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.


Are you ready? Here are a few tips:

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!

Are You Ready?  Submit Your Story Here:

*I reserve the right to not publish stories that are not in line with the values of Corie Weathers, LLC and the Lifegiver Podcast. All content published is owned by Corie Weathers, LLC to be shared and used to encourage others. Submitting your story does not guarantee that it will be published by Corie Weathers, LLC.

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:

Rear Detachment

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.

Go-Team:

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.

CareTeam Members

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.

CareTeam Handbook- ARMY

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.

 US Army’s Leader’s Handbook: Trauma in the Unit

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.

 

Get your full Care Team Kit Here:

Includes: Application letters, job descriptions, SOP’s, and more…

The First Day of Grief

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…

  • Ask the grieving person if they want you there or if they want to be alone, and listen.  If they ask to be alone, leave your number and ask when it would be okay to call to check on them and go.  Then follow through with that phone call!
  • Never move anything around in the house unless you are asked.  Even in the beginning stages of grieve, attachment to material things is strong.  Never assume something is trash unless they tell you.  I had one wife tell me she left a soda can and a granola bar wrapper by her bed for a long time because it was the last thing he ate.
  • Use the deceased person’s name.  Do not be afraid to say his/her name frequently.  Saying “him” over and over distances him more.  Using their name can actually aid in the grieving process as they hear their name and feel both comforted, feel their presence in their name, and begin to feel the reality of the moment.
  • Do not be afraid to cry.  Some of you have an amazing talent for empathy and tear up at a person’s pain.  This can make a person feel heard and understood and safe to cry as well. Of course we are not talking about full out weeping.  If you are crying harder than the other person then you are drawing attention to yourself and it becomes about you.  Withdraw yourself and ask if you are the right person to bring comfort.  If you are not a crier- don’t feel bad, tears don’t measure thoughtfulness.
  • Do not give advice on anything, unless you are a schooled expert in that area.  This includes financial decisions, military protocol, family strife, etc.  Refer to someone who can help in a non-biased way.  NOTE: This one will suck you in!  Sometimes in our attempts to comfort, our own desire to feel needed creeps up and we want to offer advice disguised as comfort.  Resist the temptation to get involved and ask another person if it is wise if you have been asked.
  • Follow the grieving person’s lead on discussing “where the deceased is now”.  Your beliefs may differ from theirs.  Refer to the above tip!  If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything at all.  Comments on this subject have been the most hurtful because of idiotic statements.
  • Consider cultural differences.  Some cultures, such as the Jewish culture, have a specific mourning process that often involves only family members.  Do not be offended if others are not invited in.  Simply send or leave a card at the door and offer to call at a time that is best for the family.  Do you research!  Respecting their beliefs and being knowledgeable speaks volumes in your care for them.
  • There are several stages of grief (sadness, anger, denial, acceptance, and bargaining- although they are re-thinking these in the psychological community).  Know what they are and look for them so you can recognize them.  It is likely not helpful to point them out.  It is more important that you know how you will react to them.  Occasionally,  anger can be directed at those around them.  It is important to 1) Not take it personally and see it as an expression of grief, and 2) Know that it is ALWAYS right to hold your boundaries in explaining to a person how to treat you.
  • It is important to take care of yourself.  Do not over-extend yourself to the point you need someone to care fro you.  Ask others to step in (ask the family’s permission first) to help.
  • If the death was sudden, then learning of it was traumatic for the family, further complicating the grief.  Have resources available for grief counseling or professionals who can help.

These are just a few suggestions.  Considering there are many types of loss, what would you add?

The Stages of Grief

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?”

Emotional Grief by Henry Cloud

 

The Story Behind the Survey

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- corie@corieweathers.com   All requests for the full report must be submitted in writing including use the report/data clearly stated.

Thank you,

Corie Weathers, LPC

Chaplain Spouse Executive Summary 

Resources from 2017 Anonymous Chaplain Spouse Report

Click on the images below to order from Amazon:

* Please note that the following links are resources that I recommend and are affiliate links:


Breathing life into your marriage and family…

Resources are necessary for growth.  While doing coaching, counseling, or events, I often get the question “How can I learn more?” or “How can I work on this?”.  Of course I get very excited about these questions as a great marriage takes work- often times hard work.  We weren’t born with the skills to have a healthy relationship, so why wouldn’t we pick up a book or two to learn something new?  These are some of my top picks for taking your marriage to the next level.

Boundaries: Townsend and Cloud

This is a hugely popular series.  I encourage you to read the first book first, then move on to Boundaries in Marriage, Parenting, etc.  I have also listed the Audiobook version fro those who are not readers.  Either way… this is my number one recommendation.

Audio version

Shaunti Feldhahn Series:

Shaunti Feldhahn is a researcher- but don’t worry, its not as boring as it sounds.  Her books “For Women Only” (about men) and  “For Men Only” (about women)  are my favorites for understanding your spouse and also helping them understand the way you uniquely understand and receive love.  I would highly recommend that you read the book about you FIRST.  Take notes and write in the margins.  Then, switch books. What this does is keeps your spouse from guessing throughout the book whether you relate to the chapter.  It will make your conversations easier and much quicker.  Feldhahn’s “Through a Man’s Eyes” is literally an eye-opener.  For years, men have tried to explain what sexuality and visual attraction is to them and media and misunderstandings have largely skewed this natural side of him.  I highly recommend EVERY woman read this book.  Her book “Highly Happy Marriages” was the result of studying the happiest and most successful marriages.  Spoiler alert- she found that all of them assumed that their spouse had their best interest at heart and was not out to hurt them.

John and Stasi Eldredge:

The Eldredges changed the marriage landscape when they wrote these two books on how the male mind is different from the famle mind.  More than just a nuerological perspective, these books will not only help you understand your spouse better, but is a GO-TO for parenting.  If you have a son or daughter, these books will change the way you parent.  “Wild at Heart” is about the mind of a boy while “Captivating” is about girls.

Les and Leslie Parrott:

Planning to get married soon?  Or maybe wanting a good healthy check up on your relationship?  This husband and wife duo (both counselors) not only wrote a great book on how to take a look at key areas of your relationship and make them stronger.  Even better, find a local SYMBIS counselor to dive even deeper into your assessment.


Sexuality:

Sexuality is one of the top three topics brought into the counseling office.  There are so many things that can go wrong in a couples life in the area of intimacy.  With work and communication, though, it can be one of the most fulfilling areas- even after betrayal.

Understanding and Investing in Intimacy:

Unfortunately media and culture shape our understanding of intimacy more than they should- often resulting in major consequences and conflict in marriage.  If you grew up in the Christian church, you likley didn’t get much guidance other than to save yourself for marriage.  Women especially are not taught about their bodies or sexuality.  If you are struggling to embrace sexuality as something that was created for you to enjoy within your marriage, understanding your husband’s perspective of intimacy, or seeing intimacy as a healthy aspect of your relationship- the following books are for you. ” Passion Pursuit” was created by a team of women made up of three generations.  It can be done solo or as a bible study group with videos to supplement by going to www.authenticintimacy.org

“Celebration of Sex” was written by my favorite team of sex therapy experts at Building Intimate Marriages in Atlanta, GA.  They recommend reading the book together and even taking turns reading out loud to help you grow more comfortable with talking about sex, relating together, and communicating intimacy with each other.

Betrayal:

If you have experienced betrayal- whether abuse in your childhood, problems with pornography, or infidelity- it can be one of the most painful issues to work through.  Do I believe it is possible to experience restoration in the marriage?  Absolutely- but not alone or without both parties working hard together.  The following resources are my favorites for bringing healing into your relationship.

“Surprised by the Healer” was written by the women at Authentic Intimacy and is filled with stories about healing from sexual trauma, infidelity, and intimacy wounds in marriage.  There is nothing more powerful than reading stories of hope and healing in the area that you are struggling with.  The same team wrote “Pulling Back the Shades” in response to the Shades of Grey books and movies.  They help explain why the book and movie series was so powerful and the danger of pornography for women as much as men.

“After the Affair” is my go-to if you have experienced betryal and you both are ready to do the hard work to restore the relationship.  It will walk you through steps of communication and healing while also helping you process how betrayal entered the relationship in the first place.  Of course the greatest healing will come when you have an expert helping you walk through the journey.


Invest in You:

Where it all began… 

Read the book that started Lifegiver for me.  It is a fantastic book on what it means to be a lifegiver to those around you- especially your marriage and family.  Tammy Maltby provides perspective on the power we have to make our home a peaceful place, inviting, and making sure our soul can offer the same.  This is truly where it all started for me.

Women’s Issues:

If you are a woman, someone who works with women, or a leader, “Leading Women Who Wound” is absolutely amazing.  It will help explain how women handle conflict with other women as well as men.  There are very specific differences between men and women in how they handle conflict and this book upacks it in a beautiful way.  It will help you be an amazing leader understanding those differences, how to handle cat fights, and set you up for success as a leader.

“Mission Ready Marriage” is a fantastic book if you are a new military spouse.  Written by Claire Wood, the ups and downs of her first assignment will make you laugh and cry.  What I also love about her book is how she concludes each chapter with what she would have told herself in hindsight.  Not only that, she shares how she would encourage her marriage differently knowing what she knows now.  Fantastic book!

“Present Over Perfect” is great for those who wish to find the permission to stop pleasing the world and focus on self care and your family.  There is something freeing about the permission to sit back, slow down, and enjoy the one life you have.

“Uninvited” and “Ragamuffin Gospel” are great books for taking your spiritual relationship to a deeper level.  Understanding the power of rejection and our acceptance with God is necessary if we are going to live a live that is focused on our true purpose.  “Ragamuffin Gospel” is a bit denser of a read if you like to read a really “meaty” book.

Spiritual Growth:

The following books are those I would recommend if you want deeper dives in your faith and spirituality.

Ragamuffin: A classic for those who want to find a new “Adult” level of spirituality and understanding of God.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos:  A book recommended ONLY for those who are strong in their faith.  Jordan Peterson is considered an agnostic, meaning he doesn’t deny that there is a God- in fact he is extremely knowledgable about the Bible and applying scripture.  However, he is so smart, in some cases I believe he believes in logic even more.  But it is a fantastic book on faith, and the power of making changes in your life.

 

Building your talents and strengths as a couple and family…

Most of what I do in coaching sessions is lead a marriage and family through the Gallup StrengthsFinder Assessment.  I honestly find that it is the most powerful, positive tool for helping a couple (and family) work together as a team, reduce conflict, focus parenting, and heal wounds.  Each of these books come with a code to take the assessment and will walk you through your results and how to use them.  I definitely encourage a coach to help you.  Most of the time we are used to reading an assessment on our own only to discover there are far more ways to apply it when we work with a coach.  Do not short change yourself-  invest in coaching through your strengths so you can truly understand your purpose!