Did you know that as a Veteran or family member of a Veteran, you qualify for VA bereavement counseling benefits? If you’re the parent, child, or spouse of a service member or Veteran who’s passed away, then this very helpful resource could assist in the mourning process and improve your quality of life going forward. Bereavement counseling, or grief counseling, can allow family members of fallen military personnel to process their loss in a controlled and assistive environment. Below is a guide for accessing VA bereavement counseling or grief counseling in general.
VA Bereavement Counseling Eligibility
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers bereavement counseling for eligible parties. If you meet the following criteria, then you may receive grief counseling from the VA, specifically if you are the:
- Parent, child, or spouse of a service member who died on active duty.
- Parent, child, or spouse of a reservist who died on active duty.
- Parent, child, or spouse of a National Guard member who died on active duty.
- Parent, child, or spouse of a Veteran who was receiving Vet Center services.
Likely the most useful of the VA’s grief counseling services is their Vet Center community counseling. Vet Centers offer a host of social and psychological services. They provide therapy to Veterans and eligible family members but also provide marriage and group sessions, as well. Many available counselors are Veterans themselves who understand military life and what families go through when they suffer a loss.
VA Grief Counseling at Vet Centers
In order to find a therapist at the VA, family members can reach out to their local Vet Center after locating it through the search page. Grief counseling at a Vet Center is designed to pace family members through their grief in a safe and convenient space, with a focus on community and readjustment.
The Vet Center also has a call center that’s open 24/7. You or a loved one can call any time to talk with a trained professional who’s there to listen to your individual case and go over your options. Their specific grief counseling phone number at the Vet Center is 1 (877) 927-8387.
What Is Bereavement Counseling?
Bereavement counseling, also called grief counseling or grief therapy, is a particular mode of therapy that’s designed to help family members and friends cope with the loss of a loved one. There are stages of mourning that pop up in the classic model of grief popularized by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.”
The five stages of grief she posited are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There are other models of grief, such as one that includes seven stages and another with just two stages.
But the grieving process is different for everyone, even though there are certain hallmarks of mourning that professionals can predict and monitor. The stages of grief are not linear, and one can fall back into any stage at any time. There’s also no set time frame for graduating from one to the next or for ultimately traversing the entire process.
Grief is complicated and personal, with many possible long-term effects that may interfere with everyday life. Losing a loved one can be stressful. The emotional turmoil inside can manifest physically into health problems down the road.
Anyone who loses a spouse, child, or parent is in the heartbreaking position of attempting to put the pieces back together. Doing so is never ideal, but when you lose someone in the prime of life who may have been a service member, there are bound to be loads of questions and harbored anger and other emotions that will need to be addressed.
If you’re suffering from the loss of a loved one, make sure to reach out to the grief assistance services available to you, like the VA bereavement counseling infrastructure. Mental health is important to maintain, especially in the tragic circumstances of a loss.
Grief and Loss Counseling
There are several types of grief counseling out there and plenty of exercises that help ease the burden over time. Cognitive behavior therapy, or “talk therapy,” is a great way to establish a baseline with a professional.
Some private bereavement counselors offer group therapy, too. That can be a great way to reinforce the idea that you aren’t going through this alone. Listening to the experiences of others who’ve been through what you’re going through can be extremely cathartic.
VA bereavement counseling services offer the chance to establish that community. They work toward building a support system that can offer you a lifeline when you don’t know where else to turn.
Other exercises and modalities, like journaling and art therapy, can be very helpful when used in combination with structured professional grief counseling.
Other Grief Assistance Resources From the Military
After you experience a loved one’s death, counseling isn’t the only necessary step to take. There are many logistical items on the list to cross off, and the VA and other military programs can assist you.
The Army provides Survivor Outreach Services, which help families with long-term support. Some of this support takes the form of education services, financial assistance, and housing.
The Air Force runs a program called Air Force Families Forever. The vision of the program is to establish long-term support for family members of service members from the Air Force, Space Force, and Reserve Component Airmen.
The Marine Corps’s Long Term Assistance Program is the branch’s equivalent service for family members and next of kin. They offer survivor programs like TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) and handle many logistical items that may be too daunting for families to take on.
The Navy Gold Star Program provides a support network for family members of Navy personnel who’ve lost their lives on active duty. They offer long-term outreach and assistance for as long as family members require.
The National Association of County Veterans Service Officers is a Veterans Affairs agency that fights to ensure family members receive the benefits they’re entitled to. Contact them to speak with a service officer who can handle your case and provide the assistance you need.
Grief Counseling Services Outside the Military
There are numerous organizations and nonprofits out there specifically dedicated to offering bereavement counseling and grief assistance services to family members of fallen active-duty service members and Veterans. Some of these organizations go beyond grief counseling and perform additional duties, such as ensuring that families receive benefits. Here’s a list of some of those organizations.
- Gold Star Wives of America
- Got Your Back Network
- American Armed Services Mutual Aid Association
- Navy Seal Foundation
- American Widow Project
- Operation Homefront
- Folds of Honor
- A Soldier’s Child Foundation
Get the Bereavement Counseling and Grief Assistance You Deserve
Suffering from a loss is not a sign of weakness but a normal aspect of human emotion. We all grieve the death of a loved one. But there’s a multitude of services and programs available that can help with the process of bereavement and recovery.
If you aren’t at all close to a VA Vet Center or if any of these organizations are somehow not a good fit for your needs, there are plenty of private therapists and grief counselors out there who can help.
Start by searching “bereavement counseling near me” or “grief counseling near me.” Look at reviews of therapists and book consults with a few that are covered by your insurance to make sure they’re a good fit.
VA bereavement counseling or grief counseling in general is a process. The length and makeup of that process is different for everyone. But having a qualified mental health professional at your side, along with the resources and support from a network of providers like the organizations listed above, can make all the difference in the grieving process. Your loved one fought for all of us; let these organizations and service providers fight for you.
Suggested read: Everything You Need To Know About VA Burial Benefits