As a person who has never experienced the loss of a loved one through service to their country, it is something that I watch from my bird’s eye view as a funeral director and witness the ocean of emotion and tears that comes from the grief of losing a son, daughter, husband, or wife.
Many times I have pondered that although those families are burying one loved one, the service members are burying friend after friend after friend. The only analogy that I can come up with is imagining arriving at the college and hearing that a student, staff member, or faculty died last night, and multiplying that scenario over and over again. My heart breaks for the soldiers who continue to serve our country day after day in spite of their grief. Grief that they can’t fully process because if they stop long to think about the loss it may be overwhelmingly paralyzing.
It is with gratitude to those who serve that we acknowledge them on Veterans Day. An online search for grief and support for military families includes a plethora of resources for widows, including www.militarywidows.org, and Young Widows or Widowers; and for parents, children, and siblings, at www.va.gov. This is just a sampling, there’s plenty more out there. But what I had the hardest time finding is who is taking care of the grief of the soldier who came home alive when some of his friends didn’t.
The most comprehensive site I found is TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. They offer a myriad of service member support programs including: Peer Support, Grief Support, Trauma Support, Suicide Support, and Vet Center Counseling, just to name a few. So when thanking a Veteran for their service this Veterans Day, remember to take a moment to remember all of those who have served, including those who died in service to our country and those they left behind.
by Martha Thayer, ACC Mortuary Science Department Chair