Chapter 18: Combat Death: A Clinical Perspective

Jill Harrington-LaMorie and Betsy Beard, in their discussion of combat deaths, begin with a central demographic fact; most of the deaths in the military are younger individuals, often between the ages of 18 to 30, who die under violent and traumatic circumstances. Harrington-LaMorie and Beard’s chapter is extensive as they describe the numerous factors, such as the condition of the body, that might complicate grief, or the bereavement overload that might result from rapid relocation following a loss. Harrington-LaMorie and Beard are especially sensitive to the nature of death notification, acknowledging that how the reality of death is communicated can be a factor that affects subsequent grief. They also emphasize that grief over a soldier’s death may be disenfranchised by others, given the fact that the soldier choose “dangerous work” and thus suffered the consequences. Certainly we also need to remember that another disenfranchised group of grievers are soldiers who served alongside the deceased. As noted throughout the book, camaraderie is one of the more positive aspects of military culture. Yet in the currency of the mission and the throes of combat, the real grief that comrades feel is oft ignored.

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