Commanders Notes

The Navy Gold Star (NGS) Program ensures that surviving families of deceased service members are not forgotten and remain part of the Navy family for as long as they desire. Survivors tell us that one of the greatest challenges they face in their grief journey is rebuilding resiliency as they transition to their new normal. A huge help in the resiliency building process for survivors is the reassurance that their loved one will never be forgotten and that they still can maintain their link to the Navy culture. Navy Gold Star’s mission is to connect with surviving family members of active duty death through engagement; creating a culture of remembrance.

Understanding a Survivor’s Potential Emotions

  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Change in appetite
  • Cries easily
  • Denial
  • Depression/sadness
  • Disbelief/shock
  • Distrust
  • Fear
  • Lack of motivation
  • No reaction
  • Numbness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Nightmares
  • Withdrawal


Addressing Loss and Grief

  • Send a letter of condolence.
  • Acknowledge the family’s feelings and listen.
  • Be patient.
  • Respect the family’s privacy.
  • Ensure the family doesn’t become isolated.
  • Check on the family periodically.
  • Encourage family members to get help (if needed).
  • Use the Sailor’s name.
  • Accept grief and anger as a normal reaction.
  • Listen quietly and non-judgmentally.
  • Honestly answer questions that you can answer.
  • Don’t try to answer the “why.”
  • Don’t be afraid of silence or tears.


What to Say

  • “My heart goes out to you at this most difficult time.”
  • “I know there is nothing I can say that will make your loss easier.”
  • “I cannot imagine how difficult this must be for you or your family.”
  • “I’m/we’re here for you. How can I/we help?”
  • “I’m at a loss for words.”


What Not to Say

  • “I know how you feel.”
  • “Everything will be alright.”
  • “God knows best.”
  • “It’s God’s will.”
  • “God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.”
  • “You’ll feel better in a month or so.”


Navy Gold Star Services

NGS coordinators connect survivors to support groups and grief and bereavement counselors, provide benefits milestone management, request copies of documents, and offer information and referral services, while providing survivors a safe and compassionate environment to experience their own unique grief.

Additionally, in times of emotional distress, figuring out what to do about finances can create a heavy burden. Personal financial counselors can provide education on investing, estate planning, tax issues, and basic budgeting. Financial counselors are there when survivors need them, for as long as they need them. Our counselors are committed to assisting survivors in creating financial success and ensuring they are provided the information necessary to make sound decisions.