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The Wall
Saturday Morning Message: Unforgettable Quotes

August 29, 2015

Good Morning,

Quotes are ways of sharing quickly what is in your heart. Although the quote from the picture says, "A man cannot die while his name is still spoken," it can, of course, also be a woman's name that needs to be heard. They have left a mark on our souls and will always be in our hearts. With the rise of interest in social media, many people post these sayings that are meant to touch your heart or make you laugh. When we remember our loved ones, sometimes we think about those things that they said or we said to them that bring a tear to our eyes or a smile to our face. This week there was one survivor who shared a quote and another who wrote a poem. Each speaks to us in a different way. Their loved one's names have been included in the byline as happens every time a reply is sent to the Saturday Morning Message.

In addition to seminars and retreats, TAPS has many ways to speak these precious names. The Online Community has a variety of chats which are listed at the end of this message, a message board, and private Yahoo groups. TAPS also has its own Facebook page, Instagram, YouTube channel and several Twitter accounts. Know that you are welcome to interact with any or all of them because TAPS is here to support 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.

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 sending it directly to carol.lane@taps.org. 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

TAPS is an organization geared toward supporting survivors on their journeys. In order to do that, we like to hear from survivors. This week there are two questions: What has TAPS meant to you? and What would you like to see included in future Saturday Morning Messages? Feel free to answer one or both of the questions. We want to include your ideas as we work to be our best.

♫ Song for the Week

Claire, daughter of William, has sent in many song ideas for this section.  "In My Life", sung by the Beatles, is a blast from the past. When I watched the video, the pictures and lyrics fit this week's topic so well. Thanks to all of you who send in song ideas. Keep them coming.

Answers from Survivors

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: What I miss hearing from my Blake more than anything else is his special, "Hey mama!" That may sound like such a command expression for down south. It was more the way he said it and what he did that made it so special. I'm about 5' and Blake was 6'4". He would come in and, as he greeted me with his, "Hey mama!", he loved to pat me on the top of my head as if I were his puppy or something! He always got such a kick out of doing that! As for all of us there are many more but that is the one I miss the most!

From Thomas, father of Patrick

This pin
What is this label, this Gold Star Pin
That fills my day with what might have been.
I do not want it, it hurts to see
Until it's gone, I won't be me

Each day begins, my heart gets tight
The tears flow free, beyond the night
Missing you, controls all thoughts
Distraction try, but never reach my heart

I often wonder if the pain will stop
Day in day out, day in day out
I know that others share this thought
This emptiness that this pin has brought

We will carry on, any way we could
Each of us treasures, where you stood.
We hold those memories, deep in our heart
Reliving each moment of the day we part

The day will come we will meet again.
I don't know where I don't know when
I only know without you here
My heart is lost, my eyes full of tears

My hope is one, to come together again
And only then, will my hurt end
For then the time will come at last
To rid myself of this pin and the past

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, September 03, 2015
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.

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Ambard Phil photo
The Choice to Forgive

~ Linda Ambard , Survivor

August 27, 2015

Forgiveness is a choice that is hard fought for at times. It can be a daily choice that can vary based on the morning or time. The choice to forgive does not mean forgetting or restoration of trust in the situation of egregious harm, malice, or incident. It does mean letting go and letting God take care of what comes next. I fight to forgive and I will continue to do so even in the raging tumultuous sea. It did feel freeing to forgive someone who hurt me deeply in the first moments, but in the recognition that her efforts were not from intent to destroy me or to gouge my heart, but rather out of not knowing what to do or say, freed both of us to move onward and forward.

I still do not have all the answers, but in the letting go of the resentments of the mistakes, omissions, intentions, and events of 27 April 2011, I am free.  The shackles of anger and resentment festered long enough.  For years I have spent time thinking about the why and the people who chose to behave in certain manners or to not be in my life since Phil's death.  The problem with that choice is it limited me.  Instead of seeing what I do have and the many, many people who have carried me and chosen me, I let myself stagnate in a pool that would not allow me to move forward.

I am not going to pretend the choice to forgive isn't a choice that at times is hard fought for.  When Phil was assassinated, his death was traumatizing and shocking to many people outside of my immediate circle.  In the immediate aftermath, many people were thrust into roles out of necessity.  None of us, not one of us had any practice at loss such as this.  It was the day of shredding innocence shrouded in the naïve belief that certain branches of the military, certain ranks of the military, and certain positions somehow made a person safe from vile acts beyond description.  In the aftermath, some people simply did not know how to act or what to say.  Some of them withdrew in fear.  As time has lapsed, the bridge back to the friendship has seemed impassable.

Other people were forced to say things or do things when their own hearts hurt.  Instead of showing compassion, I wore my air of hurt feelings like a shroud of weary resolution.  In my inability to look beyond my own aching heart, I have anchored myself in a stormy sea. I spent a long time angry that Phil's parents chose to not respond to Phil's death.  I spent many hours and many words angry they didn't come to the funeral or talk to me.  Only recently did I realize perhaps their own pain holds them in a prison shackled by the past.  By choosing to forgive, I have moved into the sheltered cove where I can restore my heart.  It isn't important whether or not the relationships are reestablished.  Yes, I will hold out hope one day we can share the man Phil was, but it isn't important to my choice to forgive.

The assassin is trickier.  Perhaps because he is deceased it is easier.  I really have never wasted a moment thinking of him because ultimately I do believe that Phil's death was preordained.  In other words, it would have happened here or there, BUT…it might be different if he were alive.  Sometimes I fight daily for the choices of our government, our allies, and the attitudes of many citizens toward our military.  I also do not want to be stuck in a provincial world view that limits my view of the Middle East because I would be worse than the people who resort to violence to get their views and ideologies out because I know the difference.

Forgiveness is my choice.  I may have to make that choice tomorrow and I may have to make it a 1000 more times, but I will.  In that choice to forgive, I am free to remember a man gone far too soon.  I am free to enjoy living and I am free to let my life be consumed with something beyond my own selfish negative judgments.

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Small Steps in Speech Photo
Saturday Morning Message: Honoring Your Loved One

August 22, 2015

Good Morning,

When we are new to grief, we work very hard to put one foot in front of the other. As we slowly come out of the fog, we begin to think about how to honor this person who continues to be special to us. It is not an easy process and some of those who responded are just at the point where they are considering what to do. Whatever you decide is right for you. 

There were several articles from past TAPS magazines that addressed this question in unique ways. I chose "Living the Legacy ~ Small Steps in Speech" by Amanda fiancée of Marc to highlight today. Amanda is a school-based speech language pathologist. When she and Mark were married, she wanted to start a practice from home helping children with communication disorders. She now works to provide grants for children to receive private speech and language therapy for a year. 

I hope you enjoy reading about the variety of ways survivors have to honor their loved ones. If you would like to see your way posted, please feel free to send it to me. It can be added to 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.

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 sending it directly to carol.lane@taps.org. 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

If you are on a social media group like Facebook or Twitter, often people post quotes that are meaningful. This week I thought it would be interesting to share expressions you or your loved one said. The question for this week: What is a special saying that reminds you of your loved one and why is it important to you?

♫ Song for the Week

This week's song comes from Shannon, significant other of Gavin. She writes, "Wonderful Tonight was one of our special songs.  He would play his guitar and sing it to me at home.  I remember sitting with him in those moments with tears of happiness in my eyes every time.  Now every week, I go out to hear a local cover band play and sometimes they will perform that song.  And when they do, I can feel Gavin right by my side. One time, when I went to hear Gavin play at an open mic night, I recorded it and remember how I could feel his heart." You can see Gavin playing the song on the video Shannon sent of Wonderful Tonight.

Answers from Survivors

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: One of my son's last quotes on Facebook was that he had no regrets about what he had done, but only about what he wasn't able to do. Because he died, he never married and had children. I knew he wanted to do that and did have someone special in his life. I knew he lived for what he did, the expected growth and where he worked. He had developed into a wonderful young man and was set to have an amazing life while keeping the country safe.

From Robert, father of Lou: Before he deployed, Lou asked us if we would go with his family to SeaWorld/Universal. A few months after his death, the whole family went - all his siblings and their kids. We actually had a good time together and didn't dwell on our loss too much. Of course, it was different when we got back home, but we got to go to the cemetery and tell Lou that we honored his wish.

From Merry, mother of Wes: Wes was attending college in hopes of receiving a degree in psychology.  He was going to help U.S. veterans deal with their issues. So--in the back of my mind--when I feel I am able, I will begin to do something for our veterans.  I don't know what this will be, but I'm open.

From Sara, mother of Jess: Jess was a Marine and she loved running. I started running and ran the Marine Corps Marathon 10k after we lost her as a way of honoring her and to make her proud of me as I was so proud of her. Over the years, I saw a number of her friends and fellow Marines run the marathon, and I know that she would most certainly have done so, too.  So last year I decided I would run the Marine Corps Marathon for her. It was a lot of work, but I feel she would certainly have approved. I definitely know she was in my thoughts and pushed me through that day. There was no way I could let myself let her down.

From Diane, mother of Caleb:  I cannot think of anything Caleb wanted to do, but couldn't. He didn't have a bucket list; he lived every moment of his life filled with adventures. Because he did, he has pushed me outside the box of the 'normal' everyday life I led before. There are adventures in my life because of his life. Living this life and stepping outside my comfort zone into new adventures are ways to honor him. :)

From Ruth, mother of Jim: Jim lived each moment as though it was his last.  He didn't leave a laundry list. He had traveled to the far corners of the world, had a family that he loved, a wife and three girls. He had cats to pet. He had friends too numerous to count. So what was it that he left undone.... it has often been referred to as the rest of his life.  There were new places to visit, he wanted to watch his children grow, grandchildren to hold, new friends to meet. You see what he left undone was to finish what he expected to do in his lifetime. Today, we take Jim's memory as we travel our way. We see the world as we believe Jim would have seen it...someone to help, a child taking a new step in their own journey of life. We feel Jim's presence at holidays, in the early morning, at night when the stars twinkle high above.  Moments of sadness have become moments of triumph. Jim gave us strength to take each step with meaning and love. There will never be a day we don't miss Jim, a day when we don't wonder why, but that is not where our minds dwell. Jim wanted happiness and to make his life complete. We will seek happiness that would bring a smile to his lips. I know that the voice in the whisper of the wind is Jim saying, "Job well done Mom and Dad.  Thank you for loving me as you know I love you.  I will always be with you."

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs     

Daytime General Support Chat
Date: Thursday, August 27, 2015
Time: 1 PM - 2:30 PM EST
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. 

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Klinger Book Cover
Saturday Morning Message: Handling Children's Grief

August 15, 2015

Good Morning, 

Last week, Annette, mother of Joseph, posed a question wanting to know how to talk with young children about grief. When I first read the question, I thought of Klinger, A Story of Honor and Hope written by Betsy Beard, illustrated by Shelley Johannes. You can read the review by  Madeline LaMorie, surviving daughter of Andrew when you click on the title. If you are interested in purchasing this book, you can find it in the TAPS Store. This is a great way to start a conversation with a child.

Since Annette's grandchildren are very young, the article "I Never Got to Know You…" by Betsy Beard included some excellent suggestions contributed by Darla Reed, a surviving spouse, pregnant at the time of her husband's death, and Linda Goldman, LPC, thanatologist. The article mentions Darla's husband as Dad, but the ideas can help a child dealing with any close death:

  • "Create a book about dad with and for the child. Have the child send out letters to friends and families requesting stories and pictures about his dad. (Include a picture of the child with the letter. It is harder to say no to a child than to an adult who is requesting stories.) Work on the book together. Darla shared, 'I have some precious letters that I know the children will turn to throughout their lives. Each letter gives a piece of their father's character: his integrity, his leadership qualities, his sense of humor... I am grateful for these letters because then they know it's not just my opinion that their father was an amazing person. I have evidence!'
  • Allow the child to share in anniversary and birthday observances for the deceased: light the candle, help plant a tree or flower, and take pictures of the child doing it for his own memory book.
  • Have a special Treasure Box for the child to decorate, and allow him to choose an item that belonged to his dad, something that he can keep forever… a medal, softball, a favorite tie.
  • Set aside a special private Dad time and allow the child to ask any questions he wants about Dad. One-on-one time is important.
  • Talk about the child's father. Darla reports, 'I probably drive my kids crazy with, your dad loved this song, or that movie, or this type of food. I take every chance to share with them conversations we had, how their dad felt about God, how he valued his family, and how he served in the church and his 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.

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 sending it directly to carol.lane@taps.org. 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

It is common for all of us to have plans. Our loved ones had plans that we can complete. Sometimes it is going to a place that sounds interesting to visit. The ideas can also be more simple like creating a small garden. This week's question is: What is something your loved one wanted to do, but couldn't and you have done or would like to do in honor of him/her?

♫ Song for the Week

The song of the week comes from Anne, mother of Michael. It is called "My Buddy" sung by Nancy Sinatra. Anne writes, " It was written during WWI and the words fit what I feel."

TAPS Staff Shares Recommendations

Carla Stumpf Patton, Ed.D., LMHC, FT, CCTP Manager, Suicide Survivor Services, spouse of Rich: The issue of how to talk to children about the death of a loved one is one of the most frequently asked questions of TAPS staff members.  A good starting place is for the adult caregivers to become comfortable with the subject themselves, perhaps by talking to a grief counselor, fellow peer survivors who have similar experiences, and/or by calling the TAPS helpline to talk to our trained staff for suggestions.  A few things to consider are that children process information differently than do adults, and much of this is also dependent on their age and developmental level as to what and how much they can fully comprehend. An easy starting point (particularly for young children) can be simply talking about the loved one, by viewing and talking about photos, and through sharing stories of positive memories.  Too much (or too little) information can add confusion, so begin with a foundation by keeping the details of the death to a minimum for younger children, and then depending on the age level of the child, more details can be discussed as they become older and grow into new developmental stages.  Many times, older children (approximately age 7 and older) may already have some understanding into the death, so a good starting point might be to ask them what they already know and what questions they may have. Children may or may not cry and can often display their grief differently.  Younger children, may in fact, want to run off and go play as this is how they process their feelings and communicate in their world. Older children may withdraw, become irritated or angry, and may turn to peers for support. Regardless of the age or the individual reactions of children, the important things for adults to remember are that children will be learning these coping skills by observing how they view adults coping with emotions and life transitions. One of the best things that adults can do for grieving children is to create a secure environment based on open and honest communication,  where children feel safe to express their emotions, where they can talk freely, ask questions, and know they are heard.  In doing so, it will also be a powerful way to allow children to have a healthy identity with the deceased loved one, where they can continually honor the life of the service member and prove that the loving memories will forever be cherished and remembered.

TAPS also has a wonderful program for children included in the seminars called the Good Grief Camps. Diana Wright, MAOL, Coordinator, Youth Programs for TAPS, describes these camps: Our youth programs provide one day Good Grief Camps at our Regional Seminars, two to three day Good Grief Camps at our National Seminars, and three to four night Good Grief Campouts during the summer months.  Our Good Grief Camps or Campouts provide age-appropriate programming designed to honor and remember children's loved ones, identify feelings, learn healthy coping strategies, and methods of self care, while finding a new normal for their life.  These camps are based on best practices in the field of children's grief and are led by experienced grief facilitators.  Unique to our camps is the goal of pairing each child with a military mentor for the duration of the camp.  This continues the important bond to the military, while also reassuring the child that their sacrifice has not been forgotten.

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM Eastern
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, August 20, 2015
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. 

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1Sunjata
Personal Journey to Becoming a Military Widow

~ Aissatou E. Sunjata, Survivor

August 11, 2015

My Life as Soldier, New Mother, and Wife

 

My daughter was less than a month old at the time of her father being killed. The day before we were to go on our first family outing since my giving birth to Nikki, he had a surprise for us.. My husband, U.S. Army Specialist 4th Class, David Alexander Young, seemed to yell from our bedroom for me to come get something out of his way. I entered our bedroom to find a wooden rocking chair. He had hidden it in the closet, brought it outside and put it in full view. I was delighted! He remembered, while still  carrying our daughter, how I expressed to him always dreamed of rocking my child in a rocking chair.  

The next day, Sunday, we had planned to go to the lake. Alexander, as I called him, was scheduled to return to his company the following Monday. It would be our first and last time together without being in uniforms. We were both on active duty. We were going to go with another couple. They had a child who was older than Nikki at the time. We went to their apartment to meet up.  Alexander decided he and J. would go get gas for our Vega wagon before we went to the lake. I was angry! I thought he should wait until all of us were in the car and we could get gas on the way. He thought otherwise. I was so angry, I did not say goodbye to him; did not tell him I loved him; did not give him an embrace and kiss before he left. For a brief second though, as he was headed towards the door, a second of utter panic struck me; just for an instant. It did not last long enough for me to understand it or know what to say. To this day, I think it was a premonition; I wish  could have recognized and told him not to leave me, or be careful - a regret, which still haunts me each day, so many years later.  

It seemed to be taking so long for Alexander and J. to return. Several hours later, a knock at the door. It would change my life forever. I was holding Nikki in my arms. A police officer was at the door; he asked for me. He said my husband had been involved in an altercation and asked would I accompany him. I still had Nikki in my arms and proceeded to quickly get her ready to go. Yet, the police officer said she might not be able to accompany me. I thought Alexander was hurt and I was going to the hospital to be with him. I decided to leave Nikki with my friend (wife of J. with whom Alexander went to get gas). We ended up not going to the hospital as I thought, instead we ended up at the police station.

After many hours sitting outside an interrogation room, I was told Alexander was deceased. I would not find out any details until his friend, who was in the car with him told me the next day. My husband was wrongfully killed by a police officer.  I still remember how that morning, I was known as a U.S. Army soldier, new mother, wife; as of the death of my husband by that evening, I became a soldier, single mother and military widow. Today, 34 years later, also a survivor!

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Carol's Garden
Saturday Morning Message: What To Do Around Special Dates?

August 8, 2015

Good Morning,

As we approach special dates important to our loved one and, therefore, significant to us, we have a choice. The picture this week shows a lighted path in my garden. We can continue on this path toward the light or stay where we are in the shadows. It is not easy to choose either option. Included this week are selections from two TAPS magazine stories as well as responses from survivors to give you ideas to ponder as you make decisions about what you will do on the next special date.

 Betsy Beard, surviving mom of Specialist Bradley Beard, wrote an article for the TAPS magazine called "Anniversary Blues: Handling the most dreaded day of the year." She wrote about the approach of that time when "Those who study death and dying have a name for this phenomenon: anniversary reaction. As we are drawn back in time to the painful memories, the days can feel empty once again and the nights troubled. We might feel anxious for several weeks before the date or for some time afterward (or both).

At any rate, the anniversary reaction is a normal occurrence. We all seem to experience it to some degree. So what can we do to make it through the day? Above all, we can recognize and acknowledge that it can be a difficult time. We can lower our expectations of our capabilities and be gentle with ourselves. We can plan ahead to avoid stressful situations and prepare in advance what to do on that day. Because we all grieve differently, it's a good idea to discuss the options with other family members. Being flexible to accommodate others' wishes may be difficult, but helps everyone to feel included. Talking about the day and having a tentative idea of what would work for all involved can alleviate some of the stress and dread."

In another article, "A Father's Grief: Finding a Game Plan to honor your loss" by Lee Vincent, surviving father of Second Lieutenant Lara Vincent, describes what his family does. He wrote, "Since that day, we have done several things to celebrate the amazing life that our Vinny lived. We have planted a tree in her honor near our town's Veterans memorial. A prize fund in our daughter's name was established at Boston University's Marine Science Program where she had been an unforgettable young scientist. Now my wife and I run an ever-expanding specialty plant sale every June that yields a good contribution to the prize fund.

Understandably, you may not have done all these things yet. But you can. You can still hold a memorial event at your church or club any time, any year. Then you can speak your own words and say everything you wish you had thought of before. You can rent a hall and have a party for all of your loved one's friends, set up a picture display, and get them to write their sentiments in a book. Buy two or three inexpensive pocket recorders, so they can dictate their memories. You can turn the past into some kind of a future. You can take charge of your grief, even if you can't make it completely go away."

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.

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 sending it directly to carol.lane@taps.org. 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

Annette, mother of Joseph, wrote, "I have a question for the Saturday Morning Message.  My daughter and her family are staying with us until their house is finished being built. My grandson is three, my granddaughter is two weeks old. My daughter was pregnant when we lost Joe three years ago. We talk about Joe all the time and have told my grandson Uncle Joey is in heaven and is his special Angel who watches over him . Joe's car is a Camaro and is on our driveway. My grandson adores the car. Yesterday he had his toy cell phone and was calling Uncle Joe.  He went in the next room and we could hear him chatting.  How have other survivors handled talking about death to young children?"  We look forward to the ideas that you have.

♫ Song for the Week

From Barbara, mother of David: We played "Time of Your Life" at David's funeral.  He was a big Green  Day fan.  He ALWAYS had the "time of his life" no matter what he did.  He lived large.        

Answers from Survivors

From Georgianna, mother of Jamie: March 17, 2015 was one year. One tough year. I had to learn how to be who I am all over again. I learned a lot with my son's passing. It took a long time to take care of myself regularly as before. I am stronger now and still working on it. I started swimming for my son, started writing for my son, running 5Ks, etc. A lot of starts are becoming my everyday life now. I am still at the beginning steps, persevering to get the new way of life, but I have made tremendous progress. I have to say that, because as a mom, I was strong for him. Now, he is strong for me, so I can show him who I am as I taught him to grow. As I do anything and everything now,it is for the memory of my son.

From Mary-Ann, mother of Blake: Funny that this is this week's question since Blake's angelversary is coming up next month and the symptoms are starting to hit me already! It seems that every time these holidays come around, I end up on that emotional roller coaster all over again! I have trouble with the blues and the jitters. Sometimes, my stomach hurts like it did for the longest time after Blake's death. I feel on edge a lot as if something bad is going to happen again and sometimes start back with trouble sleeping like at the beginning.

When possible, I get out of town for the day or for the weekend. I avoid crowds like the plague since they seem to worsen my jitters. I just try to get more alone time to spend in prayer and reflection. I have strong desires to have my family up under me. Like a mother hen I want to keep counting my chicks to make sure they are there safe from harm under my wings.

For those at the beginning of their journey without their loved one, I will tell you things do seem to lighten up a lot since the start of my journey. There isn't a day that goes by I don't have Blake on my mind, but I've gotten to a point where I can smile more, laugh more and even reflect on all the witty things he said and the funny things he did in his lifetime. These I cherish and they bring smiles to my face!

Upcoming Chats

Parent Chat
Date: Monday, August 10, 2015
Time: 9 PM - 10:30 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane, Ron and Mary Johnson

General Support Chat
Date: Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Widow-Widower Chat
Date: Wednesday, August 12, 2015
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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Ambard, July Was Not Kind
July Was Not Kind

~ Linda Ambard, Survivor

August 6, 2015

I took a terrible fall out running at the end of July.  Both arms were scraped, and my left rib cage and leg were criss-crossed with terrible scrapes.  I knew the right side of my body was traumatized, but I never even recognized the unseen injuries that haunt me know.  One and a half weeks after that spill, I came home from a relatively short run for me.  Within an hour, I could not use my right leg.  My leg buckled and locked.  I couldn't get off of the ground.  I tried everything to relieve the pain and the impact of my right leg not working, but nothing I did fixed the problem.  I tried massage, stretching, the Tens unit, ultrasound, arnica cream, and ice.  In the course of seeing a doctor, chiropractor, and acupuncturist, I learned that the fall threw my pelvis out of alignment to the extent my hips were out, my knee wasn't tracking, and one leg remained airborne when I was on my stomach.  The hidden injury is much worse than the visible injury.  July was not kind.

As the fiery hot days raged on, my soul suffered.  I have never had a problem with getting older until this year.  In the past, I have anticipated and celebrated getting older only as an athlete would.  Athletes look at age as a chance to hit another age group.  This year, my birthday hit me.  I am 54.  I am retiring at 60.  What am I going to do?  I had once planned to build my dream house in Washington State and at that house, Phil and I would welcome home our children and their children.  We joked it was going to be our "Die House".  It was going to be the place where we grew old and died one day-one day far away.  That one day, someday doesn't seem so far away any more and the only thing I am confident in is I will not be living in my "grow old and die" house in WA. 

I realized I have six years of work left.  It hit me with a sucker punch.  Is this all there is?  What happens when I am not consumed by work and running?  It is going to be really lonely.  All of those trips and events I wanted to share are tempered and no longer appealing.  I woke with a start to how empty my life is.  I have no soft place to fall, no laughter, no human touch, and no one to share the joys or the setbacks with.  How can it be that I am 54 and the best years are done?  How can I enlarge my circle?  How can I recreate that dream I had of sitting on a porch holding hands with an old man Phil as we chat in the early morning hours?  How can I reclaim my hope and belief in the adventure that awaits? 

July was not kind.  It battered my physical body and bruised my heart.  The oppressive heat of summer bore down relentless and pressing and left me aching for a simpler time, a time I could see, and I time I never thought would end.  The pain of July left me awake and aware something needs to change. I need more than work and school.   I need to recreate my dream and I need a plan.  Where to start?  Today, the springboard is knowing if nothing changes, my future will one day include Colorado.  There is more to this equation, but for tonight it is a start. Like my healing injury, it is going to take time and trust that I control what will happen when that day finally comes.  It is going to take a full commitment to every resource I have and it is going to take a belief in myself I have the skills to figure this one out too. 

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1 Vincent Bell
A Visit With Vincent

~ London Bell , Survivor

August 2, 2015

I was excited and nervous in the days leading up to my visit. Then the day came.

On Wednesday, March 4, 2015, I took the metro train to the Arlington National Cemetery stop. The moment I stepped off the train, I took a deep breath..... then another deep breath.......and another.  I could see the entrance to Arlington as I walked off the elevator and I was in immediate awe of its beauty.  I could feel the butterflies flying around in my stomach, and I had to take in many more deep breaths because I was so incredibly nervous. You see, I have visited my brother, Vincent, at Arlington several times since he was laid to rest there in 2011. This is the first time though I visited him by myself. I am usually with my mom and my sister. Before I traveled to D.C., I went to the store and picked out the perfect Easter card to give to Vincent. Of course by the time I began to write him a note in the card, I didn't know what to say. 

After walking what seemed like forever from metro, I finally made it to the Visitors' Desk inside the cemetery. When I let the front desk know I was there to see my loved one, I immediately received the most positive and loving energy from the staff. They helped me with my luggage onto the shuttle and drove me right to Vincent.

When the shuttle driver made that left onto York Street, I could feel my anxiety bubbling over. I really had to talk to myself, and remind myself I needed to show Vincent my brave side. He was brave everyday of his life as a Marine and I wanted to show him I too am brave. As the shuttle driver made his way down York Street, I knew exactly where to tell him to let me off. I always know where Vincent is because there is a beautiful little tree we call "The Charlie Brown Tree" that sits a few rows away from him.

I hopped off the shuttle and made my way to Vincent. It was a wet rainy day and there were puddles of mud everywhere. I carefully walked across the row and when I made it to Vincent I felt better. Yet, my mind went completely blank and I did not know what to say. Even though I planned on saying a lot, I had no idea what to say at that moment. So, I just stood there looking at his headstone and slowly breathed in the wet, rainy air. I looked around and realized I was the only person in the area and it was very quiet and peaceful.

I felt like Vincent was waiting for me to start talking.  After a few minutes my thoughts began to flow and I literally poured my heart out to him. I talked about things that I had been holding in for so long -- everything that has been going on in my life and all of the struggles I have been going through. I told him about all the wonderful experiences I had while lobbying on Capitol Hill. I felt proud to be able to visit him and tell him about something good I was doing. I felt really really proud. I really expressed my heart and soul to Vincent and it felt so good to share with him.

I felt so grateful to have that time with him and to tell him things that I had told no one else knowing that my secrets were safe with him. And you know something? It felt like old times. In life, Vincent accepted me totally and completely. He never put me down or judged me. I could be myself around him and it sure felt that way that day at Arlington. I played him one of my favorite songs. It is called "Tree" from the album mi Mandela.  I held my phone close to his headstone so he could hear the song. It was just for him.

I then said my goodbyes to Vincent and headed back to the entrance. As I got off the shuttle to go back into the Visitors' Center I heard singing in the air. I looked up and there were probably 30-40 geese flying in the direction that I had just come from. I just stood there in silence, and in awe of these beautiful geese singing and talking to one another. I felt Vincent's energy in the air. It felt as though he was saying see you next time London, see you next time. He knew I was there. 

London Bell, Surviving sister of Staff Sergeant Vincent J. Bell, United States Marine Corps

2 Vincent

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Gold Star
Saturday Morning Message: Reminders of Our Loved Ones

August 1, 2015

"No light that was born in love, can ever be extinguished." ~ Darcie Sims

Good Morning,

This quote comes from "Star Light, Star Bright," an article written by Darcie Sims Ph.D, CHT, CT, GMS. Although we can look at the stars any time of the year, the summer seems to be a good stargazing time. When we look at the vastness of space, there often seem to be pictures in the the stars. This heart shaped group of stars is shared today since the topic this week is writing about things that remind us of our loved ones.

I am going to share one of the events that connect our son, brother, and friend, Bryon to something that will be happening in the military today. Our daughter recently posted on Facebook a news article sent to her by one of Bryon's good friends. It was an article about a helicopter being retired. They are double rotored and called CH-46 Seaknights or "Phrogs". They were the ones Bryon loved in his time with the Marines. He was trained as a crew chief on these amazing machines and he couldn't stop talking about them. The reason this post was so special is that they are being retired on August 1st which is Bryon's birthday as well as the date of this Saturday Morning Message. These occurrences often come to survivors out of nowhere and sometimes bring tears, while other times making us smile. Sometimes both occur at the same time! This incident made me smile as I thought of him so happy when he was working with these helicopters. I hope you enjoy the other reminders sent to us by survivors.

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.

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 sending it directly to carol.lane@taps.org. 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

Some survivors wonder how others manage the emotions that come around those special days during the year that are unique to you and your loved one. The questions this week are: How do you feel in the days before your loved one's angelversary date, birthday, or any anniversary? How do you cope with those feelings?

♫ Song for the Week

As a combination of this week's question and the one coming up, Trip, spouse of Kyle, requested the song, "I Miss My Friend" by Darryl Worley for her birthday which just passed on July 31st.  Those notable days shared with our loved ones can bring thoughts that are unique to those relationships. Songs often bring these memories to life. Two other songs were shared by survivors in the 'Answers' section of today's message. If there are meaningful songs to you, please send them, so we can share them with our TAPS family.

Answers from Survivors: Reminders of our Loved Ones

From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Reminders of my son include...

1. Josh Groban singing "Pure Imagination " from the Willy Wonka movie
2. My granddaughter's smarts and the twinkle in her eyes who is my other son's daughter
3. Anything US Navy
4. Eating dessert first
5. Flowers growing on my terrace
6. Annapolis
7. Certain photos
8. Smell of apple pie
9. My messing up computers
10. When I hear someone being called "ol' lady"

From Thais, mother of Dwayne:

Q.  What things remind me of my First Born Son?
A.   EVERYTHING

This is a short answer, but the word "EVERYTHING" speaks volumes.

From Susan, wife of Harry: My husband was retired military, twelve years a Navy pilot. He's on the 'wall of honor' at the Udvar-Hazy Smithsonian Space Museum near Dulles Airport in Virginia.

We had three wonderful years with him in full retirement at this vacation-like home on the Potomac River on a covered front porch overlooking the river. This home is a guest house whose main residence occasionally has weddings on their front lawn overlooking the river.

Mother's Day weekend was especially peaceful with quality time there together. I planted the back deck full of plants in pots, and we spent time Sunday night on the front deck with drinks, listening to a favorite song, "Dancing Cheek to Cheek" to  which we'd danced in New York City years ago.

He died Monday morning May 11th while I was getting ready to go to work.

A week later, taking myself out onto the front deck, a wedding was gathering; and what song should float across the  front lawn to my aching ears and heart but, "Heaven" ... and for awhile, it was again:)

Upcoming Chats

General Support Chat 
Date: Tuesday, August 04, 2015
Time: 8:30 PM - 11 PM EST
Hosted By: Carol Lane and Kim Suggs

Survivors of Suicide Loss Chat 
Date: Thursday, August 06, 2015
Time: 9 PM - 11 PM EST
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.

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1 TAPS
This Journey We Share

~ Amy Dozier , Survivor

July 29, 2015

Dear You,

We have had quite the journey together, haven't we? Thank you for being there for me in my darkest hours and in my brightest accomplishments. We have grown so much and come so far! The world has seemed like a sad a scary place recently and I have been reminded, yet again, how important it is to find my balance amid the storms that pass. I used to think grief was a step-by-step process; that once I was "all done", I would be "better" and back to "normal".  This I've learned is a massively fallacious concept. Grief is like a shadow following us around, taking on different shapes and sizes at any given time. It's a part of who we are since the death of our loved one and it doesn't go away. Guess what? That might actually be a good thing. Grief is the reminder that we are so incredibly lucky to have felt love.

I think sometimes, we feel the need to only move forward, that doing so is the only way to accomplish something positive. There have been a lot of changes in our community recently and I have seen the tone of our hearts change greatly as a result. What has happened to some of our Gold Star Families-and in Chattanooga- could happen to any one of us. I'm so fearful this tornado of negativity has stirred up a lot of emotions in many, especially those who have suffered a traumatic loss.

When devastation occurs in the lives of one of our own, it happens to all of us. We feel their pain so deeply and sometimes the pain from our own past experiences, too. I have recently struggled with the idea that I take steps backwards in my grief. However, I am choosing to look at this a little differently today. When the shadow of grief is cast over me, I can do one of two things: I can either see it as all of my old emotional junk dragging me down, or I can turn it into a springboard for action. I want to pick the latter more often, but sometimes I need help with this. That is why I count on my greatest support network-you. You get it. You get me. And every once in a while, I find myself back at my therapist's office, not because I am weak, but because I have the courage to open my heart and sort out the many emotions that flood it. Scary? Yes. Imperative for my continued growth? Absolutely.

I am so grateful to have you to talk to; to laugh and cry with; to share stories with. Look at how far we have come. It's beautiful we are actively turning tragedy into a story that helps ourselves and others heal, even if it sometimes seems slow going. We have each other and we have so many resources to help us through this storm. While grief may never leave us, we can help put it to rest occasionally by grounding ourselves and being honest. Look around you right now and list 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Do it again. Take your time. This is grounding. This is you controlling your body in space right now and connecting with the earth below you. Close your eyes, breathe in and let yourself feel whatever is in your heart. Sit with that for a moment and know that you are okay. Exhale. You're still okay even if it hurts. I promise.

If there is ever a day you doubt yourself, remember this: you are amazing because you are here; you are so worthy because you try. You always have the capacity-and the permission- to rewrite your story when you feel it isn't quite the way you want it. Some days the focus is simply keeping your head above the water. Other days include reminding yourself your track record of getting through the hard times is currently at 100%! Maybe you'll find an "accountability friend" who will help push you through your challenges as you find greater strength. Again, what you choose for self-care is the right thing for you! This journey is difficult, but oh, it is every bit as beautiful because we have each other. Take care of you and know that you are loved by so many, including me.

With all of my love and continued support, 

Amy 

 

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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