Healing Grief in the Military

Given the sheer amount of time U.S. military forces have engaged in combat and operational missions over the past decade, experiencing the death of fellow service members has become a common occurrence. Also, service members are exposed to violent loss and have close relationships to the deceased; factors that pose the highest risk for grief-related problems.

HEAL (Healthy Experiences after Loss) is a web-based intervention that was developed to specifically target grief-related dysfunction. Internet-based interventions provide a promising, cost-effective mechanism for delivering interventions that can reach people who may not have the resources or inclination to seek specialty care. A recent study found that HEAL helped those who were showing signs of grief-related consequences after losing a loved one to cancer.

Given multiple barriers to care, service members often do not access or receive the care they need, making them susceptible to long-term impairment. HEAL-M (Healthy Experiences after Loss for the Military) uses the internet to deliver care to those who are experiencing noteworthy and impairing grief symptoms within combat and operational settings. The goal of HEAL-M is to reduce suffering in military personnel who are experiencing grief-related problems.

We aim to recruit approximately 40 military personnel presenting for mental health care at a military treatment facility (MTF). Those personnel endorsing grief-related problems will be offered a chance to participate in the web-based grief intervention (HEAL-M).

Overall, this project addresses a substantial care-gap in the military. The findings will provide more information about how loss impacts service members who protect this nation as well as potentially help those struggling with grief recover and heal from their painful losses.

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