6 Ways to Honor Surviving Loved Ones on This Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day

Author: Marilyn Weisenburg

The Senate established Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day in 1936, and every year, our President makes a proclamation to express love, sorrow and honor towards those families considered to be Gold Star Families.

TAPS Families

How can you demonstrate your love and respect for those loved ones who died while serving in the military on this day, set apart to remember? Here are ways you can reach out to Gold Star Families and honor their loved ones today:

1. Remember the families.

Families want to know they are seen and remembered. Offer part of your heart in a card, a letter, a phone call or a visit in person. No words can take away the pain. But it will mean so much to know you care.

2. Take them out for a meal.

Take a Gold Star Family to their loved one’s favorite restaurant or find a restaurant that serves their loved one’s favorite meal or dessert. Share a meal, a smile and maybe a tear or two.

3. Plant a plant or tree in their honor.

Maybe a tree can be planted in a special place the family has set aside to go where they remember their loved one. If the family member is unable to plant it him or herself, offer to plant it for them while you’re visiting.

4. Work on an art/craft project together.

It could be a special ornament for a Christmas tree. It could be a picture frame. Maybe you can spend time breaking glass together to turn into something new – a symbol of how there is beauty in the brokenness. Working with your hands and being creative can often provide very real healing.

5. Light a candle.

There is light in the darkest parts of our lives. Remind Gold Star Families their loved one’s life will always be remembered.

6. Look at pictures of their loved one, ask about their favorite hobbies, sports teams or talents.

Make space to hear stories about the loved one who died. Looking through pictures can bring up so many happy memories and can remind the family to celebrate the life that was lived instead of the death. Don’t be afraid to say their loved one’s name.

Reach out to Gold Star Mothers and Families throughout the year. Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries of the death can be difficult. And a note or call from someone in the community can be so comforting. But don’t neglect saying something on other days too. You’d be surprised when you show care on a random weekday how many surviving military families will likely say, “Thank you. I really needed to hear that today.”

Gold Star Families can reach out, too. I hope we will reach out to one another and connect on this sacred day. Many of us care deeply for each other. Expressing our love and care communicates those deep connections and an understanding that we are not alone.

Who will you reach out to today?

From the pen of…

Marilyn Weisenburg is married, a mother of four and a grandmother of five. Her son, Staff Sgt. David J. R. Weisenburg, was killed in Iraq Sept. 13, 2004. She is a TAPS Peer Mentor and the author of the newly released “Empty Branch.” She and her husband live in Happy Valley, Oregon.