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Military Family and Friends Bereavement Support Group

Are you a military family or friend who has faced the death of a service member from the hidden wounds of war, combat or other service-connected losses? 

Sometimes, the grief hits hard and fast and never seems to let up. Sometimes, grief is a slow burn, ever present and often debilitating. And sometimes, grief is layered with guilt, with afterthoughts of regret.

Grief comes in many colors, but mourning a loved one who served in the military is also multilayered — and complicated. Almost every family member has what we would call "complicated grief." There’s no normal cycle of healing, the grief lasts longer and there are facets of shame and blame that are deeper than some other kinds of losses.

If your loved one died while serving, there’s the knowledge that he or she chose to serve and knew they were putting themselves in harm’s way. This can add to the sense of loss.

And if your service member came home, only to do die by suicide due to post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury or some other result of service, there’s a convoluted roller coaster of emotion; a feeling of relief at first because your loved one came home alive, only to have them die later on. It can feel even more tragic, because people always think, "I could have done something or I should have known something was going on." There can also be rage or a sense of injustice — "someone should have taken better care of my child or spouse."

Our Military Family and Friends Bereavement Support Group welcomes any military family member or friend who is coping with the death of a loved one who died as a result of service in the military. Included are service members who died in combat, or because of combat-related exposure or injury; service members who took their own lives due to post traumatic stress, or traumatic brain injury, or as a result of transition stress; or service members who died in training accidents or from friendly fire.

From one of our participants:

"After our son died by suicide, we were in need of all kinds of support. This support group has provided us not only support, but validation, sharing, strength and tears, along with laughter, too.

"We are grateful for each Sunday that we meet. We welcome and look forward to meeting new members."

The group will meet the first Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. in the 2nd Floor Conference Room for the Quaboag Valley CDC, 23 W. Main Street, Ware, Mass. Facilitators are Beverly Prestwood-Taylor, a pastor and certified trauma educator who has worked with military families for 8 years; and Cynthia Crossan, a psychiatric social worker and author whose son died by suicide 15 years ago after returning from his military deployment.

Prestwood-Taylor, executive director of the Brookfield Institute, says that grief for a service member takes many forms — and all are right.

Dates for 2018 are July 1, Aug. 5, Sept. 2, Oct. 7,  Nov. 4 and  Dec. 2.

For more information, call Prestwood-Taylor at (413) 563-7282 or email beverly@careforthetroops-ma.org.