Kathleen Gilbert is based at Indiana University and specializes in grief counseling with military members and their families—however, she also works to help families build resiliency during deployment (without any deaths occurring). Gilbert spoke to Dr. Gloria Horsley during the 2015 Association on Death Education and Counseling conference about what she’s working on and how grief in military families is a niche. Members of the Indiana National Guard were Gilbert’s first clients, and she operated a camp to help with healing, processing and grieving. In all cases (so far), it has been fathers who were deployed.

For the most part Gilbert focuses on “first deployments,” although some participants included those with up to four deployments. All service members had been deployed to Afghanistan at least once. Gilbert says she never would have achieved such success if it weren’t for the help of the National Guard. The Family Battle Buddies camp and retreat actually takes place in a luxurious resort setting. “Families need to have certain capacities in order to be resilient,” Gilbert says.

Strength in Numbers

Bringing the families of deployed service men together was no easy task. The camp features “challenge activities,” such as a difficult communication task, and afterward the families process what happened and learn how to apply it in “real life.” It not only brought families together, but also taught life skills that can be applied to many facets of reality. Another challenge involves family members directing one family member in leading a horse around an obstacle course.

Watching one another, learning from each other and encouraging each other is key. “The thing that surprised me most is that they were concerned about how poorly functioning they were,” yet Gilbert saw so much potential and existing support. Focusing on what you’re doing right as well as where you need to improve is key.

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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