National Military Family Bereavement Study

While the number of service members who die on active duty status continues to climb (estimated at 16,000 since September 11, 2001), there is little we know about helping the loved ones left behind to cope with the grief and anguish of the grief journey, particularly those coping with a military death. A congressionally-directed medical research study is looking at how families cope with the death of active duty service member to identify the unique factors of a military death and how that impacts the surviving families.


You are eligible for the study if:


*Your loved one died by any circumstance of death while on active duty status since September 11, 2001, in any branch of the U.S. Military (Active, Guard, and Reserve Components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard).

* You are the parent (adoptive, biological, custodial)/step-parent; spouse/ex-spouse/adult partner; minor/adult child; biological/step-sibling of the active duty service member who died.


There are multiple phases of this study that one can participate in. The first phase is an online questionnaire and the second phase includes multiple family interviews over several years with at least two members of the family. To participate in the family interviews, you must complete the online questionnaire first. A series of focus groups will take place in various parts of the country and at events where enough participants can be grouped together by loss. Finally, a saliva DNA test will be administered to any participants interested in the biological aspects of grief.


The research is funded through the Center for the Study of Traumatic Death, Department of Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland. Community partners include the Tragedy Assistance Program (TAPS) for Survivors and other military-related support organizations.


If you or someone you know is interested in taking part in this study, please visit the website, to complete the first phase of the study.

Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D. has spent two decades educating people worldwide about coping with loss and change, and has served as president of the American Association of Suicidology. Her first book following her sister's death, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She recently published her eighth book, Conversations with the Water: A Memoir of Cultivating Hope, chronicling her grief journey as she moves forward beyond the suicide and loss field. Learn more about Michelle at


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