Military Advantage

TAPS Helps Avoid Holiday Blues

Special Featured Article: TAPS reaches out to support families of our fallen military heroes during the holidays.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), won’t close its doors. The organization’s toll free line, 1-800-959-TAPS (8277), in continuous operation since 1994, will remain available to offer comfort and support to anyone grieving the death of someone who served in the military.

The TAPS 800 number is answered live 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. On a typical day, the organization receives 60-90 phone calls from surviving family members of our fallen military seeking support, resources, information and assistance.

Holiday blues are normal for those who are grieving. Unfortunately, those feelings of loneliness and sadness can surface to plague family long after the death of their loved one. On average, it takes 5-7 years for people to reach their “new normal” following the loss of a Service Member.

With at least ten people significantly impacted by each military death, more than 58,600 people are grieving the death of someone they love who died while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. That figure doesn’t include those who lost loved ones to stateside accidents, illnesses or suicide in the military.

Many of the people reaching out for help and support on Christmas Eve and Christmas day are parents who have experienced the death of an adult son or daughter.  An estimated 11,700 adults are grieving the death of an adult child who served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001. But the holiday blues can also impact spouses, siblings and other relatives of those who’ve died.

“The emphasis on family gatherings during the holidays can leave bereaved families feeling left out,” said Bonnie Carroll, president and founder of TAPS. “Everyone else is expecting their loved ones home for the holidays. Instead, these families welcomed home a casket, held a funeral and received a folded flag. They are painfully aware of the fact that one seat at the family table will be empty this year.”

And adults aren’t the only ones who can come down with a case of the holiday blues. Children can too. “Sometimes children will write letters to Santa Claus saying that all they want for Christmas is their dad,” said Carroll. “Children who are grieving need the support and care of family and friends during the holidays.  TAPS is there for them.”

Dealing with the death of someone you love doesn’t mean forgetting them. “We suggest families try to create new holiday traditions that incorporate some type of remembrance element, such as doing an activity together that the loved one would have enjoyed, giving a gift in honor of their loved one, or lighting a candle in memory of the person who died,” said Carroll.

To help families of our fallen military cope with the holiday blues, TAPS keeps its call center open 24-7 and devotes an entire issue of its quarterly magazine to coping with the holidays.  Holiday survival tips to help adults who are grieving and those who are supporting bereaved children are distributed by TAPS through news releases, media interviews, Twitter, Facebook, and the organization’s website  at www.taps.org.

“We want the surviving families of America’s fallen military heroes to know that we are here to take their calls on Christmas Eve and Christmas day if they need comfort and support,” said Carroll. “Our staff members are military survivors and family members, too. They understand how the holidays can be challenging when you are missing someone  who died while serving in the military, and no one should grieve alone.”

For specific Holiday Survival tips visit:

Holiday Survival Tips: Practical Advice to Help Anyone Coping with Grief

When Families Grieve at the Holidays Supporting Children Dealing with Loss

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