Military Life September 26, 2019

How TAPS Can Help after the Death of a Service Member

Erika S., Editor in Chief

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is America’s support group for those whose lives have been changed by the death of a loved one serving in the Armed Forces. Learn how TAPS can connect survivors to the resources they need.

If you’ve lost a Service member, navigating military policies and procedures can make the death more difficult to deal with than a nonmilitary loss. Common feelings include:

  • Frustration if you are unable to know the exact circumstances of the death.
  • Anger with the military, government agencies, the Service member who died or the circumstances that resulted in the death.
  • Confusion by the pressure to feel proud of your Service member’s military contribution, while feeling sad about the loss.

It might help you to talk about your feelings with others who have experienced a military loss.

Seek Support from Friends and Family

At the funeral, friends and fam­ily may have said, “I’m here, whatever you need.” Now is the time to consider your needs and assess the people in your life who might provide valuable support. People generally will fit into one of the following three categories of assistance:

  1. Those who will listen. “Listening” friends tell you to call anytime – and mean it. They will listen as you talk about what happened.
  2. Those who can help you with practical tasks. “Doer” friends will clean your house, cut your lawn and cover for you at work. Just remember to ask for help when you need it and accept help when it’s offered.
  3. Those who offer relief from the hard work of grieving. Friends who offer a diversion from grieving don’t often get the respect they deserve because people have mixed feelings about catching a game or going to a movie during this time. But you will need a short break – a chance to place your focus somewhere else for just a little while.

And remember, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You are not wrong for grieving for more or less time than someone else or for dealing with your loss in a different way than others. To help navigate through grief, see the QuickSeries®: Grieving Guide: Coping with Grief and Loss.

Turn to TAPS for Support

Connecting with people who have suffered a loss like yours can be very helpful.

TAPS offers compassionate care to those grieving the loss of a loved one who died while serving in the Armed Forces or as a result of his or her service. Since 1994, TAPS has provided comfort and hope through a national peer support network and connection to grief resources, at no cost to surviving families and loved ones.

TAPS provides the following:

QuickTip: Experiencing grief after a significant loss is normal, and many people are able to move forward and rebuild their lives with the care and support of family and friends. However, if your emotions seem to be growing stronger and interfering with your ability to function, seek the advice and support of a professional.

For more on the supportive services TAPS provides, including their annual Good Grief Camp for kids, visit their website, call the National Military Survivor Helpline at 800-959-TAPS (8277) and see the QuickSeries® guides: TAPS Survivor Guide, TAPS Benefits and Finances, and TAPS Children’s Grief Guide.

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