Finding Support After the Death of a Loved One
After the death of a loved one, you may experience a wide range of emotions. That is natural. The path to finding a new normal may not be the same for everyone. Knowing where and when to find support along the way may help. Here are some resources that may be of help to you and your family.
Connect with support networks
Each branch of the military service offers programs that provide long-term support to surviving families of deceased service members.
- Survivor Outreach Services, the Army’s official long-term support program for surviving families of deceased service members, helps continue the survivor's connection with the Army by providing comprehensive services that include assistance with housing, education and finances.
- Long Term Assistance Program is the Marine Corps’ resource for survivors that connects family members to grief and peer support experts, provides information on benefits and entitlements and offers any kind of assistance that is needed.
- Navy Gold Star Program is the Navy’s support network that provides survivors with information on resources available to them.
- Air Force Families Forever offers support for survivors who are grieving the death of a service member. Among its services is an online community through Family Support Network exclusively dedicated to friends and family of deceased Air Force members.
Consider counseling options
You don't have to grieve or go through this journey alone. Sharing your feelings can be productive and therapeutic. Here are a couple of free counseling options to consider:
- Military OneSource provides 24/7 service to all active-duty service members, National Guard and reserves and eligible family members, including surviving spouses who remain unmarried. Counselors offer information and make referrals on a wide range of issues including grief and bereavement. Arrange a face-to-face, phone, online or video counseling session by calling 800-342-9647 or click here for overseas calling options.
- Veterans Affairs Bereavement Counseling offers bereavement support to parents, spouses and children of active duty and National Guard or reserves who die while on military duty. Call 202-461-6530 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to use this service.
- TRICARE mental health care services are available for you during times of grief. Outpatient psychotherapy is covered for up to two sessions per week in any combination of individual, family, group or collateral sessions.
Check out other support organizations
Many other organizations offer support by people who understand grief and may have been through a similar experience. A full listing of support and service organizations is available in the publication “The Days Ahead,” such as:
- The American Widow Project provides military widows with support through peer-based support programs designed to educate, empower, inspire and assist them in taking steps forward to their new normal.
- American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. is an organization of mothers whose sons or daughters died in the line of duty or died as a result of injuries while on active duty. It has more than 150 chapters nationwide. Husbands and children of members of American Gold Star Mothers may join as associate members.
- Gold Star Wives of America, Inc. is a congressionally chartered organization that provides information to active-duty and service-connected widows and widowers on pertinent matters such as benefits and legislative and support services. Persons have an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations through volunteer work in community, military and veterans hospitals and through organizational support for important contributions like the Veterans Memorial Projects.
- The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors is a 24/7 tragedy-assistance resource for anyone who has suffered the death of a military loved one, regardless of the relationship to the deceased or the circumstance of the death. The program provides comfort and care through comprehensive services and programs including peer-based emotional support, casework assistance, connections to community-based care and grief and trauma resources.
- TAPS also provides resources for suicide survivors. There is a special suicide loss chat each month, and the organization holds an annual gathering for suicide survivors in the fall.
Explore Bereavement Camps and other groups for children
The death of a loved one can be especially difficult for children, so finding resources tailored to their needs is essential. Several groups work to provide grieving children with a comfortable place to talk about their feelings and feel understood.
Comfort Zone Camp is a free, nonprofit bereavement camp that brings together children ages 7 - 17 whose parent, sibling or primary caregiver has died. The Dougy Center provides a safe place for children, teens, young adults and their families to share their grieving experience through peer support groups, education and training. For other options, see “Bereavement Camps: An Opportunity to Grieve and Heal.”
Knowing where to turn for support may not make the hurt disappear, but it can help you begin to take those first steps toward finding your new normal. You have a place in the military community. Your country will never forget your loved one's sacrifice and service to our nation. For more resources to assist you, see the resources section. Or call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647. OCONUS/international? Click here for calling options.