Grief is complicated, and when you are away from family, it can add layers of complexity on top of an already challenging time. Here are some ideas on handling loss from a few people who have grieved while stationed abroad.
Emergency funding is available through the Red Cross if you need to make a last-minute trip home to see a dying family member or to make a funeral. Humanitarian orders are possible when a longer diagnosis is given or in certain situations. When you reach out to your squadron, they can help with food, babysitting, or assisting travel arrangements.
The Military Family Life Counselor (MFLC) is free for anyone to utilize for up to 12 sessions per topic. They do not take notes and help you figure out actionable steps in your healing and process. Military One Source also has various resources to help you find a therapist you can trust. Chaplains are another option and can not share anything with your command if you need to let it all out without nerves.
Sometimes you feel alone when grieving and aren’t sure where to turn or if there are others like you. For Reserve spouse Brooke, when she realized there was no support for her at her overseas base, she built what she needed. “At the time, my sister had just lost her baby, so I started a support group for grieving families. Sometimes if a resource doesn’t exist, we create what we need for ourselves and others.”
Brittany, a military spouse, remembers, “I lost my grandmother while we were overseas, and we had a day to celebrate her life. We made her favorite foods, watched movies she loved, and went thrift shopping. It gave us a way to be with her without sitting in sadness. There was sadness at times of the day, but it made it easier.”
What would a day of remembrance look like for you? Compile a list of the things your loved one enjoyed and see what comes together as a day to honor them.
Air Force spouse Erin B. shares, “The grieving process the handbook outlines is phenomenal. Having grieved well through its process, I can think about those I’ve lost without being overcome with emotions. It is a relatively short book written in an easy, gentle style. They consider grief to be any change in a familiar pattern in your life.”
This handbook can be helpful when you think about all the changes we also have in military life: grieving old friends, jobs, bases, and how life was ‘before,’ and not just the loss of a loved one. Many people have unprocessed grief of one type or another, so picking up this book can help you navigate grief in a way that feels supportive.
Cory, an Air Force spouse shares, “When my mom passed away, we weren’t close enough for me to make it back in time. Even if all you can do is say your last goodbyes over a phone, do it.” For another spouse, it was writing a letter for her Dad to read to her grandfather.
Goodbyes can also be after they pass. You can connect in nature or a place they would have loved and speak to them as if they were in person. Perhaps you had a Grandmother who always had her hands in the dirt, and a community garden captures her essence, so you feel closer to her there. Maybe your Dad was adventurous, and a local mountain has a cliff view that feels like him. Find your place to process, grieve, and talk.
Many faiths believe the ones we love are never far from us when they pass, so even if it’s talking out loud ‘to yourself’ about updates about your life, it can help you process being far away and help you feel connected to the one you lost.
Remember grieving is a journey with no straight line, and everyone grieves differently. Connect to your loved ones that are still here, tell them how you feel, and remember to be extra gentle with yourself as you handle loss when away from family.
Today’s blog has been brought to you by Navy Mutual. “Navy Mutual has been providing quality, affordable life insurance to active duty and retired service members, veterans, and their families for over 140 years.” Navy Mutual has options to help you feel secure in your choices and supported as you go through the journey the military lays out for your family.
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