Testimony is a powerful concept. It combines sharing the difficult parts of our story with how good has come out of it. It doesn’t always imply there is full healing. It will always be a chapter in our story- but it does begin the process of bringing purpose to what once seemed to have none. Below are a few tips that will help you tell your story. You can submit a written story and even send a video.
In order for stories to be accepted and published, your story must have the following elements:
1. Your story does not include graphic details that would make the reader uncomfortable. These details are not necessary for the world to hear. Share your story in only as much detail is necessary to get the message across.
2. You have permission from your spouse to share your story and it does not contain content that could cause public or professional harm to your spouse and marriage. Stories should share an equally affirming light on your spouse. Remember- praising your spouse in public is just as powerful as praising in private.
3. Hope. This is what the reader desperately needs. Make sure that by the end of your story, it encourages the reader to look for hope in their own circumstances if it relates to yours.
1. Be authentic. Be real and vulnerable. Again, this does not mean including graphic details. It means that you admit to struggle and are human. This is what our world needs a whole lot more of- permission to be imperfect.
2. If you are writing it, try to share only a chapter- so aim for no more than 2000 words. You don’t want to lose your reader. Aim for thirds- Part one is what led up to the problem, part two is the difficult part of your story where you lost hope, and part three is where you found it again (and how!)
3. TELL your story instead by submitting a video! If you would rather “tell” your story, this is even better and gives others a multi-sensory way of listening to your story filled with inflection in your voice and a face to put it to. Record a video with your phone by facing a window and putting your phone between you and the window. The natural light will shine on your face and window is out of the picture. Aim for about 20 minutes paying attention again to the 3 parts listed in #2. DO NOT READ your story. TELL your story. Reading comes across as inauthentic. Even better if your spouse is there to tell your story with you!
Simply upload your story by clicking here and I will let you know if and when it is published! Who knows… you might even get invited on the Lifegiver Podcast to share your story there!
Developing a CareTeam can be a daunting task. There is a reason why the Army doesn’t give us details, SOP’s, and a cookie cutter approach to building a CareTeam. Every battalion, squadron, brigade, and troop has a different personality. Made up of mostly volunteers, CareTeams will look very different from one another and function differently based on the needs and outline defined by Command. The Army has given us a skeleton, if you will, to help guide our efforts. Both the CareTeam Handbook and the Trauma in the Unit Handbook give us basics as to what a CareTeam is and what it is not. It also provides important information on how to handle media, mass casualties, and other important topics.
The Basics of Care Team Development
One must first begin with the skeleton of what the Army has outlined Careteams to be. Here, you will find the handbooks and crucial advice from the best.
What is a Careteam? Those who have grown up in a church or close community may liken it to the close group of people that follow up and serve a hurting family. These communities often surround a grieving family with food, cards, and anything that family may need. Different cultures respond to crisis in different ways. In the military, a culture where crisis is saturated with procedures and standards, the volunteer group of often spouses lead the way in serving the emotional needs of the now Gold Star Family.
There are several moving parts that are involved when a notification happen. Very briefly, you have the following:
Led out by the Rear Detachment Commander who is playing out the standard operating procedures (SOP) left behind by the Commander. Because no two situations are alike, he is often left to fill in the gaps of the SOP as best as he can, based on the needs of the family. All decisions, including everything in between deploying the Go-team to terminating the Careteam fall on the Rear D Commander.
A small group of no more than 3 volunteers, usually senior spouses and the Careteam Coordinator. This team is sent by the Rear D Commander to follow up after the initial notification based on the new widow’s willingness. The Go-team offers emotional support to the spouse until additional support can arrive and explains the availability and benefit to having a Careteam serve her.
A group of spouses who serve a spouse temporarily until family or other support are able to arrive and help the grieving family. Members can be as close as they feel comfortable serving in the home cleaning, cooking, answering phones,etc or serve from a distance by cooking meals and/or helping with the care of Careteam member’s children.
When building a CareTeam, Army Community Services (ACS) does a fine job training volunteers in their basic training course. During this training, volunteers will be taught the five stages of grief, the details of the notification procedure for seriously injured soldiers as well as those killed in action. There are other topics covered such as how Rear Detachment will read and interpret a DD93 form (a form filled out by the soldier prior to deployment describing whom should be notified and receive benefits). Once you have received the basics of what it looks like to work within a Careteam, each unit, battalion, or brigade must still go through the daunting task of making a team and a set of standard operating procedures (SOP) that works best for them.
The Army provides an outstanding Careteam handbook that has a few of my favorite things inside. It covers most of which is taught in the ACS training, but it has plenty of useful forms, notepages, and my favorite is a page that explains what a Careteam is and is not. This has been especially helpful to print copies of and put in a folder especially for a new widow. It sets the expectations for all involved and is a great tool for her to look back on later. Of course a unit can use most of this information as a cookie cutter approach, however, playing out scenarios will often reveal it is not enough.
Trauma in the unit is a much more extensive handbook that gets into some of the bigger issues a team may face. Here it covers mass casualty situations, dealing with the media, and how to work with the rest of the FRG and Rear Detachment.
ACS does an amazing job introducing the basics, but it is often left to the command and the volunteers to develop SOP’s and the organization of the Careteam for their group. Beyond the Basics offers you templates and ideas to consider during your development.
Beyond the Basics
Every unit has their own personality when it comes to how the CareTeam functions. As a volunteer team of spouses paired with Rear Detachment, it has to take on the vision of the Commander. The Commander’s vision should set the tone and pace for how the CareTeam functions, when it is deployed as well as determining how temporary it will be utilized. Commanders also have a vision for whether or not there is a Go Team and who should be on that Go Team. The materials provided here are to be used as discussion starters as you move though the process of development. Based on our experience, it includes many key components that take into account feelings and grief responses that a new widow might have, as well as the importance of protecting your CareTeam members. By protecting, I of course mean helping the Go Team/CareTeam members care for themselves, pace themselves in their service, and leave room for attending to any vicarious anxiety or trauma that they may experience.
Take and leave what you want from the resources in developing your own. Don’t forget to include your insignia and Unit name at the top. Because serving on the CareTeam can seem intimidating at first, I recommend volunteers consider serving as an “Emergency Volunteer” that would serve families and spouses during a crisis (i.e. car breaks down, new baby). This would give them an opportunity to see how a team would be deployed and be utilized similarly to the CareTeam.
Special thank you to Captain Corey Steiner (amazing leader and Rear Detachment Commander) and Susan Brown (Go Team Leader extraordinaire and wife to Col Robert Brown) for helping develop these original documents, SOP’s, and materials that have helped so many others. It was in hindsight after KOP Keating’s loss of eight amazing men that much of our organization changed and developed with so many variables in mind.
Includes: Application letters, job descriptions, SOP’s, and more…
What do you say when you don’t know what to say? Helpful tips on how to serve someone dealing with intense loss.
If you struggle with words to say to someone who is grieving, you are not the only one. Most people feel the pressure to say something when the only thing that person wants is their loved one back. So, we stumble through our words to find something, anything, that can bring comfort. This is one of those situations where if you haven’t decided what you believe about death, or are not comfortable with silence, then you need to be prepared ahead of time.
Many families, and I agree, tell me there are NO words that bring them the comfort they want. Your presence when they feel most alone is what brings them comfort. That doesn’t mean that we have to sit in silence the whole time, though. It means that if we are thoughtful with our words, we can bring comfort and safety to those painful moments. Here are a few tips for you to consider…
These are just a few suggestions. Considering there are many types of loss, what would you add?
Henry Cloud, a wonderful well known speaker and writer known for his work on boundaries, answers the question “Will I ever be done with the stages of grief?”
In 2010, I came across a research dissertation called “The Military Experience: Perceptions from Senior Military Officers’ Wives” by Dr. Henrietta McGowen1 that found a correlation between increased symptoms of isolation and depression in spouses as their service member was promoted in rank. At one point, the research compared the feelings of many senior spouses to those of a pastor’s spouse. In that moment, I realized that we, chaplain spouses, may have a “double whammy” of expectations and burdens that we carry.
In 2015, a pilot version of this survey was developed by more than 20 other chaplain spouses to see if these expectations or burdens existed and whether they felt isolated. Based on McGowan’s research, it also measured how our most “seasoned” spouses were doing and what their needs are. Chaplain spouses from every branch and rank were invited to answer questions on activities, volunteer roles, home and marriage life, concerns about emotional and mental health, and much more.
After the survey in 2015, I traveled to various installations as the 2015 AFI Military Spouse of the Year. I led Chaplains Spouse Roundtables, discussed the results of the survey, and talked with many of our most senior spouses. I found that discussions in safe circles validated much of the results in the 2015 pilot survey. I also found that processing both the burdens and joys of this lifestyle freed many up to continue in their ministry. The 2016 survey used the 2015 pilot as a foundation as well as new questions aimed to find areas of need and improvement. Once completed, a Board of military spouses was brought together to help interpret the results of the survey and offer recommendations. The Board2 consisted of spouses that have 5-35 years of military experience, vary in service branches, and also included another clinician and clinical researcher. Variety of experience and expertise offered as much non-biased recommendations as possible. It is my intent and hope that the results of this survey will be used to develop ministry or resources to support the chaplain community. Based on the survey results and discussions with the Board, our community is resilient but in need of far more support.
The full sized 2016 Anonymous Survey Chaplain Spouse report includes the following
• Graphs and detailed data from the survey
• Open ended questions submitted by participants
• Key questions from the results for further study
• Conclusions and recommendations for serving chaplain families
• Resources currently available for chaplain families
For more information or to obtain a copy of the report, please contact Corie Weathers, LPC- firstname.lastname@example.org All requests for the full report must be submitted in writing including use the report/data clearly stated.
I can admit that fear holds a special place in my life, but not because I want it there. In a moment’s notice, fear can take over an innocent conversation with my husband and turn it into a battleground. We have a strange relationship, fear and I. And my guess is that you do too. Fear is one of the biggest threats to intimacy in marriage. I have seen fear convince men and women that vulnerability is weakness and weakness equals failure. Finding its beginning in our childhood, imagination, or experiences we have witnessed, fear brings with it the intense desire to protect self. With real danger, this is incredibly helpful. To choose “me” by running away or fighting off the threat in front of me, I survive and go on to live another day. The physical pain heals and scars become a sign of courage and strength. Emotional pain is an altogether different experience. The pain of rejection, hurt, and betrayal does not heal as quickly. In fact, as soon as we think it is resolved, it resurfaces to tell us the risk is not worth the pain. Yet it is rarely the event that we fear after we have been emotionally wounded, it is the intensity of emotional pain. Paulo Coelho said, “the fear of suffering is worse than suffering itself.”
Marriage is hard because it requires a daily commitment towards selflessness rather than selfishness. Love by its very definition involves sacrificing our own wants and desires for someone else’s needs, and marriage is exactly that. When you talk with service members who courageously risked their life for their fellow soldier, you often hear “because I know he would have done the same for me.” Was fear there? Of course. To love someone does not mean that there is no fear. In fact, Ambrose Redmoon said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”
Fear is a self-protective choice just as trust (it’s opposite) is also a choice. Fear tempts us away from intimacy with our spouse whispering “He’s only going to reject you”, “She will think you are weak” or “he won’t understand.” It will tempt you to choose you every time- protect yourself, the pain of getting hurt will be too unbearable. Fear weakens bonds, introduces doubt, and plants seeds of discontentment.
I heard once that marriage is not meant to make you happy, it is meant to make you better and I believe that is true. It is the daily choice to courageously serve your spouse with trust, forgiveness and grace while learning how to be vulnerable. When fear threatens the security of marital intimacy, choosing your spouse by maturely meeting their needs is communicating that they are more important than whatever it is that you are afraid of. It is saying, instead of protecting me right now by fighting, withdrawing, or doing nothing, I choose you. I choose to believe that you are not out to hurt me, destroy me, or even make my life difficult. And by choosing you, I in essence, choose us.