TAPS and Jon Stewart launch new center for hope and healing

Phil Briggs
March 06, 2018 - 1:30 pm

"Grief is a wound of the heart."

But now families grieving the loss of a military loved one have a new place to go to heal that wound, a sort-of hospital of the heart:  The TAPS Institute for Hope and Healing.

The new center, just outside Washington D.C., was christened Monday by former Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, who supports veterans and their families, calling them "the finest people in our country."

“This is America’s home for the families grieving a loss of a military loved one,” said TAPS president Bonnie Carroll. “TAPS represents over 75,000 family members who have suffered the loss of a loved one serving in the armed forces. And today we offer extraordinary coping strategies healing opportunities and peer support for families to come together and find a way forward.”

TAPS - Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors - was founded by Carroll in 1992 after her husband was killed in an Army plane crash.  TAPS matches grieving military families with survivors who've shared similar experiences. 

 

Stewart, who has spent his post-Daily Show time supporting military, veterans' and first responder's causes, kicked off the event with poignant remarks:

I am not one of the nation’s preeminent experts on grief. 

I am one of the sub-groups of males who does not process emotions well …

Y’know there’s nothing so isolating as illness and grief. 

And especially when you see military families, they’re this 1% of the country,  that everyone goes about their day and they don’t think about.  They’re this group of individuals who are built for service and give selflessly for our freedoms, yet we kinda go about our day taking it for granted. And then within the military community when someone suffers a loss, they’re even further isolated. 

TAPS

So, I was in Afghanistan on a USO tour. It was a terrible tour. It was me, Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz and a magician.  So you can imagine, you’ve been fighting really hard, and you’re promised a cool event, and then it’s me … Karl Malone and a magician.  And they might’ve been thinking oh cool, its the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders!  But no, but it’s me … and the magician wasn’t even that good.

But we were at Bagram, AFB and there was a huge group of people waiting for us, and they were excited, but the craziest thing about it was, every one of them said “thank you”. That’s the type of individual you’re dealing with, they truly felt thankful that we were there, and we were in awe of being in their presence, and honored they would take time out of their day …

So we’re joking around, trying to give ‘em a moment's respite when all of a sudden there was a sound, like an alert, and everything just stopped and they all turned.  We didn’t know what to do, what was happening.  

And what they were doing was taking their fallen brothers and sisters and putting them on a plane to Dover.

And in that moment, the reality of what they face every day and what they have to look past to get their day done struck me in a very stark way.

TAPS

But what I didn’t think about is the thing Bonnie thinks about, and the thing that TAPS thinks about.  And that is - there’s a family waiting for them - waiting for their loved one. And when they get there, this whole group isn’t really going to be around.  And there’s a family that’s about to go off on a journey that’s really isolating and really hard, and they’re going to have to figure how to process grief and all the other things that come with it.

So the fact that you can be there, and that there’s a group who can understand that, and provide that kind of solace and try and fill in those gaps.

And we can talk about closure, and we can talk about loss - that hole will never be filled - but to be with people who also have had that experience. 

And, the sad truth is we don’t have experts in this country at that, but Bonnie and TAPS… because they’ve been through it many times.  And what they’ve learned about this, their expertise, the idea they’re going to share with the world at large, is incredibly exciting, and remarkable in its generosity.

You guys have your hands full, and the fact that you’ve opened them up to others who may be in that same situation is unbelievable.

TAPS

 

I have a family now, so when you spoke about love, I didn’t know what that was for about 45 years, but it’s hard man.  And the thing about kids, is you’re their hero, you’re their service man, whether you’re in the military or not, and if they suffer that loss, they feel it in the same way.

Kids figure out math before they figure out context.  And my daughter when she was like 6 or 7, when she figured out math, there was a lot of, ‘when I’m 65, you’ll be 110’.  And I’d have to be like, ‘Yup, and won’t we have fun.'  But when they learn context, and they know what that means, then you have the ability to break their heart and they have the ability to break yours and the fact that TAPS is there to help put that together in context is a truly wonderful, amazing, and transformative and transcendent thing.  I thank you for letting me be a part of it, and taking this program to others who need it. 

Go behind the scenes and see our interview with Jon here

TAPS

Other speakers included grief experts and authors: Hope Edelman, author of Motherless Daughters and Motherless Mothers; Claire Bidwell Smith, The Rules of Inheritance and her forthcoming Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief; Rebecca Soffer, coauthor of Modern Loss; and Allison Gilbert, author of Passed and Present and Always Too Soon.

For information on how you can donate or volunteer go to www.taps.org or call the toll-free TAPS resource and information helpline at 1.800.959.TAPS (8277).