When the brave men and women of our nation’s Armed Forces take the oath to defend our country’s freedoms, they are dedicating not only their life to service but also the lives of their loved ones. These military families must remain strong as they endure challenges like duty station changes, long work hours, daily uncertainties, and deployments overseas. Unfortunately for some of these families, their loved one who serves pays the ultimate sacrifice and doesn’t return home. These spouses, parents, children, siblings, and other family members left behind are recognized as Gold Star Families.
According to the Department of Defense and the Military Times, since 9/11 more than 23,000 service members have given their lives in defense of our nation. More than 16,000 died in noncombat circumstances, and over 7,000 lost their lives while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. While we pay tribute to these service members, we must also honor and remember the sacrifice of their families.
Grieving husbands and wives of the fallen take on additional roles and challenges after losing their loved ones. Whether it be raising a family, taking care of the household, or simply navigating daily life, these individuals must remain strong as they re-define their duties on the home front. To honor their strength and fidelity, April 5 is recognized as Gold Star Spouse Day; a day meant to bring awareness to the sacrifice and dedication of these individuals.
Hope For The Warriors ensures that in staying true to our mission of restoring self, family, and HOPE to the military community, we act as a resource and a shoulder to lean on for our Gold Star Spouses and Families. We recognize that so many people want to step up and be there for these individuals but sometimes don’t know the best way to offer support. To help, we talked to Gold Star Spouses, who are a part of our warrior community, to understand the best way to be there for them during times of grief and as they navigate their new journey. Below is what they had to say.
How to Support Gold Star Spouses and Families of the Fallen
- “Immediate needs that were helpful to our family included meals – especially helpful if out of town family is coming in for support, completing small errands such as trips to the grocery store or post office, and trusted friends to extend a lot of grace and understanding.”
- “An important thing to remember is to be present for the widow [or widower] and if you don’t know what to do or what to say, that is okay – share that with them. Your presence is what is important.”
- “Never forget about them and the sacrifices they’ve endured. Be present for memorial events/birthdays, anniversaries, children’s games or school events, etc…Share stories and photos of their loved one.”
- “Reach out to them. Include them. Allow them to decline invitations without taking it personally. Be consistent and available. If you promise them you will always be there, do not let them down and later disappear. If you do disappear, don’t be afraid to reach back out and engage again. Ask them questions about the hard days and check in with them again when those hard days come back around.”
- “[It’s hard to hear things like] ‘your loved one is in a better place,’ ‘you are young you will find someone new,’ or telling a child ‘you are the head of the family now.”’
Just as these spouses and families have served, HOPE will be there to serve them through our programs and services. Our Resilient Family course is offered to spouses and caregivers of post-9/11 veterans and service members. This six-week virtual program is designed to provide participants with the tools to effectively manage stress, improve their overall quality of life, and to do so with a group of individuals who understand the unique stressors that come with this role.
This October, our Resilient Family cohort will be offered exclusively to Gold Star Families or Families of the Fallen. We encourage you to join us as our trained facilitators will work with you on resiliency techniques to help you through the challenges that lie ahead.
For more information on Resilient Family and registration, click here.