The horrific tragedy at Fort Hood has sent our nation into mourning, and many want to know how to express their condolences and support to the families left behind. Reaching out to express condolences is a natural and heartfelt reaction to tragedy.  TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, offers the following tips for those seeking to express sympathy and support to the families of those who died at Fort Hood.

Be understanding. The surviving families are in tremendous shock in the immediate days and weeks following the death of their loved one. Understand that families may need to be focused on making important decisions about funerals, memorial services, benefits, and a host of details. The family may not be able to respond to you right away or express their appreciation for your thoughtfulness.

Respect their privacy. Grieving families who have experienced the traumatic death of a loved one may need their family and close friends around them. Please allow them the privacy and space they need to get through what are going to be difficult days.

Think beyond flowers and food. Often bereaved families will be overwhelmed by gifts of food and flowers.  Consider making a contribution to a charity or memorial fund in honor of their loved one. Often families will specify a charity or organization that their loved one was involved with or supported, and find this type of donation particularly touching.

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

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. In many communities, a procession is held when a fallen service member’s remains are brought home. Consider standing near the processional route to show your support for the family. Bring an American flag, carry a sign that expresses your feelings, and stand in respect to honor the sacrifice their loved one has made for our nation.

Attend a memorial service. If a memorial or funeral service is open to the public, consider attending. Your presence can be a valuable support to the family, which appreciates knowing that their loved one is being remembered by many. Some families may need to observe their funeral ceremonies in private. If that is the case, please respect their wishes and be with them in your thoughts and prayers.

Offer skills or services to help the family. If you are a business person who can offer an in-kind donation to help the family that will help during the funeral process, such as limousine services, public relations assistance, or event management aid, consider donating your time and services.

Tags: ,

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:

More Articles Written by Ami