Losing a loved one in service
Statistics reveal that it takes four years on average for those who have lost a loved one serving in the Armed Forces to seek bereavement support.
Though it’s different for everyone, according to charity SSAFA, it takes grieving military families longer to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. This prolonged period of struggle may be made more difficult at certain times of the year, such as birthdays, Remembrance Day and Christmas.
Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings considers the many reasons for this delay, including emotional conflict and lack of closure: “Most people who have a loved one in the forces know that death is a risk of the job. Whilst this knowledge doesn’t lessen the grief and trauma these families experience, it can leave them feeling conflicted about their loved ones’ service.”
As well as this, families may be unsure of how and where their loved one died and therefore struggle to accept it. “It can be difficult to come to terms with the death without that knowledge” says SSAFA’s Liz Price.
Though distraction sometimes seems necessary, grief is an important process - a stepping stone to acceptance and moving forward. Some charities advise keeping a diary to monitor thoughts and feelings, whilst others suggest creating a new tradition in memory of a loved one, which could be something as simple as lighting a candle.
Grief can be an overwhelming and deteriorating emotion, manifesting itself in other ways such as guilt, isolation and depression, therefore sharing honest, open feelings and finding support in others is vital.