Angeles: July 24-25
  • Chicago: July 28-29
  • Bridgeport, CT/Westchester, NY: July 29-30
  • Houston: July 31-Aug. 1 

Survivors will have a chance to watch the teams train, practice and compete in games before they head to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio! There will be a special role for TAPS kids at some of the events. If you're interested in attending one of these events, visit www.taps.org to learn more. As always, tuck away your best stories to share in a future Saturday Morning Message.

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 carol.lane@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. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message 

We haven't shared a memory in a long time. These memories introduce us to each other's loved ones. It could be a memory at a sporting event, on a trip or just sitting around talking. The question this week is more of a statement: Please share a memory of your loved one with the Saturday Morning Message group. I look forward to reading the replies. 

 Song for the Week 

Caryn, mother of Nathan, sent this week's song of the week, which is Sarah McLachlan's  "Angel." When I asked Caryn to send a few sentences about why this song was meaningful, she wrote, "The first time I heard this song, I was watching the movie 'City of Angels' with my son. It touched my heart then and was one of the first songs I listened to the night Nate went home!" 

Answers from Survivors

From Ashley, sister of Michael: Before coming to a TAPS event, I felt very alone and isolated in my grief. I thought no one understood. For me, attending a TAPS Seminar was comforting. Initially, I was very nervous. But once I arrived, I was surrounded by others who welcomed me with open arms and truly could understand this journey I am on. I met surviving parents, spouses, children and fellow siblings. I had the opportunity to share about my brother in a group with other siblings. I didn't have to worry about holding back my tears or my smile. I could cry. I could laugh. It was all OK. No one judged me or told me how I should be feeling. I was able to put down my walls for the first time since Mike had died. While I wish no one was on this journey, I have to say I am so thankful I do not have to travel it alone. I travel it with my TAPS family and always look forward to attending the events, as these are opportunities where I get to meet and talk with other siblings who are on this journey, too. 

From Caryn, mother of Nathan: When my brother passed away in 2002, my parents were unable to talk about him for years. So my sisters and our kids/grandkids found solace from each other. By the time my son died, I was well aware my daughter and grandkids would need me to be strong. For us, talking about Nathan, acknowledging his existence, and keeping some of his pictures and belongings out in the open have truly helped. Grandkids know they can ask questions (because his death was by suicide) at any time. And quite a few of my son's friends (both military and nonmilitary) have stayed in touch. Some of these friends not only became Facebook friends with my grandkids but have even stayed in contact on Facebook over these five years. They've shared pictures from his Army days and stories about Nate's life over the years. The "it takes a village" concept works for us!

 Kelly, Sister of SamFrom Kelly, sister of Sam: After Sam died, I got the question "How are your parents doing?" a lot. I'd get asked how my brother's family was handling the loss as well. Those questions were appreciated; I was grateful that people thought of the family. Siblings can feel disenfranchised from grief - especially half or stepsiblings. Close friends wanted me to be over any signs of grief shortly after Sam's death when I was still trying to lift up everyone else in my family and I hadn't really dealt with any of my own pain. That's why I was surprised and totally taken aback when the Marine Corps family rallied around me. Some of Sam's fellow Marines have friended me on social media, keeping up with my running and always making me feel like I have a big brother if I need one. One of the Marines from Sam's unit sent me a backpack with a special patch that has my name on it. The backpack had a running book in it as well as a beautiful journal and pens because he knew I spend my Sunday afternoons at the cemetery with Sam, where I find healing through writing. Another Marine and his wife attended my younger brother's Eagle Scout ceremony and coined me with the unit's coin. Those gifts mean so much more than the Marines know. And coming to TAPS, meeting other siblings who know a similar loss, has been incredibly healing. It has taught me that I have a right to grieve in my own way. I have been empowered to share my brother's life and service. And I have found healing in being a part of Sam's living legacy.

From Diane, mother of Caleb: I have five children. When Caleb left this world, there were four siblings with shredded hearts. As a mom, I wish I could take the pain away, but I know I can't. Each of my children grieves differently so my approach has to be somewhat different for each one. I listen and give them the space they need. I do mention Caleb, and we do talk about him. It seems that it helps to talk about him. How do I know how to approach each child? I don't always know exactly, but I ask, "How are you doing? Are you doing OK? You know I'm here for you." They know that if they want to talk, I'm here. Sometimes, I will share with them how I am doing, and that it's tough every day. It helps for me to be open with them, I think. There are times where everything may appear fine on the outside, but when in reality, it really may not be an easy day.

As for "people other than family" supporting siblings, I've seen my children's good friends interact with them. They are just there for them. They understand if it's a tough day. They welcome ideas and don't get offended if an invitation to do something is turned down or if being around a lot of people isn't something comfortable to do.

My daughter has talked to her friends and explained how things are different and what would be helpful.

I think being transparent, open and honest with friends helps them to understand how to be a friend to one on the grief journey. Bring up the loved one. Ask questions about him/her. Let the grieving friend know that, as a friend, you want to know about the loved one. There are those friends who will not be friends anymore - it's just the way it is. But, I have found that new people enter our lives, special people who value us in our brokenness.

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, June 28, 2016 
Time: 8:30 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.  

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

gabrielledad
My Dad, My Hero

~ Gabrielle Herman, Survivor

June 19, 2016

Author, Eckhart Tolle, writes of the search for wholeness, a sense of lack or incompleteness, of not being whole, in which we strive after possessions, money, success, power, recognition, or a special relationship to feel better about ourselves and to feel complete. Only to realize, after attaining all these things, we find the hole is still there, that it is bottomless. He believes the secret of life is to "die before you die" - and find that there is no death. Thus, in many ways is true, because to live in the hearts of others is not to die, and as Chuck Palahniuk once wrote, "the goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will."

My father was not only a hero to my family and me, but to the country he so proudly protected. I spent all my time waiting for him, and to this day, I still am. This year, marks seven years since his passing, in which five I have been spent searching for the piece of me he took with him. No matter where I looked, I could never find his love. That is, until I looked in the mirror, and began or learned to love myself. "Yeah I'm real good under pressure, being all that I can be. And I can't call in sick on Mondays when the weekend's been too strong. I just work straight through the holidays, and sometimes all night long. You can bet that I stand ready, when the wolf growls at the door. Hey I'm solid, hey I'm steady, hey I'm true down to the core." I too, am an American Soldier.

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

alliciadadtwo
Running for Dad on Father's Day

~ Allicia Johnson , Survivor

June 19, 2016

When I first started writing for TAPS it was just kind of a given I would be submitting a Father’s Day post. I thought this would be one of my easiest submissions—until I attended the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar last month.


I went with the intention of being a shoulder to cry on and support to strangers who were young in their grief, only to end up with tear stains on my own cheeks more often than I anticipated. Where I gave my fair share of comforting hugs (I must find a hugger button for the next event!) I received many as well that helped soothe my still aching heart. I had so many incredible eye opening experiences there, which is why I’m having a hard time doing justice to a Father’s Day post.


It’s amazing no matter how much time goes by and how long I’ve been consciously experiencing my “grief journey” that now and then I find myself broadsided by new emotions that show up out of the blue; and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I believe grief is a living emotion which can change over time. I embrace new tears as proof and a reminder that though I don’t remember my dad, I still loved him—and I still can and thankfully still do!


For those who haven’t met me or haven’t read my other posts, my dad, LTJG Burr N. Johnson III, was shot and killed during a drill in Pearl Harbor when I was two years old. His death impacted my life more than I can express. I spent my childhood and part of my teenage years thinking/believing I had no right to mourn or miss him. How could I? I didn’t even know him!


My brother, who was 8 months old when Dad died felt a greater disconnect from our father until three days after his 28th birthday—he was the exact age Dad was when he was killed. That day my brother looked at his own two beautiful babies and felt a sickening kick in his stomach as he experienced excruciating empathy for his own father torn away from our young family at the tender age of 28 years and three days. My brother put his budding grief on the shelf until last summer when a series of events opened his eyes and heart to powerful healing that was a long time coming.


My experience with grief was different. Once I started on the path I never left. 25 years ago today I was still firm in the mindset I had escaped any sort of trauma from Dad’s death and had no right to any sort of connection to him. On June 16, 1991--Father’s Day 25 years ago, I had an experience so strong it shook my foundation and shaped the rest of my life. From that point on I felt a powerful connection to my father. I felt his guidance and felt his love. I even missed him sometimes and felt a huge lost part of who I was had been found. Years later I researched deeply into the events that lead to my dad’s death. I connected with his old shipmates and faced more challenges, more painful truths and ultimately learned more about who he was and had so much more to miss! The past 25 years have been hard but beautiful. I’ve had 25 years of connection to one of the greatest men who ever lived. It is an honor to be able to hurt for him and to love him!


On Saturday, June 18, 2016, the day before Father’s Day, my brother will run his first marathon and will run it in honor of Dad. He will be wearing the TAPS singlet, the “Our Memorials Move” number and will get to wear his first marathon medal along with his first TAPS medal as he completes a 26.2 mile virtual run. That same day I will cross the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay finish line after running 15.6 miles total while wearing my TAPS singlet, my Memorials Move number and receive my virtual run medal to compliment my third Ragnar medal.


My brother and I are Gold Star Children. We didn’t understand what it meant but we do now. We have both worked past social stigmas that we should, not even just “be over it”, but that we weren’t allowed to feel, to cry and to love this man who was and is still such an important part of who we are.  We both look forward to honoring our dad by running in his name and donating to a cause that has helped so many survivors….including us! I can’t think of a better way to honor Dad for Father’s Day!


add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

2016 National Military Survivor Seminar - Father
Saturday Morning Message: Father's Day

June 18, 2016

Good Morning,

I thought this week's Saturday Morning Message would be dedicated to the wonderful men in our lives since Father's Day is tomorrow. We all know fathers or father figures, with us physically as well as those who are not, who we love and admire. 

Today I am featuring two articles from the TAPS Magazine archives written by fathers. Although the articles don't talk about Father's Day specifically, I wanted to include them to show how these two men dealt with tragedy. The articles are: "Gaining Strength on the Journey: Remembering, Celebrating, and Sharing with TAPS" by Andy Weiss, father of Daniel, and    "White Stones of Honor" by Ken Ashley, father of Benjamin. Their writing shows the strength of these men as they faced the unthinkable.

2016 National Military Survivor Seminar - Good Grief Camp MentorWhen I recently attended the 22nd Annual TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp, I saw many male mentors who took children who had a family member die in service to our country and play with them as if the kids were part of their own family, so I wanted to send those mentors a thank you as well. The pictures today are from that event. In a future Saturday Morning Message, I would like to also show my appreciation for the female mentors as this is such a special volunteering job that they do each Memorial Day weekend. 

The survivors who wrote this week talk about those men who made a huge difference in their lives and what they do to honor them this weekend. Thank you to all who contribute to the Saturday Morning Message and those who choose to just read it. You all make this family great. 

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 carol.lane@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. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message 

Since we are talking about family relationships this week, I thought the question Nikki, sister of Chad, shared would be a good follow-up. As a sibling, she feels people other than family may not give grief support to siblings, so the question this week is: How do you help these special people feel like their grief matters? I look forward to your responses. 

♫ Song for the Week 

Winona, spouse of Clifford, sent this week's song of the week, which is "Nothing Compares to You," sung by Sinead O'Connor.

Answers from Survivors 

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: My son was not married or a father when he passed. Nonetheless, he is greatly missed. However, we have learned that a depressing celebration is not what he would want. He would want the men in our families to be honored and celebrated with lots of love and laughter. That's exactly what we try to do.

Father's Day weekend is a skilled coordination of celebrating all dads and grandpas in our extended family. Basically, we have breakfast with Archie's daughter and family. Then we travel to have lunch with my dad and my sister's family.

The day before, we go to see my son and his family because he celebrates with his father and family on Sunday. Scheduling is crazy, but we always work it out!

From Caryn, mother of Nathan: Father's Day has been difficult for me these past five years. With the deaths of my son and husband, a huge emptiness remains. My son's ex-wife remarried, and my contact with his children has been limited. Also, this year my dad is home alone, with my mom now living in a care center, and my brother-in-law is in hospice. My only brother passed away in December 2002. This covers all the important men in my life (sigh).

So, I continue to handle each holiday as it comes. This Sunday I will place flowers on headstones, call my dad back East and spend time with my daughter and grandkids.

From Carol, mother of Bryon: We do something a bit unusual for Father's Day. My father-in-law was a man who loved unusual chickens and has a bird swap dedicated in his memory. This is a place where bird fanciers go to swap chickens. When our son, Bryon, was young, he loved to go to the swaps and pick out the chickens he liked the best. We even had some chickens when he was younger. So on Father's Day, we go with my husband, daughter and sister-in-law to the bird swap. Then we go to lunch somewhere in the area. It makes a great day with family.

From Kitty, mother of John: At our house we are mostly celebrated out as our 51st wedding anniversary and third son's birthday fall just a week before Father's Day. We give special and meaningful cards and small gifts (clothes or tools) and eat out at a favorite restaurant. Phone calls are made to those who live far away. It is mostly a day of relaxation and leisure.

When my father was alive, we had breakfast together and presented him with cards, hugs and kisses. And, of course, gave him gifts. Later in the day, we all got dressed up and went to his favorite restaurant for supper. Dad enjoyed his day relaxing, reading the newspaper, working in the yard and watching TV.

Currently, Father's Day is mostly memories of what was and of time spent with family then and now.

From Ruth, mother of Jim: To obtain the impossible is how we start holidays out, including Father's Day. Bent knees and a quiet prayer, and we are ready for the day. The apple  tree that Jim planted as a little boy is full of wonderful apples, the fir tree that he planted stands tall and straight - we look at the things he left us. This year we celebrate Jim becoming a grandfather. It is day we promise not to look on the death of Jim but the life he lived.  

Jim always told stories. He was legendary among his friends for his stories. One of the stories he told went something like this: "Once there was a little girl who was born with a limp and a lisp. She was taunted by others, but yet she smiled. She was loved so much by her parents, and then one cold winter day she was killed in a car wreck. As the small little girl lay ever so still her mother looked down on her and remembered her laughter and love. She didn't dwell on the sadness of the death because she knew that tomorrow she would celebrate in the gifts that this wonderful little girl had left behind. A young child would see, one would breathe easier and a new heart for a weak child would bring strength. She was not burying her little girl .... she was celebrating her short life filled with laughter and love. She carried only the warm and wonderful memories of a life short lived."

This is what we are doing with Jimmy.  We are remembering the love and laughter that he left behind. I yearn to hold him ever so tight in my arms, but for now I will hold him tight in my heart as we celebrate his new grandson - one that he would have loved to hold.

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Illness Loss Chat 
Date: Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Time: 1 PM - 2:30 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Kellie Hazlett

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.  

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

newyorklife
Giving for the Good - New York Life Foundation Volunteers at TAPS

~ Carolin Fermin, Volunteer Program Manager, New York Life

June 13, 2016

I read an anonymous quote online that says, “family isn't always blood. It's the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.”  I agree -- family is formed with people who share your same feelings, thoughts, goals, passion and pain. There's no stronger bond than that of individuals who come together to celebrate and remember the loss of a loved one. I’ve witnessed these connections being formed at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp in Washington, D.C. over Memorial Day weekend for the past four years.

I remember the first time I attended the seminar in 2012 as part of the New York Life Foundation’s  partnership with TAPS. I was not sure what to expect, but what I experienced was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I stood in front of our everyday heroes -- men, women and children who shared bonds stronger than the adversity they faced.

I specifically remember one man, he was so happy, humble and extremely grateful for having the opportunity to attend TAPS. He shared his story with me about his older son’s passing overseas and his youngest dying by suicide. As he spoke I saw his pain, but I also saw his happiness and the peace he had found through TAPS. I was numb and speechless. I asked myself, “how can someone whose heart has been removed from his chest and opened in half, wear his scars so proudly? Why was he so happy telling me his story? Why was he so grateful when life had dealt him a bad hand?”  He went on to tell me something that changed my perspective on life. He said, “I understand now that my scars are not only telling my story, they are keeping my sons alive. I know that I had to go through this pain in order to help others. I’m continuing my sons mission of serving our country.”

His words were the most humble words I had ever heard anyone speak. In that one moment I realized that this life is not about us, it’s about how we dedicate our time and life to helping others. It’s about using our difficult life experiences to lift others up and not allowing them to consume us. I had never imagined walking away with such wisdom and insight from this seminar.  His words helped me to  realized that others in our company HAD to share this moving experience.  They needed to hear the amazing stories of these everyday heroes.  

The following three years we recruited volunteers from within the company to attend the Seminar and Camp with us. At first, like me, they were not sure what to expect, but they all walked away filled with joy, compassion and proud to work for a company that partnered with an organization like TAPS. We were all impressed with the amount of dedication and commitment that’s put forth from volunteers, group leaders, mentors and the TAPS staff. Every year, I’ve seen the TAPS staff make the weekend not only more rewarding for the families, but also for our volunteers.  The TAPS staff treats our volunteers as one of their own, and we all feel part of an extended family.  

I am anticipating the brand new faces that will unfortunately (and fortunately) attend next year.  Even though they have suffered a great loss and there is a void in their own family, they will leave knowing they have a new family who understands their passion and pain.  

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

National Military Survivor Seminar 2016
Saturday Morning Message: Grief Changes

June 11, 2016

Good Morning,

Grief changes us. Sometimes we need a safe place to talk about those changes. One place over Memorial Day weekend was the 22nd Annual National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp held in Arlington, Virginia, to celebrate the lives of our loved ones. The pictures this week come from those taken at the Seminar. They show survivors laughing and also crying. The emotions that come out in a TAPS event  can be difficult, but they are also healing and comforting. You may want to look at our list of upcoming TAPS events so you can decide which ones might fit your need.

Another place to share is the Saturday Morning Message. Survivors have replied this week with heartfelt thoughts about their journey and the changes that have come to their lives. By sharing what is happening to us, we find healing for ourselves and also for others who identify with what we are saying. By replying and/or reading the Saturday Morning Message, we know that we are not alone. That is the beauty of the TAPS community. 

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. 

National Military Survivor Seminar 2016 Photo 2In 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 carol.lane@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. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message 

Since Father's Day is June 19 and the next Saturday Morning Message will be the day before, I thought it would be comforting to celebrate the special men in our lives, so the question of the week is: How do you celebrate the day set aside for fathers, stepfathers, sons or father figures in our lives? I look forward to your responses. 

Song for the Week 

Nikki, sister of Chad, sent this week's song of the week, which is "Here Without You" sung by 3 Doors Down. I always ask survivors to write a few sentences about why they pick the songs, and Nikki wrote, "Not a day goes by that I don't think about him. Even all these years later because it still feels like that terrible awful day. I just keep moving through my life. Some days are harder than others. I often wonder if he'd be proud and if I'm doing a good job of living for him." 

Answers from Survivors

From Patricia, mother of Kyle: In response to this week's question, I do have to tell you that I have experienced so many changes. The first thing was that I still do not sleep well at night. It started the very night that he left me forever. I also have experienced a change in my eating habits. I have put on so much weight. I never realized it until I went into the closet and found nothing fit. I ended up having to buy clothes in bigger sizes. I have been trying to very hard to get rid of the weight. I find it is easier to put it on, but a huge fight to get it off. My memory is not as sharp as it was before. I have mood swings and do not always want to speak on the phone, not even to family. I prefer to be left alone rather than have company over. The worst of it all is that I have been having some stuff come out on my skin. After seeing the dermatologist, I found out that in the stress of his passing, I developed psoriasis. I am now committed to medication for the rest of my life.

From Sandra, mother of Adam: Initially, I noticed no changes. I was on autopilot. My husband had passed away just three months before my son. I think the shock had me wrapped up the first year. It is my second year that is so difficult. I no longer cook. I don't sleep well. I don't eat well. I don't exercise. I've gained weight. I'm not good on following through. For instance plans will sound good when I make them, but when the actual event comes I often find an excuse not to go. I had a delusion that one day I would feel better and go back to who I was "before." The joke was on me. The reality is that person doesn't exist anymore. I am now working hard at starting my day with a positive focus and planning some new life strategies so I can begin to really live again and not just exist.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Yes, I have changed since the death of my son. I love harder and deeper. I don't waste time on petty stuff that will take up my time. I tell people how I feel and why -  good, bad or otherwise. I tell my husband, children, step children and all my grandkids how much I love and adore them as often as possible. I also concentrate on what is important to me. And once in awhile I will have dessert before dinner just like my son!

From Diane, mother of Caleb: A question I could better answer would be, "Did you notice anything that stayed the same after the trauma?" Everything changed, and nothing is the same. There is nothing about life that is the same as BC (before Caleb left this world). I am not the same, my family is not the same, my life is not the same. AD (after Caleb departed) is full of "I don't knows." Our family unit has been torn and we don't fit like we used to. Life in general is different. Things that used to matter just don't. I know I am not as tied to this world as I was before. Sure, I care and know I am to occupy until the time that I am released from this world, but everything has changed.

From Kitty, mother of John: After the initial shock and deep sadness, I thought that I was doing well considering the circumstances. However, my body wasn't cooperating normally.  There was an inconsistency and at times elevated blood pressure. No medication was prescribed, but it is monitored more closely by the doctor. This was a concern for being a fit and health-conscious athlete.

I used to be a project-oriented person from start to finish. My emotional drive had been attacked! I lost interest in completing projects started. I still have scrapbooks, photo albums, school courses and writings left awaiting completion.

My dependence on the Lord and my prayer life was intensified. I was already a prayer warrior, but now I seem to be in continual prayer for his siblings, his stepchildren, and especially for his loving wife of 15 years whom he adored.  

My mind and memory have skidded to an almost halt. I used to be "right on." Now it is harder to retrieve facts and information from my archives - the brain. I forget names or should I say that they are slow to come, even of close friends and relatives. It's quite embarrassing! There is no detection or family history of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Relationships also change. Our Bible study group is still very close, however friends become fickle - fearful of what to say or that maybe it might happen to them. New and close friends are made through TAPS - seminars, camps, retreats and phone conversations. We all have something in common - the loss of a loved one having served in the military.

In time, the desire to volunteer and assist others on this journey from mourning to joy becomes strong. These efforts are a win-win situation for all involved. Talking about our loved ones is healing for our souls.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: This week's answers to the question "Did you notice changes in your life after the trauma of your loved one's death?" could go on forever!  Actually

I could say, yes, most certainly to all of the topics you mentioned and then some. I think any of us could write a book on the changes after our loss. I noticed so many changes in both my life and the lives of my husband and other two children. They were different from person to person. We all handled our grief in our own way. In fact, there are still times that seem somewhat confused as to who we are anymore. I know for myself my sleep pattern was horrible. I ran on two to four hours of broken sleep for months and months. At first, eating was the last thing on my mind until I had others forcing me to do so. Now I have to fight overeating on the days that I find myself missing my son the most and, of course, I don't use wisdom on what I eat on those days either. My interests changed or should I say I lost interest in the things I use to love. It's going on six years now and some of those things I still have no interest, while others are starting to come back a little. I also had some health issues pop up that I was told came from the stress level I was under. I look at life differently. I've become bold in areas I never thought I'd be and acquired insecurities in areas I didn't have before. Yes, even though I don't care for the new norm, there are certainly many changes that have come about in my life since our Blake left this world and I'm still trying to figure them all out 

Upcoming Chats

Parent Chat  
Date: Monday, June 13, 2016 
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson  

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, June 14, 2016 
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs  

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat  
Date: Thursday, June 16, 2016 
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 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.  

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

2013 National Adults 3
Saturday Morning Message: TAPS Changed My Life

June 4, 2016

Good Morning,

This week's Saturday Morning Message contains a collection of thoughts from survivors about TAPS events from the Saturday Morning Message archives. In addition, I thought you might enjoy reading more survivor thoughts in an article from the magazine archives titled "Attending TAPS Events: Encouragement for the Newcomer." After reading these heartwarming responses, if you think a TAPS event might interest you visit www.taps.org/events to see a list of all scheduled events including Seminars, Retreats, Campouts, Care Groups, chats, runs, and special events. There are many ways TAPS is here for you.

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 carol.lane@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. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message 

Marcia, mother of Patrick, sent this question about changes in our lives. The question for the week is: Did you notice changes in your life after the trauma of your loved one's death? It could be anything including changes in your eating habits, your lifestyle or vacation plans. 

♫ Song for the Week

Occasionally, I like to post the link to Spotify. This is the playlist set up by Andy, father of Daniel.   Each week he adds the songs of the week to the list titled "TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) Songs of Love and Remembrance." I often have the songs playing in the background while I work. It makes me smile as I think of the survivors who have shared their favorite songs, and now you can sign up for this free playlist as well. 

Answers from Survivors 

Jan. 4, 2014

Question: What is the best memory you have of a TAPS seminar or retreat? 

From Ashley, sister of Michael:   When my brother died in 2006, my world as I knew it changed forever. My parents and I began a journey we never expected. I thought we were alone … that is until we found TAPS. My first event with TAPS was a siblings retreat in Seattle, Washington. It was the first time I met other surviving siblings. Words cannot express how comforting it was to meet others who understood. Together, we shared about our brothers and sisters, laughed about funny things they did, and shed tears for all that we miss about them. We participated in activities together and, most of all, formed friendships that will last a lifetime.

My first TAPS seminar was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It was humbling to be able to be there. Fort Campbell was the base my brother was stationed at before he deployed to Iraq. The last time my parents and I were there was for Mike's memorial service. I was not sure how I would handle being back there. However, I am so grateful my parents and I went. It was comforting to meet other families from the area. Many of those in attendance were at the Seminar honoring and remembering their hero who also served at Fort Campbell. The experience was comforting and brought hope to our family. I met other siblings, parents, children, spouses, grandparents and cousins. I had the opportunity to learn about their heroes and share with them about my hero, my brother. I listened to Darcie Sims speak and learned that my feelings were OK to feel and that my relationship with my brother would never end … he will always be my brother. Nothing can take that away, not even his death. I feel that realization was a turning point for me - when people say, "You had an amazing brother." I answer, "I have an amazing brother. His name is Mike. Yes, he died, but he will always be my brother." Darcie helped me realize that. I am so appreciative and forever grateful. 

July 11, 2015

Question: What has connecting with other survivors and hearing their stories meant to you?

From Ruth, mother of James: The first time I came to TAPS, I found myself across the table from a young mother who had lost her daughter and a young woman whose husband had died in Iraq. It was there that I learned that it was OK to smile, talk and exchange ideas and memories. As I listened, I did not hear them talking about how their loved one had died but how they lived and how these families were living without their family members.

I learned this journey we are on is like making a quilt. Little squares are made. Oh yes, one was part of the pajamas he wore as a baby. Another represents his favorite shirt in high school and a picture transferred of high school graduation. There is a picture of a soldier going off to a foreign land. Oh, the squares were made one by one ... and suddenly you are sewing the pieces together into a beautiful quilt. The stories I hear from others, the memories we share, the hugs and tears all come together. They are my quilt. On cold winter nights, I wrap myself in the love of those who have given me the gift of a quilt square - better known as a memory. On warm summer days you can stand back and see the beauty as the sun shines through a bedroom window.

My journey has been long, but my friends are many. Thank you for walking with me, holding my hand and listening to my stories. I have become a stronger person because you allowed me to walk with you. You let me hold your hand, and you took time to share your stories. You will be my friends forever. 

Feb. 6, 2016

Question: What is the one word or sentence that describes what TAPS means to you? 

From Diane, mother of Caleb: The word that immediately came to mind is "relief." What a relief that TAPS found me and reached out to me in those early days when I was so overwhelmed. What a relief the people who called and the package I received showed me how much they cared. What a relief it was when I attended my first TAPS Seminar and found love, acceptance and understanding. Bonnie was the facilitator in my group, and she shed so much light and wisdom on this grief journey. What a relief to know that if I am having a really hard time, it's OK to call TAPS - and I have called. What a relief to know I have this wonderful family, and, may I add, mentor. Through TAPS, I have made the best friends. It's terrible that we have to be on this journey, but what a blessing to have met such compassionate and caring people. What a relief that we have TAPS in this crazy world where a lot of people don't understand us. So, if I'm ever asked, "How do you spell relief?" I'd say, "T.A.P.S."  :-) 

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, June 07, 2016
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower Chat 
Date: Wednesday, June 08, 2016
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 at1-800-959-8277.  

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

Annie Murphy - Flag at Palisades Mall
Saturday Morning Message: Memorial Day Activities

May 21, 2016

Good Morning,

This picture is the American flag next to a banner designed by Anne, mother of Michael, which is placed in a mall near her home to remind people of Memorial Day's meaning. You will read her comments later.

Most of the TAPS staff, including me, will be attending the 22nd Annual TAPS National Military Seminar and Good Grief Camp on May 26 - May 30. If you are joining TAPS at the Seminar, you might want to attend a workshop on Sunday, May 29, titled, "Become a Contributing Writer for TAPS Publications," given by Bevin Landrum, TAPS Magazine editor, and myself. We would love to see you there. If you are already a contributing editor and can't attend the workshop, you can contact us and we will make sure any questions you have are answered.

Although there will not be a Saturday Morning Message on May 28, feel free to write to me at carol.lane@taps.org anytime. I may not be able to answer right away, but I will get back to you. If you have something that needs immediate attention, please remember to call the TAPS Helpline at 800-959-8277, which is available 24/7. You are never alone with TAPS. The Saturday Morning Message will come to you as always on June 4.

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 carol.lane@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. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message 

Instead of a question, the Saturday Morning Message on June 4 will be a collection from the TAPS archives about the changes TAPS events have made in survivors' lives. 

Song for the Week 

I thought the Armed Forces Medley: 2015 National Memorial Day Concert  would be an appropriate group of songs for a Saturday Morning Message about Memorial Day activities. 

Answers from Survivors

From Anne, mother of Michael: I designed the flag that hangs in the Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack, New York, to honor our son, Michael, USMC, who was killed while test piloting the Osprey helicopter on Dec. 11, 2000, on Memorial Day.

At the Lions Club in my town, we have a beautiful park to honor and respect all of our heroes. On the wall in the park are two plaques to honor my son and seven other heroes who have died in our recent war. Each year, I arrange the ceremony with a Marine Corps Honor Guard who  plays taps. A speaker from the Marine Corps and several others speak. Music is provided from our local high school. After the ceremony, everyone is invited back to our local firehouse for hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.

I will also be attending several schools that have invited Gold Star mothers to speak about our children. I feel that by honoring my child he will not be forgotten. This year, I am also honoring my husband, John, a Purple Heart Korean War veteran who died on June 6, 2015, and is buried in a veterans cemetery in my area. My son is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: On Memorial Day weekend, usually I am at the cemetery. This year we will be with grandkids. I see my son in each of his brother's daughters. I am fortunate to have them and all my other grandkids to love and dote on. Fortunately, at our apartment complex there will be all kinds of nice things at the pool for kids and adults.

Eunah - American Flag Wreath From Eunah, mother of Eben: Last spring, I texted my son, Eben, an 18-year-old Marine, to wish him a happy Memorial Day and ask if any special events were being held on base. His reply was to ask me if I knew what the day was really about. Memorial Day, he told me, is a day for honoring deceased service members and should be spent remembering and appreciating the sacrifices they made for the people of this country.  At the time, I hadn't thought about the real meaning of the day and had sent him that message very offhandedly. My entire life, I had never considered Memorial Day as anything other than another break from work. I realize now how ignorant I had been. 

This year, Eben has given Memorial Day a new meaning for us yet again. This weekend will be spent remembering our son, who died in March. I started to think about Memorial Day a few weeks after his funeral. I didn't like the fact that I had to leave him to go back to our home - it felt like I was leaving him there all alone - so I decided that I wanted to make a wreath to place on his gravesite. The project itself was easy enough, but emotionally it took its toll on me. However, despite the tears, I am glad that I finished the project so that I can give it to him on Memorial Day. This way I can leave a piece of myself and a piece of our home with my son, so he always has someone with him.

Memoral Day - Donna Warren son's graveFrom Donna, mother of Eric: Memorial Day for us is in the truest sense. Our son, Eric, was killed in action Memorial Day weekend 2012. The month of May is the worst, with Mother's Day, my husband's birthday (which was the last time we spoke to Eric), my birthday (which was the last time we got a Facebook message from Eric), his angelversary, and finally Memorial Day.  That's too much for anyone to have to endure in such a short period of time. Each year, we make it through knowing that his Marines will be coming in and staying a week or so. I spend so much time deep cleaning, preparing welcome baskets, planning huge meals three times a day, and planning entertainment for the boys that I don't have much down time. This is good, otherwise May is way too overwhelming. This year not only are Marines coming, but Eric's high school friends are also coming. And this year, Oklahoma City has opened a riversport park with whitewater rafting, climbing, extreme slides and more. We are taking them all there on Eric's angelversary because I believe it is exactly something Eric would love. I can think of no better way to honor him than to do something he would love to do. It's important to me to show his friends that I'm doing OK and he would want them to be OK. Yes, I fake it, I'm far from OK, but I need them to be OK. On Monday, Memorial Day, I will be speaking at the VFW ceremony with all of Eric's friends and family there to listen to his story. Keeping his memory alive is my number one goal, and publicly speaking about him does just that. Memorial Day weekend will be very busy for us, and I am thankful for that. 

Above is a picture of one of the Marines who came last year at Eric's graveside. I can't tell you how happy it makes my heart to know how great his friends are and they were there with him surrounding him with love as he took his last breath.

From Merry, mother of Wesley: I will be in San Diego for Memorial Day. My son, Eric, and daughter-in-law live in Fallbrook, which is located near  the back entrance into Camp Pendleton.  My desire is to get to the PX sometime during the weekend and purchase a new Marine Corps flag, which I fly in front of my home. The most important thing though is to get to the parade deck for Echo Battery on Camp Pendleton - maybe take a picnic lunch - to remember the homecoming for 2/11 Echo, April 2006, and to remember Wes. That would make me happy.

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Time: 8:30 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 at 1-800-959-8277. 

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

heartsunset
P.S. I’ve Got A Big Secret

~ Linda Ambard , Survivor

May 16, 2016

I’ve got a big secret and soon the world will know it. The person involved will know it, but to understand the magnitude of these unspoken words, one must reflect on the past. A little more than five years ago, everything I knew about my life imploded with the assassination of my Phil. We had been married for more than 23 years and the only dreams I had revolved around growing old and dying together one day far away. My identity was wrapped up in being the great military wife and mother. I was content to live in my husband’s shadow and later in my children’s shadow. I was the quiet foil who brought it all together and created the family life they all gravitated towards. On 27 April 2011, my job was ended. My dreams ended and I entered a vast barren wasteland of surviving.

Initially, I couldn’t fathom letting another man into my life. Phil and I had that what if talk just before he deployed. We had never had that talk before, but this time even though I made jokes about Raul the Pool Boy (and I do not have a pool nor do I know any Raul’s), Phil pressed on. I was having none of it since he was supposed to be in a safe position. Finally, he looked at me and asked one question that is etched on my heart, “Linda, if you died first, would you want me to be happy again?” Why, yes, yes, I would. He loved me that much.

It is easier to have that conversation than it is to consider that conversation. I was totally broken and as I made my way forward and found a way to make meaning and to make something positive out of my life, considering those words never entered the picture. I changed because I had no choice. I am no longer the quiet shy girl hiding in the shadows. I have found a niche in telling my story, advocating for military issues, and training our military members. While the road was lonely and long, I recognized people only could see my story. They treated me differently—like I needed to be fixed, that I was somehow broken, I was somehow in a different class.

While my voice and advocacy gave me a positive way forward, people couldn’t see beyond my story. When men did pay attention to me, they wanted to fix me, use me, or for me to stop talking about my story. They simply could not see I was becoming more than that defining moment—more than that story. As time went by, it became almost expected and a badge of honor to others that I wasn’t dating or involved with others. I didn’t see it as honoring or as a badge of honor, but I had no interest in convincing someone to see beyond my voice. I shut down and I truly thought I would live the rest of my days alone. I comforted myself in the thought of knowing very few people had what I had for 23 years.

And then….I became friends with a runner. He never treated me like my story and he treated me as normal. While I didn’t realize it initially and while I am good at running scared, there came a moment I knew we were destined to be great friends. It wasn’t our first race together or even our second race together, but when the Marine Corp Marathon 2015 was on both of our calendars, he showed up to navigate me to different places, get me coffee, and to talk to me. He didn’t have to. I didn’t even recognize what was starting to take root in my heart. I just knew I felt safe with him in a way I hadn’t felt safe since 2011. Over a dinner that took hours after running a long race, there was a moment that took me by surprise. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and a thought crossed my mind. How could I be enjoying the company of a man? How had hours gone by and my story not have been a part of those hours. In that moment, I recognized we were going to be great friends.

After that marathon and through many messages, feelings started to grow, but I was stilted and unsure. I was so busy convincing myself of why it couldn’t work, why I should remain single, and why he wasn’t feeling the way I was feeling, it took him spelling it out around Thanksgiving. It was as simple as this. He never looked at me like I was broken. He never walked on eggshells around me. He never treated me differently. He treated me like the girl whose story is only part of the equation. While I can talk about Phil, and while he encourages me to write about my journey forward, it is only a fraction of what we share. He makes me laugh and he makes me dream again. He also is my soft place to lean into. While I cannot tell you what the future holds, I can tell you I am a better version of myself for letting him in.

People (to include one of my children) have asked me who I love more, Phil or this guy. It is apples and oranges. Consider being a parent for a second. When I had my first child, I never thought I could love another the same. Then my Joshua was born and I felt that same ferocious love and loyalty as I did for Patrick, my oldest. Three more children followed Josh and I love them equally yet differently. I am not looking for a replacement or even a man to validate me or to care for me, yet this man does. I still can be scared. Nothing about this relationship is anything like what I have had in the past. The dawning recognition this relationship is very, very different but that it is equally important to me makes me want to run. I don’t because I realize life is too short to run from happiness. I don’t run because I realize I am a better person with him than I am when I stand alone. I have grown and my heart is full. I am dreaming again and that is because of my secret.

PS My secret is about to be known to the world and to the man. Thank you for seeing beyond my story and thank you for not being intimidated by my telling of that story. G.B., I adore you…I love you. Nuff’ said.

add this iconsPermanent link  (select to share)

Pets - Donnas Yorkie Gator
Saturday Morning Message: Pet Comfort

May 14, 2016

Good Morning,

The opening picture was sent by Donna, mother of Eric. It is a picture of one of her Yorkies, Gator, who is nuzzling her best friend's puppy. Later in the Saturday Morning Message, there's a photo of Sunny Bunny next to Donna's response to this week's question about the comfort pets bring a grieving person.

Sharing your space with a pet can be very rewarding. Just having them cuddle up next to you when you are feeling down can be so uplifting. A few weeks ago there was a question about pets, and there were several survivors who sent comments or pictures too late for publication, so I decided to ask the same question to include them in this week's Saturday Morning Message. There were also new submissions that I included. I hope you enjoy the pictures and observations about how pets enhance the lives of survivors. 

Since it is less than a month until the 22nd Annual TAPS National Military Seminar and Good Grief Camp, I will post the following information in the Saturday Morning Messages for this week and next. If you are coming, you might want to attend a workshop on Sunday, May 29, titled, "Become a Contributing Writer for TAPS Publications," given by Bevin Landrum, TAPS Magazine editor, and myself. We would love to see you there.

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 carol.lane@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. 

Hugs,
Carol 

Question for Next Week's Saturday Message 

Each year around Memorial Day, I have put a question in the Saturday Morning Message about survivor plans for the weekend. This year, TAPS is offering all survivors a way to share what we are doing to mark this day of honor and remembrance. 

Whether you're joining other survivors at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar, participating in your local Memorial Day parade or quietly reflecting on your loved one's legacy, TAPS wants to honor Memorial Day with you. Join us as we highlight the stories of our TAPS families and fallen heroes through our #GratefulNation campaign. You can share a blog, photo or short video and it can be a memory, note of honor or special way you have or plan to honor your hero on Memorial Day. 

You can send your submission to me by Tuesday, May 17, and they will be shared in next week's Saturday Morning Message and highlighted on the TAPS website or social media. The question is: What are you doing for Memorial Day weekend?  

Song for the Week 

Caryn, mother of Nathan, and Mary Jo, mother of Christopher, both sent the song "Unchained Melody" sung by the Righteous Brothers for the song of the week, so I thought it would be just the right one. 

Answers from Survivors

Pets - Rebeccas Dog AxelaFrom Rebecca, mother of Griff: On March 5, 2010, I received Axela from Griff's friend, Amanda, who was with Griff when he bought his Mazda 3, which is called Axela in Japan. We are both convinced that she came from Griff. It was no coincidence that she was found abandoned by Amanda's dad on their deck during a blizzard. When I saw the picture on Amanda's Facebook of this black and white puppy, she got my heart. She saved my life.

Pets - Donnas YorkieFrom Donna, mother of Eric: When we lost Eric, we lost our only child. I felt like I was not a mother anymore. Unbearable. My husband decided I needed a lap dog to help me through the lonely days while he was at work. I took a year off. We got two Yorkies that have forever changed my life. At first, however, all they did was bite me and run away. It's a good thing they were so darn cute, because I was miserable for the first few months with them. Then they settled down, sat with me, snuggled with me, licked my tears and, most importantly, let me be a mother again! They need lots of attention but not so much as a child. They have their own closet that is filled with clothes, coats, boots, tutus etc. I take them everywhere I go. They are my babies.  They ease my anxiety enough that it is tolerable. I need them, and I would be lost without them. They have filled a little bit of the void left from losing our son. And they have given me a reason to keep on going. They need me, too.

Pets - Sandras Dog DinoFrom Sandra, mother of Christopher: I first had to ask myself, "Do I want a pet inside our home again?" Maybe not.

When our boys were younger, my husband and I gave them two dogs, a beautiful brown and white bulldog and a tan shar-pei. Oh, we had so much fun with them. We all treated them like kids. LOL! Then the hard part came when the dogs were gone. As the boys got older, they asked for another dog. I just said, "No." I couldn't help remembering how sad we all were.

We didn't have another dog for years, but on June 2014 our life changed, we adopted a Belgian Malinois. His name is Dino, and he was 5 years old at that time. Before we got him, he belonged to the United States Marine Corp. Our son, Christopher, was a K-9 handler. Christopher was chosen to attend a training in Israel. That's where Dino met Chris.

Long story short, they worked together. We would hear of Dino's mishaps and his personality from our son. We meet Dino by Skype when we talked to our son. They served together in Afghanistan where we lost our son on Sep. 28, 2011. Christopher heard an explosion, and he ran to aid a fallen brother. He put Dino away before continuing. Christopher was killed by a second explosion. Dino never heard or saw his handler again.

My husband, Sal, notified the Corp that when he was ready for retirement we would like to adopt Dino. Well, the time came. Dino was home. It was as though he belonged here. My husband says that he knows that Dino could smell the blood line and that's why he is comfortable here.

Dino has been a blessing to us and Chris's brothers. You see, Dino was with Chris before he died. It's a comfort that we can touch, play and talk to Dino. His handler did the same. You can see and feel how much we mean to each other. We know that one day he'll go to doggie heaven and it will be a sad time, but our joy comes because we had Christopher's pal with us. Dino will always be the best medicine that was prescribed to us.

So, you ask would I have another pet? Absolutely.

From Merry, mother of Wes: My pets, Ulie, my dog, and Mittens, my cat who Wes named 18 years ago, have been a comfort.  

From Bob and Kitty, parents of John: Before John entered the Army, he helped raise a German shepherd named Ginger from a pup. She died while he was deployed to Iraq in 2003. We adopted another German shepherd within months of Ginger's death. Her name was Sasha and she died at the young age of 6 ½,  which was a year and a half after John died. Because she reminded us of Ginger in her mannerisms and personality, she comforted us by just being around and loving us, too. Her early death reminded us also of the fragility of life and our need to show love and respect to those we not only live with, but those we encounter daily.

Dogs have a sense of your demeanor and by being available and leaning on you, they show love in a very tangible way. (And you can hug them, too!)

From Diane, mother of Caleb: Griz is a comfort to have, especially since he is Caleb's dog. He has comforted me just by being here. He doesn't try to give me advice or tell me it's going to get better or any other cliché. He's just here and available. When I cry, he is right there. He'd love to lick my face to make it all better. I know because he tries! Some nights when it is so difficult, I will sleep on Caleb's bed. Griz knows he is welcome on that bed, so he climbs up and settles in. Having him there beside me, or at the foot of the bed, has been a great comfort. I remember those early days when I'd sleep for a little bit and wake up crying. I could reach out and just hold onto him while my whole world was shredded to pieces. I am forever grateful for this sweet dog who has helped and continues to help me on this difficult journey.

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat  
Date: Tuesday, May 17, 2016 
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern 
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs  

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat  
Date: Thursday, May 19, 2016 
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 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.  

 

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.

Go to:

Icon-Facebook Icon-Twitter Icon-Youtube Icon - Instagram Icon-Shop Icon-Photos