I didn't sleep a wink last night.
Last night, we hosted the toughest show we've ever hosted. We had a conversation with Shelly Hall, an Army widow, and Melissa Sewell, whose boyfriend was recently killed in Iraq. Rachelle (AWTM) and I knew going in that this would be a delicate and emotional interview, but I don't think either of us were prepared for what happened.
First of all, I think it's important that we do shows of this nature, no matter how tough they are. We need to connect with our fellow spouses/girlfriends and let them know they are still a part of our family. It's also instructive to hear from them. While I had some questions and topics ready for our guests, all of it went out the window after Melissa, understandably, became emotional. At that point, I was wondering if we did the right thing by asking these ladies to share their stories with us. Not because it was hard for us to hear, or uncomfortable for us to ask questions of them, but because it seemed almost unfair to ask them to bare their souls in such a public manner about such a devastating event in their lives.
After the show, both ladies thanked us for giving them the opportunity to talk about their losses, which made me feel a bit better. Both said they were grateful that there are people like the SpouseBUZZ audience who still care about them. I assured them that they, and their loved one, will never be forgotten.
As I mentioned above, everything I was prepared to tackle went out the window and what happened last night was a spontaneous, passionate, highly-emotional show. My heart was breaking and my palms were sweaty the entire hour. It was hard, so hard, to figure out how to discuss such profound loss while showing the respect and dignity that these ladies deserve. Thankfully, both ladies addressed that very subject - the apprehension we often feel when talking to someone in their situation. It's like walking on eggshells, and they understand that. Both said they found it comforting to be able to talk about the men they lost. Both understand that those of us who have never experienced such a tragedy have trouble talking to them about it because we want so badly to say the right thing, and, thankfully, both were willing to help us help them.
Of particular interest to me was witnessing Shelly, whose husband died over eight years ago, offer support to Melissa, whose pain is still, as Shelly put it, "so raw and fresh." You can listen to the show by clicking here.
Shelly and Melissa - our heartfelt condolences to you and your families. We will not forget, and you are always a part of this family. Thank you for spending some time with us. You both showed tremendous courage, and you were amazing guests.
Composure was regained this morning and we followed last night's interview up by speaking with LTC Nora Linderman of Army Long Term Family Case Management. Our interview runs about 28 minutes and was very instructive. Long story short, we need to be proactive in understanding what resources are available to us in the event of the death of our spouse. LTC Linderman was thorough in explaining what the Army offers families of survivors. I encourage you to listen, learn and file this knowledge away. We hope you'll never need it, but if so, while you can't be emotionally prepared for a death, you can be prepared administratively, and that's very important, especially now.
LTC Linderman made an important point during our talk. Entitlements often change and some are made retroactive. Keep an eye on the website and watch for important changes which could afford you with more benefits or money in the future. If you are a surviving family member and need help navigating the system and figuring out what your entitlements are, you can call the toll-free number and seek assistance. 1-866-272-5841.
TAPS is also a valuable resource and they offer support not only to immediate family, but also extended family and significant others.
My thanks to Shelly, Melissa and LTC Linderman for speaking with us. Thanks also to Rachelle for manning the chat room, co-hosting and being patient with me during this program, which was a bit less conversational and conventional than our usual programs. Rachelle had little chance to nudge in. I think Rachelle had a couple of chat room questions that she pushed to me that I didn't get to ask. We'll have Shelly back on the program soon and I'll do better next time. Last night's show just took on a life of its own.