Carole Hilton: TAPS for Widows

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) was a buoy for Carole Hilton, who discovered the program just a few days after her husband died. He was an active member in the Navy, and when the officer arrived at Hilton’s doorstep to deliver the news, within the paperwork was a TAPS brochure. Hilton talked with the Open to Hope Executive Director, Dr. Heidi Horsley, during the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference about what TAPS means to her.

Nobody plans on becoming a young widow or ever having that title bestowed upon them. However, Hilton says that simply knowing there was such an organization out there made a huge difference for her. Now, Hilton works with widows—some very young—and says even though everyone “knows” there’s a risk in combat that you could lose a loved one, nobody ever really believes it’s going to happen to them.

A Tap of Hope

“If a tragedy does happen, there are people there who are a safety net for them,” says Hilton. Dr. Horsley agrees that such a network is critical. It’s important to remind people that it’s one day at a time, and if there are other widows and widowers out there who have “made it,” you can, too. “If you’ve lost hope, lean on mine, lean on Carol’s,” says Dr. Horsley.

TAPS is available around the clock, with a toll free number: 800-959-TAPS. A live person is always available to talk with widows and widowers through the grieving process. However, Hilton also wants to point out that TAPS isn’t just for “new” widows and widowers. No matter how recent or long ago your loss, everyone needs support from time to time. Depending on a reliable organization that understands can be the safety net you need when grief starts to seem overwhelming.

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