The holidays are usually a joyous time. But military families dealing with great loss, it can be difficult.
Resources like Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors or TAPS prides itself on helping these families regain their sense of normalcy.
TAP counselors say the second year after the death of a loved one can be the hardest on those left behind and Holly Conrad is seeing that first hand.
Holly Conrad lost her husband T.J. last year. His platoon was shot at by Afghani forces. He found himself in the crossfire and was killed. Since then, life and the holidays haven't been easy for her and her young son Bentley.
"I know how excited he would be…He loved Christmas."
When Holly heard the news of her husband's death, she was lost. A new mother, she was left to raise her child alone. Bentley was just 7 months old when his father died.
"After they told me, I just cried and cried and cried, I didn't know what to do."
But this organization, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors or TAPS, stepped in. It's helped so many like Holly put the pieces back together and offer a unique, one-stop-shop kind of support.
"They send you this survival kit. They tell you about your benefits, and they tell you all the things that they offer like the peer mentor."
Holly's mentor is also a widow raising children on her own. Holly says she help with things she never could anticipate with such a great loss.
"The peer mentor is wonderful. It's nice to talk to talk to somebody who's been through it and who knows how you feel."
TAPS offers everything from retreats, meetings, and support and grief services. But it's much more to Holly and Bentley.
"It's really wonderful to see all these people who care about my husband's sacrifice."
Holly says losing her husband never gets easier but you learn how to live life differently.
"He gave his life not only for his country but for his family and the best way to honor is to live our lives and give Bentley the best life possible."
Her holiday message to T.J. is a simple yet one that moved her to tears.
"We miss him and we love him and we wish he was here."
TAPS is based out of Northern Virginia but helps people all over the world. If you or someone you know needs TAPS' services, click here: http://www.taps.org/