The tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States is likely to stir emotions for the thousands of people in the United States who are grieving the deaths of a loved one who died during the attacks a decade ago.

The anniversary also poses an emotional challenge for the families of those with loved ones who died in the Global War on Terror in Iraq or Afghanistan, many of whom enlisted in the military, in part, due to the 9/11 attacks.

TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, offers the following tips for those seeking to express sympathy and support to those who are grieving:

Realize that grief is long-term and life-altering. The impact of the traumatic death of a loved one is significant and long-lasting. It takes on average 5-7 years for survivors who have experienced the traumatic death of a loved one to reach their new normal. Even after reaching that “normal,” life is not the same for those left behind. Family dynamics are altered, and survivors may have changed too.

Know that grief is not something people get over. Rather, it is something we learn to live with. After a period of mourning, many learn to live again and find joy again in their lives, but they will always carry the loss with them.

Respect their privacy. While some welcome public attention and want their loved one’s name remembered and spoken often in public forums and venues, others choose a more private path. Many families of those who died at the Pentagon on 9/11 and in the Global War on Terror, experienced significant media attention at the time of their loved ones’ deaths and in the immediate days following. Ask survivors if they are comfortable with others knowing about their survivor status before sharing it.

Be understanding. The anniversary of a death is often significant for survivors, even if it falls a decade later. Realize that these may be sensitive days for survivors left behind. If you personally know someone who is impacted, continue to maintain contact and regular activities with them. But understand if they need a break or space.

Send a card. A card can express your thoughtful concern and be an important reminder to a grieving family of your care and support.

Simply express your condolences. If you talk with a family member, say you are sorry for their loss, or say you want to offer your condolences. That’s enough. Avoid saying things like “I understand exactly how you feel,” or “It was his (or her) time,” or “He (or she) wouldn’t want for you to be sad.”

Show your support. Support programs that provide long-term bereavement help to families of our fallen. Bereavement support can be vital in the months and years to come as families work toward this new normal. Donate or volunteer with TAPS through 800.959.TAPS (8277) or

Express your gratitude. To show you care for the families of our fallen and the families they have left behind, you can write a note, share a photo thank you, or post a video thank you, at the Give a Thousand Thanks website. The website is located at Participation is free and open to the public. Many survivors have told us they have visited the website and found support in looking at the messages.

Ami Neiberger-Miller

Ami Neiberger-Miller

Media relations, writing, strategic communications, and social media are all part of Ami Neiberger-Miller’s daily workload. She provides clients with strategic counsel, designs campaigns, builds relationships with journalists, and crafts copy for social media, press releases, and publications. Helping nonprofit organizations, associations and businesses communicate more effectively has been Ami Neiberger-Miller’s passion and focus for more than two decades. 
Ami founded Steppingstone LLC in 2003 to provide communications and graphic design services for nonprofits, associations and small businesses. Her client roster soon included the American Forest Foundation, the National 4-H Cooperative Curriculum System, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. It expanded to include NAFSA: Association for International Educators, the Nature Conservancy and many others. From 2004-2007 while working as a consultant, Ami also served as the communications director for Sister Cities International, a national association of international city-to-city partnerships working to build understanding, education, cultural awareness, and economic ties. She supervised a staff of five and was responsible for the organization’s website, public relations, advocacy, publications, and member communications. She also published her first book in 2005 with the organization, Peace Through People: 50 Years of Global Citizenship. 
In 2007, tragedy struck when Ami’s brother, U.S. Army Specialist Christopher Neiberger, was killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq during the troop surge. Ami managed media attention on her grieving family after being notified of her brother’s death. She became a public advocate for trauma survivors and those left behind following the death of a military service member. She served as a spokesperson and public affairs officer from 2007 through 2014 for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit organization that assists grieving military families. Ami cultivated relationships and worked on stories with reporters from the Associated Press, Fox News Channel, CNN, ABC World News, CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes, National Public Radio, NBC Nightly News, C-SPAN, USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal and many others. She coordinated media interviews for a chapter in “For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism and Sacrifice,” by Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrakesan. 
While working for TAPS, Ami continued to build and grow her consulting practice with Steppingstone LLC. She worked for several years on a grant funded project managed by the American Association of Community Colleges that supported thousands of older adults going to colleges around the country to re-train for new jobs during the Great Recession. In 2008 she began working for the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), which provides pro-bono legal assistance to veterans and military service members seeking disability benefits. She managed media relations on behalf of NVLSP for the class action lawsuit, Sabo v. United States, which successfully won retirement benefits for thousands of service members with post-traumatic stress disorder who had been discharged without the federal benefits to which they were entitled. She continued to represent NVLSP in 2018 and worked with national and local reporters covering the military and veterans issues. Ami appeared on the radio show Healing the Grieving Heart to discuss “Loss & the Military.” To hear her interview with Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi, go to the following link:

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