Advice for those mourning the fallen

WASHINGTON — As we enjoy cookouts and the beautiful weather on Memorial Day weekend, those who’ve suffered the loss of their military hero are having a tough time.

Ami Neiberger-Miller turned to TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) after her brother was killed in Iraq in 2007 while he was serving in the U.S. Army. Now she is part of the organization that helps to heal those who are left behind.

TAPS is available 24/7 for anyone who has lost a military loved one — it doesn’t matter how they died. Neiberger-Miller says, “Our arms are open wide to support anyone grieving a loss.”

She has some advice to help survivors get through this weekend, which she says is challenging for families of the fallen. She says survivors deal with lots of emotions all at once — they can feel pride along with pain and loss. And she says emotions can hit like tidal waves.

“Be gentle with yourself and be aware of your emotions and how you feel,” she says. There are lots of pressures to be at ceremonies, memorials and even barbecues, but if something is too painful, she says, allow yourself to be excused. Make your own plans, set your own pace and be around people who can comfort and support you.

She says you should take care of yourself — for example, making sure to meet your most basic needs, because when you are grieving these can be the first things to go. If you are heading to Arlington Cemetery, for example, make sure you have water and sunscreen. And don’t feel obligated to stay for hours.

And Nieberger-Miller stresses that there’s no set time when a person is supposed to be done mourning a loss. She says it takes five to seven years for a person who has experienced a traumatic loss to reach what is called a “New Normal.”

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