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."
But there's strength and hope in numbers and that's why we're bringing you together. You need a safe space to talk with other people who have experienced the same thing, above and beyond the stereotypes. Patty and Paul Boynton are the initiators of the support group. Their son, SFC Christopher Boynton, served three deployments: two to Iraq and one to Afghanistan as a medical specialist and explosive ordnance disposal. He took his life Oct. 28, while serving in Fort Riley, Kansas.
Our first gathering is at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 4, in the 2nd floor Conference Room, Quaboag Valley CDC, 23 West Main St., Ware, MA 01082.
Many people dealing with the death of a member of the military have a harder time finding someone to talk to and someone to listen. In general, the country is very supportive of veterans, but most people haven't been directly involved in these wars and don't necessarily want to hear about it. Consequently, family members and friends dealing with this great loss end up feeling quite isolated.
We'd like people to bring a picture or object that reminds them of the loved one who died. Participants will be encouraged to tell funny stories about their loved ones, talk about some of the hardest things they’ve faced while dealing with grief and talk about the circumstances of the loss of their loved one if they’re able to. There will also be information about other services and resources available.
We want people to talk about what's worked for them, what's helped them, what's working right now. Everyone walks a different path in the journey of healing and they have wisdom to share, and the chance to receive wisdom from others.
Join us at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 4, in the 2nd floor Conference Room, Quaboag Valley CDC, 23 West Main St., Ware, MA 01082. Call Beverly Prestwood-Taylor at 413-563-7282, or email her if you'd like to attend.