Editorial: Group a much-needed support system for military families

Friday, March 02, 2018

A Military Family and Friends Bereavement Support Group will hold its first meeting March 4 in Ware. It welcomes any military family member, or friend in the general Quabbin area, who is coping with the death of a loved one who died as a result of service in the military.

This is a great idea and will likely benefit many in the region whose family members have served our nation, and who by extension have also paid a price.

Included are service members who died in combat, or because of combat-related exposure or injury; service members who took their own lives due to post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury or as a result of transition stress; or service members who died in training accidents or from friendly fire.

The group will meet at 2 p.m. in the 2nd Floor Conference Room of the Quaboag Valley CDC, 23 West Main St., in Ware. The facilitator is Beverly Prestwood-Taylor, executive director of the Brookfield Institute.

She says that grief for a service member takes many forms — and all are correct.

“Almost every bereaved military family member I’ve talk to has what I would call ‘complicated grief,’” explains Prestwood-Taylor, who is also a minister. Grief takes on as many forms as there are people, she said, adding that military bereavement has some unique aspects.

And if the service member came home, only to die by suicide due to post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury, or some other result of service, there’s a complicated roller coaster of emotion — feeling relief at first because their loved one came home alive, only to have them die later on, she says.

Patty and Paul Boynton are the founders of the support group. Their son, SFC Christopher Boynton, served three deployments: two to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. He took his life on Oct. 28 while serving in Fort Riley, Kansas. The support group offers a safe space to talk with other people who have experienced the same thing, above and beyond the stereotypes.

“The country is very supportive, but they don’t want to hear about, for instance, Afghanistan or Iraq,” Prestwood-Taylor noted. “They’ve moved on. There’s a sense of, ‘Haven’t we done this? Aren’t we through with this?’”

Consequently, many people dealing with the death of a member of the military have a hard time finding someone to talk to and someone to listen, Prestwood-Taylor has noted.

What she, and the organizers of his event, understand is the power of empathy from people who have been through the same experience and pain. That empathy from those who truly understand what you are experiencing — or will be experiencing — can have a tremendously calming effect.

So, we hope that all those who might benefit from this program can find a way to attend and perhaps find relief and solace from the experience.

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