By Charmain Z. BrackettNovember 1, 2010
FORT GORDON, Ga. -- As he opened Saturday's Survivor Mini Summit at the Gordon Club, Chaplain (Maj.) Eugene Mack spoke about a riddle that went around his fifth grade class.
A plane had crashed on the border of New York and Canada, where do you bury the survivors' Some pondered Canada; others said New York; however, the answer was that you don't bury the survivors, he said.
"The survivors are the living testimony of a tragedy," said Mack.
The goal of the Survivor Outreach Service program is to ensure that the surviving members of Army families do not get buried or lost.
"You are not survivors for one moment in time; you are survivors forever, and it's vitally important you are here today," said Col. Glenn Kennedy, Fort Gordon's garrison commander and a survivor - the son of a Soldier killed during the Vietnam War, to those attending.
More than 40 family members including spouses and children attended the half-day event, which featured several speakers as well as information tables for important resources such as the Staff Judge Advocate office, Army Community Service, Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, United Hospice and the Survivor Benefit Plan.
There were separate breakout sessions for the adults and children.
Maj. Monique McCoy, DDEAMC's behavioral health, spoke to the adults about seven things they needed to do during the grieving process.
"Feel what you need to feel and do what you need to do," she said.
Grief is a personal process, and no one can tell another person what that person should or should not be doing. It may take one person a longer amount of time to work through feelings than it does another person.
"Get back to the basics," she said was the second point.
Thirdly, grieving people should not forget that there are people who want to help them. Also, they should keep active and even be creative.
"Tap into your creative side," she said.
Art or journalizing can help people work through their emotions. She said it was important to celebrate the lives of the one who has died as well as the ones who remain.
And lastly, she encouraged people to give back.
"You can provide comfort to others," she said.
The keynote speaker for the morning was Deborah Tainsh, a Gold Star mother who has written several books. Tainsh's stepson, Patrick, was killed when a roadside bomb exploded in Iraq on Feb. 11, 2004.
Portions of the proceeds from her book, Heart of a Hawk, go toward the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
With the TAPS program, she and her husband work as grief mentors.
Writing for her was important to the healing process.
"The importance of journaling is writing is a cathartic process," she said.
Not only did Tainsh speak to the surviving Family members on Saturday, but she met with members of the Warrior Transition Battalion earlier in the week.
"We all have one thing in common - survivor guilt," she said.
The summit ended with an emotional ceremony in memory of the service members.
Kennedy encouraged Family members to provide feedback during and after the event.
"It's important we get your feedback," he said. "It really is important. We need your help."