People often don’t see how the grief journey can be unique for someone who loses a loved one while on active military status. The events are reported in the media and sometimes families find out about a loved one’s death before the military can arrive to notify them. The public shows up for the funeral, invited or not. Since Sept. 11, 2001, over 16,000 uniformed service members have died on active duty status.


After the burial, there are lasting and public reminders: Memorial Day, Veterans Day, 9/11. Some feel like their loved ones have been forgotten, especially if there are unanswered questions surrounding their service member's death. Military widows, often left with young children to care for, must move away from their military community, the place they and their children called home.


Bereaved military families face a unique set of issues, yet little is known about how violent combat death affects the survivors long term. The National Military Family Bereavement Study is seeking families to follow over several years. The goal is to figure out how families can better be helped after these losses.


If you know someone who has lost an active duty service member since 9/11, please share this link with them: The study is federally funded and will include 3,000 participants.


For more information about the study, go to


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

Image via Flickr Creative Commons / zaphodsotherhead

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Comment by Nancy L Clay on October 2, 2013 at 12:09am

My son, Army Specialist, Kale Daren Clay, was killed 5 months after his return from Iraq. He was killed in a car crash. He had just reenlisted and was preparing to serve another 4 years. Because he was not killed while deployed, I don't feel like I fit in with some of the other military support groups. He loved being a soldier, and serving his country. We are so proud of him. 

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