Understanding Grief - The Essentials

Grief is a natural response when a loved one dies. How you grieve depends on your personality, your life experiences, the nature of your loss and your coping style. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are healthy ways to cope and survive the pain and find your new normal as you continue on your life's journey.

Here are important ways to cope:

Connect with your casualty assistance officer

Your casualty assistance officer serves as a liaison between you and the service branch. Make the most of your relationship with your CAO. He or she understands the military environment and is aware of available support from various resources. Assigned exclusively to you for an indefinite period of time – until you determine that assistance is no longer needed-- your CAO helps with the funeral and burial, initial compensation and survivor benefits.

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Share your grief.

Sharing your grief with others in similar situations or with a trained professional can be healing. Contact a military and family life counselor through your installation’s Military and Family Support Center or via a Veterans Affairs bereavement counseling center. Look into military survivor support organizations listed in “The Days Ahead” or check out bereavement camps, seminars and retreats designed to help you move forward in your grief journey. Military OneSource can help you access grief support organizations for your children and locate resources in your area.

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Know the five stages of grief.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are known as the "five stages of grief." Not everyone who grieves will go through all these stages and those who do may not experience the stages in order. Sometimes there is a circling back to certain stages and sometimes stages can occur at the same time. Still, being familiar with these five stages can help you make sense of your emotions.

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Take a break from grief.

Grief has no expiration date. The time it takes for the pain to lessen is different for everyone. Taking brief breaks from your grief will help you avoid fixating on your loss and inspire you to see a life beyond sadness. It is important to try to move past the guilt of having fun, and look for activities to distract you for a short while, such as reading a book, learning something new or planning a trip.

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