Coping with the death of a loved one is a tremendous load to bear. It sparks a traumatic grief that can lead to feelings of abandonment or anger, in addition to deep sadness. During wartime, parents of fallen service members grieve the loss of the child they tried to protect. A grieving spouse or significant other may have the additional responsibility of caring for the children, helping them cope with the loss and change in their lives. Families also experience an additional sense of loss from having to move outside of their military community, which often includes a change of schools for their children. The surviving spouse or other family member may suddenly be solely responsible for the family’s financial situation or simply have to face the challenges of being alone.
Family members need time to grieve, not only for the loved one, but also for all the things that “might have been.” Chances are, such families would appreciate and benefit from outside support, but simply may not be ready to ask for it.
This section of our site offers ideas and links to resources for caring for yourself and others after the death of a loved one. All people need, and deserve, help in healing. If you are a grieving family member of one of our fallen heroes or are coping with a loved one’s serious injury, please consider sharing your feelings with others. You may want to consult a mental health professional as well, not only for yourself, but also other family members, children in particular. However devastating, sharing what you are going through with others going through the same thing is invaluable. Never underestimate the power of your wisdom to help another going through a similar experience.
If you know families or friends who have experienced a tragic loss, consider reaching out and providing support. Be specific in your offering, but also be ready to listen and respond, as the family’s needs may be different than what you expect. Remember, too, that holidays can be difficult. Be in touch at those times.
If you have lost a loved one in service, please know that you are not alone. The following resources can help.
Families of fallen service members can feel isolated by their loss. For the three days of Snowball Express, children from around the world gather to have fun, meet new friends and share memories while making new ones. Snowball Express and related events are planned and staffed almost exclusively by volunteers, so there are many ways to help.
Created by bereaved military families, TAPS offers grief counseling, benefits counseling and support groups, as well as special programs for grieving children. Helpline team members are available 24/7 to guide callers to appropriate services or simply to listen and talk. Volunteer as a peer counselor or mentor, or help support camps, retreats and events.
Whether going back to school, reentering the workforce, or parenting a grieving teenager, widows face many challenges as they rebuild their lives. AWP offers peer counseling, a community of fellow survivors and educational programs to help widows plan the next chapters in their lives. Volunteer to assist with fundraising or organizing, or help staff the next widow getaway.
Honor and Remember’s mission is for every gold star family to receive a personalized Honor and Remember Flag — the only national symbol of appreciation that honors the fallen from every branch of the military. Sponsor a flag gift, or participate in a Run for the Fallen event in your area.
KOH recognizes that a Gold Star Child has lost a mentor, role model and source of guidance on the road to adulthood. KOH’s annual wilderness adventure camp provides positive adult mentors to help these children build skills, character and resilience while having fun and making friends. KOH welcomes families of all faiths and offers a program for moms as well.