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Grief expert offers advice on dealing with traumatic loss

By Claire Henline and Maj. Joel Garrison | Army National Guard | Nov. 24, 2008

ARLINGTON, Va. - An internationally recognized expert on traumatic grief and crisis response suggested that the word "closure" be taken out of our vocabulary when dealing with traumatic loss.

This was one of the practical tips offered by Joanne Steen during Wounded Warrior Awareness Day recently held Friday here at the Army National Guard Readiness Center.

"Closure is what the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) commission does," Steen said. She added that closure doesn't really exist and that the wounds, both seen and unseen, are always there, you just learn to live with it.

Steen, the widow of a naval aviator killed in the line of duty, provided her personal and expert advice as part of a month-long Department of Defense campaign to raise awareness in taking care of our Wounded Warriors and their families.

Her presentation reminded those in attendance that while physical wounds are often the most obvious aspect to traumatic loss, there are many invisible wounds the Soldier and family must navigate - mental, social and spiritual.

"Grief is both an individual experience and a universal experience that has a huge impact on the Soldier, the family and overall military readiness," she said.

Support throughout the mobilization cycle is one of the Army National Guard's top priorities in taking care of its Citizen-Soldiers.

"We need to be there for our returning heroes and their families, who often have unquantifiable periods of adjustment from the battlefields and forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan," said the forum's host, Brig. Gen. Renwick L. Payne, special assistant to the director of the Army National Guard.

The Army National Guard is well verse in topics related to taking care of Soldiers. "As the country's oldest military institution, the Army National Guard is a proud organization with 372 years experience in taking care of Soldiers and families," said Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn, director of the Army National Guard.

Wounded Warrior Awareness Day and Warrior Care Month are an excellent opportunity to highlight the innovative programs implemented by the Army National Guard, which safeguard the long-term health and well-being of those who answer the call to duty.

The day's events were organized by the Army National Guard's Soldier/Family Support and Services division headed by Erin Thede.