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MORTUARY AFFAIRS AND GRIEF ISSUES Presented by Military & Family Life Counselors
2 OBJECTIVES The challenges and positive aspects of working in Mortuary Affairs. The symptoms of grief, compassion fatigue and ways to cope. Participants will learn: © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
3 AGENDA Positive Aspects of the Job Challenges of the Job Effects on Personal Stress Symptoms of Grief Emotional Physical Behavioral Compassion Fatigue Coping Methods When to Seek Help © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
4 “There is no greater honor than to serve those who have made the ultimate sacrifice” © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
5 POSITIVE ASPECTS OF THE JOB The honor of serving those who have made the ultimate sacrifice Pride in your service to your country Knowing you have handled the service member’s belongings with the utmost respect Pride in knowing you have served the families of the fallen Pride in your mission of honoring the fallen and providing respect and comfort for families © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
6 CHALLENGES OF THE JOB Lack of Closure Complicated Grief Feeling Invisible Little Connection with “Battle Buddies” No Time to Regroup Feelings of Isolation Specific cases that may have a particularly profound emotional affect © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
7 EFFECTS ON PERSONAL STRESS It’s important to be mindful of stress-related issues outside the job Personal stress and struggles may be compounded by the job in mortuary affairs and vice versa Personal stressors can include: Financial Family Relationships Additional grief issues © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
8 SYMPTOMS OF COMPLICATED GRIEF - EMOTIONAL Numbness, the sense that none of this is real Feelings that life is meaningless A sense of anger, injustice, or helplessness about the situation Feeling “shut down” or irritable © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
9 SYMPTOMS OF COMPLICATED GRIEF - PHYSICAL Difficulty going to sleep or waking in the middle of the night Fatigue Loss of motivation Anxious feelings Difficulty focusing and making decisions Short-term memory problems Weight loss or gain; over eating or under eating Headaches, chest pain or racing heart Upset stomach or digestive problems © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
10 SYMPTOMS OF COMPLICATED GRIEF - BEHAVIORAL Withdrawal from social groups/events Addictive or reckless behavior Avoidance of certain places and people © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
11 COMPASSION FATIGUE Definition: The cumulative impact of hearing about, caring for, and helping to alleviate the suffering and misfortune of others. Characterized by feeling: Trapped Overwhelmed Out of control © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
12 COPING METHODS Talk with supportive others about your experiences Develop a support system Reach out to colleagues (“battle buddies”) Reach out to family and friends Accept help and support Practice self-care Seek balance in your life Exercise Eat a balanced diet Practice some form of relaxation Give yourself some down time Participate in recreational activities © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
13 COPING METHODS Find a way to honor the memory of the service members you process. For example: Run a mile in their honor Volunteer a day or ½ day’s labor in the community Light a candle Create a memento in their honor. CONTINUED © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
14 WHEN TO SEEK HELP The signs of grief persist and are interfering with your ability to function Usual coping methods don’t work You are having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
15 SUMMARY While there are many positive aspects of the job, there are also many challenges as well including: Lack of Closure Complicated Grief Feelings of Isolation Coping methods can include: Developing a support Practicing self-care Remember, don’t be afraid to seek help if grief symptoms persist and usual coping methods don’t work © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
17 REFERENCES Complicated Grief/Prolonged Grief Disorder, www.grief- healing-support.com/complicated-grief.htmlwww.grief- healing-support.com/complicated-grief.html The Hardest Job in the Army, From the May 19, 2003 issue: Meet the men and women of Mortuary Affairs, www.weeklystandard.com www.weeklystandard.com © Copyright Air Force 2014. All rights reserved.
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