Military families have a unique struggle in that they aren’t always able to “be there” for special events. Weddings, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas – anytime families regularly get together, military families often cannot join in the festivities. Another thing military families regularly miss?
My own mother died not too long ago. The challenges of military life, combined with the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting inflation that is plaguing the country, made going home impossible for a while, so I hadn’t seen her in over five years. Though she had been sick for a while, I thought I had more time to prepare. She was gone three weeks after I found out she was dying, and the worst part? She died before I could be there to say goodbye.
When she died, I didn’t know of any of the resources I needed, nor did I have a plan in place. You can say that’s my fault, and I will bear the burden of that guilt for the rest of my life. But that is not something another military family should go through, and so, here are some resources grieving military families can look into:
Financial assistance from the Red Cross
Your local Aid Society, which is located inside your base’s readiness center, can assist you with this process. The Red Cross will help with travel costs, burial costs, etc. The Red Cross is also who to contact to bring your active duty, guard, or Reserves loved one home in case of a death in their immediate family.
Seek out a good therapist.
I will always advocate for therapy for any situation. I personally have a regular therapist I see, however, if you are more comfortable with a temporary arrangement, the military has some great options. MFLACs are very familiar with the ins and outs of military life, and that includes grief. Every unit, squadron, etc usually has one on staff for families to come to when they need. Chaplains offer the same services, and are a great fit if you are looking for a more spiritual way to cope with your loss.
Look into hospice bereavement services
If your loved one was receiving hospice care, the hospice will usually provide bereavement services free of charge to loved ones for a certain period of time. I am receiving 13 months of telehealth bereavement services from my mother’s hospice, and my social worker is the best thing since sliced bread.
Make room for your grief – while honoring their memory.
Grieving my mom is not as linear as I thought it would be. Grief is a loop; and it can be easy to navigate one minute, and as raw as the day she died the next. Sometimes, I even forget she’s gone, and I am speaking about her in the present tense. No matter how I am feeling, I am finding ways to honor my mom. Cooking her favorite recipes, eating her favorite foods , watching her favorite shows (we watched Food Network, Frasier, and the Golden Girls religiously), and telling stories about her are my favorite ways to remember her. I am holding space for all of the laughter, the joy, the sorrow, the anger, and the tears. And I am remembering that whatever I am feeling, it’s 100% okay.