Memorial Day is on Monday, May 29th. It’s  a day to stop and reflect on all those who have fought for our freedom and country. Across all types of wars and conflicts, they have been on the front lines, putting their courage to work on our behalf.

While we miss these loved ones, Memorial Day is a special time to remember that their deaths were not in vain. Many people take this time to visit the graves of soldiers and pay their respects. It can be a solemn experience, but it can also be a positive one that reminds us of how fortunate we are to have such incredible people defend our country.

Death of a Soldier…At Home

There are times, however, that the loss of a soldier comes in other very unfortunate ways. Take, for example, one family that came to our foundation for grief assistance. Their son, who had numerous tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and who managed to survive the threat of insurgents and IUDs, came home only to be killed in a car crash.

It was a devastating experience for those he left behind, including his parents, his wife, and children. After all, the idea that their loved one came home safe from the horror of war only to die when a drunk driver crashed into his vehicle, was very difficult to reconcile.

Sadness and Anger

Grief is not an easy set of emotions to get through. Yet, losses like the soldier being killed in a crash caused by a drunk driver involve a further swirl of feelings. This includes a heavy dose of anger and frustration. It’s unfathomable just how unfair this loss was because of the poor choices of an individual who decided to drink and drive. There can be feelings of revenge and hurt. The pain can be so unbearable that it can literally swallow a person whole.

Coping with Grief Over Your Soldier

When these types of situations occur, there are some things to remember that can help you cope with this grieving process:

  • Know that the shock, disbelief and deep sadness you are experiencing are normal responses. If you cannot function, reach out to professionals. They can provide you with coping strategies that help overcome the insurmountable loss.
  • Consider meeting with others who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers. They know exactly what you are going through, which can provide comfort.
  • The process can be dragged out further by participating in a court case.  It can be difficult to continually relive the whole experience throughout the trial. The anger and sadness may return, again and again, in waves. Continue to work with a grief counselor throughout this time.  They can offer good tips on controlling those emotions in what can be a very tumultuous time.
  • Focus on your family and hold them close to you. They need you just as much you need them. The love and closeness can heal the loss. It’s important to carry on with your life as your lost loved one would want you to do.
  • Work with others who have lost their soldiers. The healing process can be aided by helping others with their loss. Conversations and support are mutually beneficial. There are organizations that need volunteers when you are ready to participate.

Respect for Our Fallen

On this Memorial Day, whether you have lost a soldier to war, a car crash, or some other senseless situation, remember the good times. Your life has been enriched by their presence. Many others deeply respect their service to our country and are happy they touched so many lives.

Gloria Horsley

Dr. Gloria Horsley is an internationally known grief expert, psychotherapist, and bereaved parent. She started "Open to Hope" to help the millions in the world with grief. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Nurse Specialist, and has worked in the field of family therapy for over 20 years. Dr. Horsley hosts the syndicated internet radio show, The Grief Blog which is one of the top ranked shows on Health Voice America. She serves the Compassionate Friends in a number of roles including as a Board of Directors, chapter leader, workshop facilitator, and frequently serves as media spokesperson. Dr. Horsley is often called on to present seminars throughout the country. She has made appearances on numerous television and radio programs including "The Today Show," "Montel Williams," and "Sallie Jessie Raphael." In addition, she has authored a number of articles and written several books including Teen Grief Relief with Dr. Heidi Horlsey, and The In-Law Survival Guide.

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