Helping Grieving Military Children

Author: TAPS

Editor’s note: November is Children’s Grief Awareness Month. Throughout this month, we have featured stories from surviving children, parents, grief professionals and TAPS staff to draw attention to the needs of grieving children, their experiences and how best to support them.

 Good Grief Camp - little girl with teddy bear and water bottle

“Grieving children need to feel that they are being heard and understood. They need caring adults to create an oasis of safety to explore these sensitive experiences.” — Linda Goldman, FT, LCPC, NBCC, Member of TAPS Advisory Board, and author of “Life & Loss: A Guide to Help Grieving Children” 

According to experts at the Defense Centers of Excellence, military children can be helped in their grief by adults who:

  • Remain honest and open — use clear language, such as saying “death” rather than euphemisms such as “loss”; stay open to ongoing questions and discussions
  • Provide safety and security — re-establish routines; provide structure and a comforting sense of stability
  • Look and listen — pay attention to the how and what of communication; watch behaviors, ask questions, listen and validate feelings
  • Support feelings — acknowledge all feelings are acceptable; help find healthy ways of expression, such as drawing and writing
  • Help students stay connected — share stories, photos and memories; keep the loved one part of the child’s identity
  • Offer a good role model — set examples of how to react and cope; model ways of dealing with difficult feelings

Military children whose questions are answered with empathetic, age-appropriate information and whose emotional and behavioral expressions are respected will have a more supported experience and will tend to see their environment as being a safe place for grieving.

Source: Grief Support for Military Children


TAPS Youth Programs

TAPS provides Good Grief Camps for children at each of our national and regional seminars. In the summer and fall, TAPS also hosts Family Campouts, three-day events where children attend with a parent or guardian. They feature typical summer-camp activities and family time around the campfire, as well as sessions for both children and adults. Both Good Grief Camps and Family Campouts offer activities that teach coping skills, communication strategies and ways to enrich the family unit. Children will have the time to develop friendships and support systems that last long after they have returned home. Check out the TAPS events calendar for upcoming Youth Programs events in 2019.

Photo: Ari Strauss