Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chaplains Help Provide Perspective on the Grieving Process

From Chief of Navy Chaplains Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- On Sept. 16, the lives of 12 families were forever changed. Countless others were deeply affected by what they witnessed that day at the Washington Navy Yard.

These civilian Sailors were beloved grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. Their families and colleagues mourn their loss and have begun walking the road of grief.

Grief is always painful, and sometimes it is pretty straightforward and understandable; sometimes it can be complicated and confusing. For example, if one's ninety-year-old grandmother died peacefully in her sleep, a family would naturally grieve her anticipated loss. However when death is sudden or unexpected, traumatic, senseless, and out of sync with life's natural order, grief can be complicated.

There are certain things that can affect how we grieve:

-How close we are, emotionally and geographically, to the person who died.

-Our belief system and view of death can both influence the grieving process.

-What kind of support we experience from our family, our community, our faith group, and others important to us while we are grieving.

-How we cope with other significant life events, including the death of others we are close to.

Chaplains can help support an individual as they begin the process of grieving. They offer perspective and insight to help an individual understand the difference between grief associated with an anticipated loss and grief associated with a sudden, unanticipated loss.

They can also help validate what an individual is experiencing throughout the grieving process and the time often needed to process one's grief; this includes the fact that there is no set timeframe when grieving. Every individual is different.

Cmdr. Judy Malana, a Navy chaplain, recalls her recent experience providing pastoral support to the Navy Yard families at Nationals' stadium, particularly after some were notified their loved ones were gone. She described the chaplain's involvement in the casualty assistance notification process as a "sacred privilege to be there at that moment for them. It's something that we, as chaplains, are trained to do, and we take that seriously."

When asked specifically how one can comfort someone in the midst of grief, Malana said, "You have to be open, because each individual is different, and you have no way of knowing how the individual is going to react to the news that their loved one is gone. You have to remain open-minded and fully present in the moment to be able to best care for that individual. Being patient and offering a listening ear."

Chaplains can help guide individuals through the grieving and recovery process, especially if they feel stuck in a state of shock, anger or denial. Over time, chaplains can help an individual identify ways to reinvest their emotional energy, finding positive ways to remember and honor their loved ones and move towards a path of healing.

Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) is providing ongoing support for survivors and families impacted by the Navy Yard shooting. The Emergency Family Assistance Center (EFAC) on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Building 72, Enterprise Hall, includes a combination of trained counselors, social workers, chaplains and Fleet and Family support services that are available 24/7.

CNIC also established the Employee/Staff Counseling Assistance Center (E-SCAC) at the CNIC Headquarters at the Navy Yard, Building 111 (5th floor). The E-SCAC is providing short-term individual and group grief counseling through the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Team (SPRINT). Navy chaplain support, led by Naval District Washington, is ongoing and counselors from the Department of Health and Human Services are also available.

Call 1-855-677-1755 for more information on these support services.

For more information on the Chaplain Corps, visit

Confidential chaplain support is always available through your command chaplain or through

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