For family members, friends and co-workers who have lost a loved one in the line of duty, attending their first National Police Week can be a trying time.
This issue has been one of the main focuses for the group Concerns of Police Survivors for close to 30 years.
COPS spokeswoman Sara Slone spoke to Officer.com about how the organization helps survivors cope with their loss and prepares them for their visit to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
"We kind of hold their hand so that they don't have to think about it," she said. "They can just attend, and enjoy it the best they can."
The group was founded by Suzie Sawyer, a former National Secretary of the Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary, in 1984 and will be will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2014.
Sawyer served as the group's executive director up until her retirement in 2011.
The group's current president, Madeline Neumann, will be in attendance at the 25th Annual Candlelight Vigil at the memorial on May 13, which will stream live on Officer.com.
Each year, the group holds conference sessions for survivors during Police Week. This year the classes will be held on May 14 and 16, ranging in topics aimed at surviving parents to ones focused on co-workers.
"They're all very specific when it comes to the type of survivor," Slone said. "There's such a broad range of topics and we make sure that there's something for everyone there."
Connecting With Survivors
After a law enforcement officer dies in the line of duty, COPS receives notification from the officer's agency along with contact information for family members.
"We start working with the families immediately," Slone said. "We give them some breathing room obviously, but usually they reach out to us or the department gives us the go-ahead."
In preparation for Police Week, COPS works with surviving families to set up hotel and travel arrangements and briefs them on the week's events.
"We walk them through what's going to happen; especially for the first-year survivors who have no idea what's going on and it's already so overwhelming for them," she said.
"We do whatever we can to make this an easy and memorable event for them."
Aside from helping survivors prepare for Police Week, the group also helps assist families in receiving death benefits, as well as other services.
Sloane stressed that the group is active throughout the year, not just during Police Week, and that events and retreats are held for both adults and children.
The group thrives off of the bond shared by the survivors themselves and the support shown to new survivors by those who know what they are dealing with.
"I think that the reason that Concerns of Police Survivors has been around so long is that the past survivors, they really have had their lives rebuilt," she said. "That's our motto: Rebuilding shattered lives."
Slone said that survivors who have already gone through the grieving process are able to come back and let new survivors know that they're not alone and that things really do get better.
"I think that attending and honoring their loved ones -- even from 20 years ago -- is just as rewarding for them as reaching out their hands to the newest survivors."
Officer.com will be covering all of the events leading up to and during National Police Week, which runs from May 12-18. For full coverage, Click Here.