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Children of Fallen Troops Learn Coping Skills

PHOTO: About 500 kids whose parents have died while serving in the military are participating in "Good Grief Camp" this Memorial Day Weekend. Courtesy of TAPS.
PHOTO: About 500 kids whose parents have died while serving in the military are participating in "Good Grief Camp" this Memorial Day Weekend. Courtesy of TAPS.
May 27, 2013

ARLINGTON, Va. - Once again this graduation season, some young people will be walking across the stage to accept their diplomas without a parent in the crowd, because that parent has died while serving in the military. This Memorial Day weekend, those teenagers and many other children of fallen troops are learning how to cope with life's milestones in the absence of a loved one. Some 500 of them are participating in "Good Grief Camp" in Arlington and Washington, D.C.

It's put on by "TAPS," the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. According to spokeswoman Ami Neiberger-Miller, the kids learn, among other things, how to manage their feelings during life's milestone moments.

"We do see children who ask, 'Why isn't Dad here to help me learn to ride a bike?' Or, not here to go to my graduation."

TAPS estimates about 4800 children nationwide are coping with the loss of a parent killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Neiberger-Miller said it's critical to offer those children a way to express their grief.

"So, you might see children here doing activities like pounding out anger on Play-Doh, or drawing life-size portraits of themselves that show how they're coping with grief and loss."

She explaied that it takes about five to seven years for a family that has suffered a traumatic loss to create a "new normal" in their lives, and that the need for support from friends and the community never goes away.

A link to more TAPS information is at TAPS.org.



Alison Burns, Public News Service - VA