Families of Our Fallen Military: Rebuilding Lives After Loss

It starts with a knock at the door. Two uniformed officers are standing outside, and they ask to come in. Before they speak, the family knows what will be said. They are just hoping it’s not true. Then they hear the words, “We regret to inform you…” and the life of a military family is changed forever.

The death of a loved one in service to America starts a military family down a new path — one of grief and loss. We embrace and support hundreds of these families through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). It is a unique journey that requires specialized care and support.

One young widow who lost her husband in combat in Iraq while she was in her twenties told us, “I always thought that the military would tell us where we would live. After my husband died, I had to figure out where to go for myself, and define what our lives would become. On top of that, I was coping with his death and taking care of our infant daughter. The decisions felt overwhelming, and even paralyzing.”

Thankfully, they don’t have to make this journey alone. At TAPS, our 24/7 resource and information helpline fields 21,000 calls annually. We offer regional seminars for adults and good grief camps for children around the country and throughout the year.

Our online chat room, message boards and email support groups buzz with activity daily. TAPS care groups link survivors in communities across America and our peer mentoring program pairs up newly-bereaved survivors with others who have experienced a similar loss.

They’re people like Elizabeth Church, who was eight months pregnant when her husband died by suicide. She found a supportive companion in Carla Stumpf Patton, who years earlier, had also lost her Marine husband to suicide when she was eight months pregnant. Carla understood what Beth was going through, in a way that few other people could. With care and support, Beth is building today a new life for herself and her daughter.

It is our honor and privilege to help and support these precious families who have given so much for their country. You can get involved by volunteering, donating, or joining our run and remember team. More information is available at www.taps.org.

-Ami Neiberger-Miller