Learning to Live with Loss

Post date: Aug 26, 2011 10:36:24 PM

Coping with loss is a very personal, sacred experience. Handling the lifestyle changes that result from losing a loved one may seem significant when compared with the emotional toll that a loved one’s death can have. It is not something that has to be experienced alone, though.

Every military family is aware of the distressing prospect of seeing a uniformed Casualty Assistance Officer at their front door. VA realized the importance of offering help right away and maintaining that assistance for as long as the family member needs it.

The Vet Center Bereavement Counseling Program offers support and counseling services to parents, siblings, spouses, and children of service members who have died while on active duty. Counselors are ready to offer assistance when are contacted by the Casualty Assistance Officers or when they receive a referral from a concerned friend.

The program standard is to contact family members within two hours of receiving the referral and make a face-to-face visit within two days.

“To sit with somebody who’s experiencing that much grief is very humbling and makes you aware that, in an instant, you could be in that situation,” said Dr. Roseann Umana, bereavement counselor at the Columbus Vet Center. “The first visit, I expect I’ll be there for a couple of hours, because they need to talk.

“It’s very intense — I feel pretty tired when I leave,” she added. “It’s not technically difficult, in terms of [counseling] skills, but it’s emotionally difficult. I have to go there knowing that I can’t fix it, because this is not a fixable thing.”

“Everybody has their own relationship with the deceased — so they all need their own time to deal with the loss.”

Lisa McLaughlin, Social Worker And Bereavement Counselor At The Raleigh, N.C. Vet Center

The Bereavement Counseling team at the Columbus, Ohio Vet Center: (from left) G. Scott Johnson, PhD; Roseann Umana, PhD; Mark Madry, MSW; and James Sizemore.

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