National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar:
This past weekend, part of our family attended the National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar hosted by TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) in St. Petersburg, Florida. TAPS is an organization that everyone should become familiar with, especially those with loved ones who have passed away that served in the military. I want to take few minutes to share with you our overwhelming, yet comforting experience.
The Trade Winds Beach Resort and Conference Center in St. Petersburg, FL did an absolutely fabulous job hosting the event, and TAPS made the online registration process beforehand very simple. We have been told by many friends that attending a seminar has helped them so much, mostly because it opens up a door to a whole new family and brings with it a sense of community. People who care, people who have been there, people who are ready to find you in a crowd and give you a hug when you start to feel emotional about the loved one who is gone.
Upon entering the lobby on the first day of the seminar, we were bombarded with large banners and signs that read, "Hope, Help, Heal" and, "TAPS: Survivors helping Survivors Heal". I remember looking at the companionship between the figures on the posters, all wearing the same colored TAPS t-shirt, interlocking arms around each other, fulling embracing one another with smiles. I was already overwhelmed, because I hadn't felt support like that from other survivors since losing Dane, I had only made connections through the internet, and interacting through a screen didn't feel this intimate. We were then guided down a roped off area that formed a line parallel to a few long tables set up together covered by black tablecloths, all reading "TAPS Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors". While shuffling our feet to keep up as the line continues to move, we were greeted right away by a friendly young man in a TAPS t-shirt whose name tag read 'Ben'. I noticed his warm smile and how enthusiastic he seemed to give us information about the weekend. I also noticed the words 'Peer Mentor' on his shirt, I hadn't seen this on anyone elses'. Ben is a fellow survivor who lost his brother to suicide. He let us know that he would be there for us throughout the weekend at any time if we had any concerns or questions. Or if we just wanted to chat to a fellow sibling survivor.. that was reassuring. We made our way through the line, pick up various items: a program, our name tags, our loved one's photo button, our TAPS t-shirt (this years color was teal), and a navy blue bag with an embroidered TAPS emblem on the front of it to carry all our goodies around for the weekend.
Throughout the weekend, we were provided with 7 full meals (and the food was absolutely delicious). We were able to choose from different workshops, learn from various experts in the field of suicide and suicide prevention. The entire experience was enlightening and very comforting.
We highly suggest attending an event held by TAPS, preferably a suicide survivor seminar if you have lost a loved one in the military. Please visit TAPS at www.taps.org.