Survivors find solace in painting with support group
April 22, 2014
WIESBADEN, Germany - Life for Nesli, Shaherezad and Tiffany changed abruptly after receiving news of their loved ones' deaths.
They suddenly found themselves in a unique category of citizens -- survivors of fallen Soldiers.
After Nesli received the news of her husband's death she knew she needed to be with others who could relate to what she was going through.
"I didn't want to go through it alone," said Neslihan Turnbull, "I wanted to meet other spouses."
Shaherezad Tamrat, however, was initially opposed to the idea of being constantly reminded that the hope of spending her future with her fiance would not be fulfilled.
"I didn't want to be confronted with it, constantly reminded of it," she said adding that she was seven months pregnant when she got the news.
Tiffany and Nesli submitted themselves to professional therapists, but found the counselors to be "out of touch" with their situations.
"I felt pretty much on my own," said Tiffany Oppong. "None of my friends had ever been through this."
They all recalled the casualty assistance officer mentioning something about a support group of others like them, and eventually they all reached out to Survivor Outreach Services.
Irma Sneed, SOS coordinator, said SOS was developed to support survivors of fallen Soldiers through their most difficult times and to provide long-term support. It connects survivors to grief counselors, benefits coordinators, financial counselors and other support agencies. "Survivors will remain part of the Army Family as long as they desire," she said.
"I need to give it a chance," said Nesli, who made the decision to return to Germany to be closer to family and has been taking advantage of the services and support offered through the local Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation organization.
"It was important to talk to someone who had a similar experience," said Tiffany, who said that sessions with the therapist left her feeling worse afterwards. "I was planning to see a new therapist, but I don't look forward to starting all over and going through it again with someone else," she said.
And while SOS doesn't pretend to take the place of professional, clinical therapy, the women said time spent with one another, doing different activities is a balm of its own.
"You can always make friends because they're going through what you're going through," said Nesli.
"I really like the engagement I have with others when we get together," said Tiffany.
Oftentimes the therapy happens when the group gathers to participate in various activities that have included cooking, eating and simply talking. Recently SOS explored the therapy of painting in a session held April 4 in the University of Maryland University College art studio.
Sneed said she was looking to do something different with the group to get the survivors engaged. She learned of the painting workshops offered in the community and thought it would be a good thing for the support group.
"Well, I like painting and I think it may be a bit therapeutic too," she said.
And for the survivors who participated, it was a well-received idea.
"I thought it would be nice to paint together and talk about different things," said Nesli, whose husband died on active duty about six months ago/before. "It makes me forget a little about what has happened."
The session's host, Lanae Vigue, had the survivors painting a tranquil motif from nature.
She said the painting session for the ladies was a way of "giving back to themselves." "I love being able to bring all this to people and paint," she said.
The special session was a fulfilling outing for all survivors as it also offered crafts and light amusement for the children, too.
"We're being creative. The kids are having fun," said Shaherazad.