This week there were so many suggestions in response to the question,"as you travel this grief journey what has been the most helpful to you?" I have enjoyed reading all the responses and picked up a few hints myself. Together, we get stronger as we communicate with each other. If you can respond, it helps all of us, but if you are a person who just enjoys reading the replies, that is fine as well. We are all in different places. Somehow it helps to know that we are all traveling this journey and can reach out whenever there is a need.
The question for this coming week came from Cherie. We have talked about dates that are important to us and she asks: What do you do on the anniversary of the last day that you saw your loved one? Another way to look at this question is: What are you doing to celebrate the life of your loved one? Now that could be throughout the year not just on a specific day. For example, this Saturday message goes out in honor of my son, Sgt. Bryon Lane USMC. It is one of the things that I do to keep the memory of all our military fallen alive in our hearts. With each message I read, I meet the families across our country that make America great and I am humbled. Thanks to all who respond. I look forward to the answers as does Cherie.
As to the question for this week "As you travel this grief journey what has been the most helpful to you?" I would have to say it's a toss-up between your help and the first TAPS grief seminar I attended. I don't know what I'd done without your heart felt responses to all my emails. I felt like no one could possibly understand what I was going through since no one I knew had experienced it. You did and you were there for me, willing to share your thoughts and opinions to help me along. Thank you, Carol. You had also suggested I attend a TAPS seminar. I did. I learned so much from the trip and felt a good bit better when I left the seminar. It let me know that I wasn't alone nor was I going crazy since what I was going through was all normal after having such a loss. Thank you and all the TAPS family members for their help. All of you have been a blessing to us!
I believe, for me, what is helpful is to share my son's life with other people, telling them, he lived more in 26 years than most people do in their life time. I talk about his incredible accomplishments, how honorable of a man he became, I talk about his honesty and integrity. Wherever he went he seemed to bring the best out of people around him, Very selfless, he was learning to get beyond himself. He was becoming a man that any man could admire. How proud I am of him, how much I miss him. And that he was not just lost to me and my family, but everybody in this country.
I would like to say thank you for this opportunity. I lost my husband 14 months ago, but it doesn't feel that way. I guess this is called in denial, I just thought of him that he was deployed and one day he will come home and he will say "Honey,I’m home"! My whole house is full of his pictures. His pictures around the house keep him alive in my heart and in my mind. I believe this is help me to grieve by seeing and talking to his picture and also I write him a letter whenever I am feeling down and tell him everything that is happening here with us. I also keep rereading his letter to me.
One of the most helpful things is that when my son was killed his wife Hannah was 8 months pregnant with baby Ella. Ella is Richard's beautiful gift to our families. You can't help but smile when you see Ella and the thought that we will always keep Richard Alive for Ella is comforting and helpful for all of us.
Richard also felt that he was making a difference in Afghanistan and that does make it bearable.
I would also like to thank everyone as I have been following this since my son was killed and never had the energy to answer and today I figured it was time. Thank you all for your comments I enjoyed reading them every week.
I don't know if anything has been "helpful" a few weeks ago I went to a Gold Star Mother's Tea.. That was the first time I have been around other mother's like me and it has been 2 years and 2 months. It was hard to see the other mothers especially the newer one. She is really having a hard time. For me having 2 sons that were military I seem to do things with military people. Being a single mother is hard even though all my kids are out of the house. My rock is my friend Sheri that is a SGT in the military. I find comfort in being around my son's "people". I have yet to find any kind of peace in this.
I fell in love with someone and no one knew who I was. We met before he deployed and left things to chance and when he got home. I have no doubts in how he felt about me but how do I grieve when no one else around me gets it? He was responsible, kept things in focus, knew he could not change his life before going on the mission at hand: he was a special operator. How do I share all my hopes and dreams that were lost and feeling like someone took that chance from me and I have had to find a way to get through it feeling very alone? Feeling like someone stole that fleeting chance of love? It’s been 13 months since he died and I finally brought myself to going back to the gym. I could not for months. I would cry on demand. We talked sooooo much about fitness and health. It was our thing. What meals would we cook for each other etc. After a year of crying, feeling numb, not remembering things, going through the day to day motions, attending parties, weddings, birthdays etc., I finally said to myself what can I do? I was not getting the comfort I needed in family, friends, trying to date others etc. I felt like I was just breathing through life but not living. So, I joined cross fit. Cross fit brought me together with many members of the military. I have not told anyone at my "Box" my story but just being there provides me comfort, knowing he also did cross fit. I walk in to the box and I feel at home. I feel like I am amongst people that if I needed to talk they would listen and they would get it. I did not realize it would help so much but it has. It’s still a struggle. It was more than exercise that I needed. Exercise became difficult when he died because of the reminders. I can’t explain the why but I went to the gym 6 days a week until the day he died and I found out. I did not return to the gym 6 days a week until I joined cross fit on July 4th weekend. It has changed my life. He changed my life…. For the better.
I just got to the one year mark of the loss of my only son. I made it through all of the "firsts" without him. An empty chair at The Thanksgiving and Christmas table, his birthday, the birth of his son two months after he died and TAPS has helped me more than anything through this past year. Reading the comments helped me realize that I am not alone in this journey! Thank you for including me and may God continue his comforting care. I have also realized that God's Grace is sufficient for sure!!
In response to your question about what has helped me the most, there have been so many. I don't know how I could have made it through the first 2 or 3 weeks without my casualty assistance officer. Later, a counselor at the local VA office helped me come to grips with my irrational guilt. However, I think that the greatest help to me has, and continues to be, the EOD community. At Eric's funeral, they simply absorbed us into their military family. At the EOD Memorial last May when Eric's name was added, it was exactly the same, but more so. Even today, remotely, I can feel their presence, support, and protection all of the time. It has been so surprising to me, but eagerly welcomed. They have all become a part of my family.
This year is truly the year of many first. It's my 40th birthday today and I couldn't find the strength to work today. My emotions were all over the place and I just couldn't regulate myself to be of any use at work. Going back has helped in giving me a routing. Half ass attempts at working out but still working out counts. I wish I had a better answer but that's my truth right now and just about all I can handle.
I purchased a memorial bench at the Veteran cemetery that ironically went in today of all days, my birthday. That surely was not at the top of my list of wants for this day but glad none the less it finally went in.
From Carol S.:
Rudy would never be left out of our lives. He still lives on in our hearts, and always will. It is hard to control the overwhelming emotion that comes over me at times, but I have learned that it is a part of my life now. I often have moments where I laugh too, from memories of Rudy as well. He is a blessing to all who ever came in contact with him, he knew no strangers, and loved unconditionally. I have learned much from him.
I have learned from Rudy that life is fleeting. He knew he may never come back to us, but made the best of every day. He love unconditionally, tried hard not to judge, and welcomed any human being into his world with loving arms. I have had a similar philosophy all my life, but losing Rudy has just reminded me that we need to try to live our lives with no regrets. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Leave this world with a clean slate so to speak. Never dwell on unimportant issues. We all leave this earth sooner or later, just remember to love and allow to be loved. Make the most of every day. I hope this makes sense.
The journey of grief appears to be a permanent one. The love is there always. The pain from loss is there as well. I believe we create coping mechanisms for ourselves so that we can function for whatever reasons; job, other children, spouse etc. I find that talking about my son helps when I find someone to share the joy of the time we had with him. Some shy away from the stories ‘cause they don't know what to do or say. My son wasn't perfect - he was a teenager that would make a saint turn. But when he stepped foot into the US Navy, he became the man I always knew he was and from then on he was great in every which way. Doesn't mean he wasn't lovable when a teen - loved him always and fiercely - but people shy away from that truth. What I want them to concentrate on is his life and not the day he died. He had 33 years and I loved all of them and just wanted more.