Webinar Provides Guidance for Mortuary Affairs Workers

Soldiers transfer remains

Military life offers many rewards, including the pride of serving one’s country. But it also presents numerous challenges across a variety of roles, with the one taken on by military mortuary affairs teams being among the most emotionally taxing.

Designed specifically for those serving in mortuary affairs, the Mortuary Affairs and Grief webinar discusses the challenges of the job and how to recognize symptoms of grief and compassion fatigue. A trained professional with degrees in psychology and counseling conducts the webinar, and it is available through Military OneSource.

If you are among those facing the day-to-day challenges of working in mortuary affairs, this webinar will also teach you ways to cope with the emotional demands of the job. And it will help you know when to seek help to maintain your own mental health, so you can continue to serve the deceased and their families to the best of your ability.

Mortuary Affairs and Grief webinar highlights

As a mortuary affairs team member, you can take pride in your service to your country and your mission to honor those who have died and provide respect and comfort to their families.

But the job can be emotionally draining.

To help you deal with the stress of the job and the toll it can take on your ability to serve those in need, as well as on your personal life, this webinar details ways to:

  • Meet the challenges of the job
  • Deal with personal stress
  • Recognize symptoms of grief, including:
    • Emotional
    • Physical
    • Behavioral
  • Manage compassion fatigue and ambiguous grief
  • Cope with any issues you may be experiencing
  • Find outside help

This webinar explains the realities of lesser-known aspects of grief, such as compassion fatigue, which most affects fields such as health care and those who work in mortuary and funeral affairs.

In these cases, an individual’s preoccupation with the suffering of others can lead to a secondary-traumatic-stress-like experience. And this can result, over time, in the lessening of compassion for those you are helping.

By watching and listening to this webinar, you will learn how to recognize these and other conditions and how to form a strategy for dealing with them.

The webinar also suggests when it might be time to seek outside help if those usual coping methods don’t work.

Other specific issues addressed include coping strategies for mortuary affairs team members in:

  • Recovering and handling decedent remains and the emotions these actions can elicit.
  • Dealing with ambiguous grief without closure or a clear understanding often results in unresolved feelings. These feelings can be brought on for many reasons, including not being able to attend a funeral or memorial service for lost family, friends or service members.
  • Operating within a remote work environment either on a military base or within the civilian community away from friends and family members.
  • Managing affairs for 20 or more deceased service members in a day and knowing them only in death as opposed to who they were in life.
  • Facing personal losses but not being able to grieve because your own family members are looking to you to be a pillar of strength since that’s what you do for a living.

If you have additional questions, you can also call and speak with a Military OneSource consultant at 800-342-9647 or start a live chat.

Helping You and Your Family Survive a Suicide Death

Veteran marches to honor those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or died by suicide.

Surviving the suicide of a loved one is different than a “natural death” and can be especially traumatic. It is common for survivors to feel that they didn’t do enough to save their loved one, creating feelings of what is called “survivor guilt.” As you wrestle with your feelings, do your best to be kind to yourself. There is no “right” way to grieve the loss of someone who died by suicide. Your feelings are yours and yours alone and everyone grieves differently. Here are some tips to help you survive the loss of someone who died by suicide.

Some ways to cope with grief from suicide

  • Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask the people closest to you for what you need, even if what you need is space.
  • Don’t expect to just “get over it.” When a loved one dies by suicide, you may experience a lot of emotions all at once — shock, guilt, confusion or even anger. These are all normal thoughts and emotions. Be patient with yourself as you cope and grieve. The grieving process takes time. Loss is not something you “get over.”
  • Talk about your grief. Work to recognize the things you can handle on your own and those you can’t. You may want to contact your installation’s chaplainmilitary and family life counselor or Military OneSource to connect with a non-medical counselor. You may find yourself searching for the right professional to talk to, and that’s OK.
  • Get the support you need. You don’t have to grieve alone. If you find that friends and family in your support circle have their own issues to attend to, mental health professionals, suicide loss support groups, faith communities and the military community can lend you a helping hand. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
  • Find resources available to youThe Days Ahead provides resources and advice for coping with the loss of loved ones. You can also reach out for bereavement counseling through the VA.
  • Prepare yourself for well-meaning but thoughtless comments. It is not uncommon for well-intended people to say insensitive things like, “At least they are not in pain anymore.”
  • Take care of yourself. Do your best to give your body what it needs. Sleep, eat healthy food and exercise as you can.
  • Seek immediate help if experiencing complicated grief. You will never be completely over the death of your loved one; however, your grief should become less intense as time passes. If you do not feel better over time or your grief is getting worse and your pain is so severe it keeps you from living your life, you may be suffering from “complicated grief.” There is a difference between grief and depression. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, talk to a professional grief therapist or counselor right away:
    • Intense guilt — blaming yourself for your loved one’s death
    • Thoughts of suicide or your mind is preoccupied with dying — feel like life isn’t worth living or feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness — wish you had died with your loved one
    • Inability to function — unable to perform your normal activities at work, home and/or school.

Parenting after a suicide

If you’re a parent dealing with the suicide of a loved one, try to remember that children and teens grieve differently from adults. You can help them by telling the basic truth, answering their questions and sticking to your daily routines. Remember to assure them that they are not responsible for the suicide, and find counseling and other resources for them as needed.

More ways to help children:

  • Remain as calm as you can throughout the first days. In the first few days after you lose your loved one to suicide, you may feel like you’re losing control. You may have a great deal to do as you cope with your loss, and your kids may need you now more than ever. Try to stay as calm as you can. And if you can’t handle everything you’re facing, get some help right away.
  • Make sure your kids know that they are not responsible. Because kids are naturally self-centered, they may feel that the suicide is their fault. Reassure them that what happened is not their fault.
  • Bereavement campsThe Days Ahead also provides resources and advice for young people and families coping with the loss of loved ones. You may want to consider a bereavement camp for yourself and children. These camps typically include grief sessions mixed with physical activities and social events to help relieve some of the powerful emotions they may be feeling.
  • For bereavement counseling, call the Department of Veterans Affairs at 202-461-6530.

Military OneSource offers non-medical counseling for parenting, stress management and grief and loss issues. To get help, call 800-342-9647. For more information, you can also reach out to the military and family support center on your installation for Military and Family Life Counseling Program support. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in a state of crisis, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255), then press 1.

Note: Military OneSource does not provide medical counseling services for issues such as depression, substance use disorders, suicide prevention or post-traumatic stress disorder. This article is intended for informational purposes only. Military OneSource can provide referrals to your local military treatment facility, TRICARE or another appropriate resource.

Grief and Loss

American Flag

Survivor’s Guilt – One of the most complicated aspects of grief and loss is the guilt survivors feel; the nagging questions of “Why them, and not me? Could/should I have done something differently?” This webinar will explore the topic of survivor’s guilt and how to work through to healing.

Understanding Grief: Education for Caregivers – Grief and loss are complex issues, and no one ever handles them the same way. Even the same individual experiencing two separate losses may react in completely different ways to each. This webinar will discuss the stages of grief and how caregivers can support and encourage others through the grief process.