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Don Lipstein, Kristina Nylund’s mentor, whom she met through TAPS, spends some time at the conference with his mentee.

Photo by Valerie O’Berry

TAPS helps people who have lost a service member cope

2 Jun 2016 | Valerie O’Berry Marine Corps Base Quantico

Kristina Nylund met her future husband on Memorial Day weekend, so the holiday holds a special place in her heart. Her husband, Cpl. Brandon Nylund, who served as a Marine Corps Base Quantico Military Police officer also holds a special place in her heart. He died while serving in the Marine Corps on March 7, 2010. He committed suicide. In remembrance of Brandon, Kristina attends the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) annual conference in Arlington, Virginia each year. The conference, held May 26-30 this year, allows survivors (parents, siblings and spouses) to connect with one another and support each other. Participants have mentors in the beginning to help them with their grief. The conference also offers a special camp for children called Good Grief Camp, to help them cope, know that they are not alone in their grief and provide activities to participate in with other children. Planned workshops covering everything from dating again to art therapy and private sessions with a professional therapist, are offered to adults. Kristina has been attending the conference for 6 years now and it has helped her cope with the death of her husband. “I never thought I would be a widow at such a young age,” said Kristina, who was only 36 years old when her husband passed. “You vow that it will be ‘until death do you part,’ but you never think about that actually happening.” Brandon was deployed to the Middle East during his reserve service and came back with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Kristina said that it was a difficult thing for both of them to deal with and she thinks it lead to his suicide. Toward the end of his life, Kristina said that Brandon expressed feelings of worthlessness and often told her that he was a loser and he was sorry that they weren’t better off financially. He told her that she should leave him. “I told him that he wasn’t a loser and that I didn’t marry him for that reason (money),” Kristina said. Despite all her reassurances, he decided to end his life and Kristina’s grief journey began. TAPS has been an instrumental part of that journey. Today, Kristina is serving as a mentor herself, having taken the training this year. She said she wants to help other people cope with their grief and let them know that they are not alone. “I met a woman (at this year’s conference) that had lost a child,” she said. “I told her I didn’t know what it was like to lose a child but that I would help any way I could.”

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