Dealing with Loss on the Front and the Home Front

I called home the other day to hear some bad news. One of my bride’s colleagues lost her husband. He was a JAG officer serving in Iraq and was in a helicopter that went down. The incident is mentioned in this CNN article.My wife really feels for her colleague and was at a loss on how to reach out. This tragedy also brought home to my wife that I face the same risk of losing either life or limb. When we say our good byes she always asks me to be careful which I say I always am. This time she asked me to be really, really careful.

When serving in a combat zone soldiers don’t have much time for grief. We have a remembrance ceremony and we get back to work. If we can’t be there for the actual ceremony we will have a quiet moment in our work area and then get back to work. Soldiers have the immediacy of our environment to keep us focused. That isn’t the case back home. How do you help someone you know cope with the loss of a loved one?

In one of the magazines my wife sent me from home there was an article on helping friends cope with loss. I am paraphrasing it in this blog so you all can take this advice if you know of someone that has suffered a loss recently. I already sent this information to my wife so she can help her colleague.

What not to tell a grieving friend:

  • “Call if you need anything.” Chances are he or she won’t.
  • “Let’s go out to lunch,” and then not follow through. Your friend could be counting on it.
  • “Have a great day!” Grieving friends don’t have great days.
  • “I’ll be there for you,” and then not follow up on your promise.
  • “Things should be better now. It’s been X number of months.” There is no timetable for grief.

Making a difference:

  • Tell him or her they are in your prayers, hearts, and thoughts.
  • Specific offers of help and follow through like raking the eaves, decorating for Christmas, bringing over a dinner.
  • If there are no words, a hug speaks volumes.
  • Call and see what’s up and not asking the unanswerable “How are you?” Or leave a message without asking for a return call.
  • If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, tell your friend what to expect in the coming months in dealing with the loss.
  • Acknowledge the death of the loved one instead of pretending that nothing happened.
  • Gift certificates for pampering services like manicures, pedicures, masseuse services, day long spa visits. Your friend receives the gift of touch and feels better.
  • Ask him or her to go out to lunch, dinner, a movie, church, any outdoor activity.

I have the most heartfelt sympathy for my wife’s colleague. I want her to know and everyone else to know that we American Soldiers will carry on the fight and will always remember the sacrifice her husband made and that her loss will not be in vain. We who are left behind will try to help her during this awful time in her life. We soldiers and officers offer our most sincere gratitude for having had the opportunity of serving with her husband.

And to my fellow officer, God speed, sir. You are in a better place now and some day we will join you. In the meantime we will pick up our guns and get back to work. We will carry on with our duty and try to live up to the example you and the others that have fallen before us have set.

God bless you and your family.

CPT NightHawk


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