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Fort Hood: TAPS Delivers Good Grief By Teaching Coping Skills

By: Kristin Gordon Email
By: Kristin Gordon Email

FORT HOOD (July 20, 2013) -- Families spent two days sharing the loss of a service member. Grownups and kids were separated during the two day session.

Around 150 youth took part in Good Grief Camp. Each one was assigned a military mentor who volunteered their time and took special training to assist a child through the grieving process.

At the beginning of the camp, each youth is asked to share their story, where they are in the grieving process and how long it has been.

"Kids are going to do that circle group where they connect with one another," said Sheri Beck, Director Survivor Care Team.

"They hear the stories and realize it's a safe place for them. Everyone has been in a similar situation. Unlike when they go to school, there is maybe one other kid that lost a parent or sibling."

Kids then learn healthy and constructive ways to deal with their grief and how to form support groups with those at the camp.

But there is a fun side to camp, according to Beck. Kids went on a field trip the second day. They visited the First Cavalry Museum, let off some steam at the Bronco Youth Activity Center, and ate at a military dinning facility with their mentor.

"They did fun stuff on post so they could learn about stuff here and to let them know they are still part of the military community," said Beck.

Jason Woody lost his brother, Sgt. Graham Woody on April 5, 2013. Woody, who was stationed at Fort Bliss, died in a training accident.

According to Jason, they were coming back from a 30-day exercise. "He was hand-selected for the exercise because he was a really good soldier," said Jason.

Woody's humvee was falling behind the rest of the convoy as they were coming back from the exercise.

As they increased their speed to catch up with the convoy, their top-heavy humvee swayed and ejected Woody from the vehicle. He died instantly.

"When I first heard about it over the phone, I was like 'oh, okay, he's dead,' and I didn't know how to feel." said Jason.

He wanted to feel sad but the sadness didn't seem to surface. "And then I called my mom and that's when all the emotions started coming.

I cried for the rest of the day, went to sleep, woke up and didn't really cry anymore."

The funeral was held seven days after that. Jason cried once more as he watched his mother weep over the open casket.

"I didn't come here voluntarily, my mom kind of made me come over here, but I don't regret it at all." Jason attended the seminars with his sister and mom.

Grownups shared their experiences in a military survivor seminar. They went through four workshop sessions.

Adults learned things like how grief affects your body, after death communication, and coping with suicide loss.

But not all of them focused on grief. "One workshop is an active thing like Zumba, line dancing, photography, make and take craft or yoga," said Beck.

"There is always an active thing because it is a healthy way to cope too." The workshops are lead by grief or mental health professionals.

Fort Hood initiated the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors seminars in 2009. TAPS, which began in 1994, is a nationwide organization devoted to all branches of service.

If a service member dies in or out of country, for any reason, families can talk it out through these events.

TAPS has worked with more than 40,000 surviving family members, casualty assistance officers, chaplains, and others supporting bereaved military families.


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