If you have loved and lost a service member, you’ve come to the right place. I’m Joanne Steen and I’ve loved and lost a service member, too.
If you’re like me, you never imagined your service member would die. After all, he or she was young, in great physical shape, confident and motivated, and ready to take on the world. I bet they didn’t expect to die either—but life didn’t turn out the way we all planned. That “knock on the door” and the bad news that followed changed everything. From this point forward, life was never the same. I know you understand.
As a Gold Star Family member, you’ve probably noticed that military grief has a long shelf life, plus a tendency to stick around for quite a while, even when you’re tired of it.
Have you noticed that just when life seems more or less on an even keel, something happens that knocks you off balance? You hear of another military death that hits too close to home. Or a breaking news story about the military. Or it may be as simple as watching a little mindless TV at the end of the day when a commercial airs one of those heartwarming (i.e. personally gut-wrenching) scenes of a military family reunion. It often seems like military reminders are everywhere. And each one hits the tender spot that holds our loss.
In my journey with military grief, I needed to understand why I felt the way I did, because losing my service member was a loss unlike any other that I had experienced. This one FELT DIFFERENT. And I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.
I read several good books on grief, but usually came to the conclusion there was “something” missing, because these books were focused on civilian deaths and I was left with unanswered questions about my military loss and its unique issues that I was contending with.
Being a good Type-A person, I searched for answers, found few, and ended up writing two books for surviving family members. The first was the book I desperately wanted when my own husband was killed in the line of duty. Military Widow: A Survival Guide (Naval Institute Press, 2006) was published at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The second book was born out of requests from Gold Star mothers and fathers who wanted a survival guide of their own. We Regret To Inform You. A Survival Guide for Gold Star Parents and Those Who Support Them Central Recovery Press, 2019) was released on Memorial Day 2019.
But military grief TRULY has a long shelf life. And surviving family members have contacted me 5, 10, and 15+ years out with questions and comments. And so the idea for this Surviving Gold Star Grief blog was hatched!
Surviving Gold Star Grief isn’t just another blog on grief—and it’s about more than simply surviving. Surviving Gold Star Grief is about winning the battle with military grief.
Join me as we examine life after receiving the folded flag. We’ll learn from the wisdom of those who have walked in our shoes. And we’ll explore practical advice for dealing with the unique factors of military grief, plus actionable tips to move forward—but not “move on.”
We own our future. Let’s shape it together!
Joanne Steen, MS, NCC
Gold Star widow. Remarried wife of a Veteran. Counselor. Author and instructor on Gold Star grief, Advocate. Rescued pet lover. Ocean-loving dark chocoholic.