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I run a PR company for small companies. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world took off– here are the 9 steps I required to rebuild my life and career.

I run a PR company for small companies. After my brother died in Iraq, it felt like my world took off– here are the 9 steps I required to rebuild my life and career.
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a writer, the founder of a PR and design services firm, and an advocate for gold star families. She is the surviving sister of US Army Specialist Christopher Neiberger, who was killed in combat in Iraq in August 2007. After her brother's death and a separate medical emergency with her husband soon…
  • Ami Neiberger-Miller is a writer, the creator of a PR and style services firm, and a supporter for gold star households.
  • She is the surviving sis of US Army Specialist Christopher Neiberger, who was killed in combat in Iraq in August 2007.
  • After her brother’s death and a separate medical emergency situation with her partner soon after, Neiberger-Miller says she had a hard time to cope with the mourning procedure and pressure to go back to work as a self-employed company owner.
  • Neiberger-Miller discovered support in loved ones, and slowly started to alleviate back into her work routine. She says that although it’s not always possible to prepare for disaster, seeking help is a fundamental part of the course to recovery.
  • Go to Service Insider’s homepage for more stories

Picking up the pieces after a public tragedy is hard when you are self-employed.

In August 2007, my other half and I were living the dream– just 4 years earlier, I ‘d founded my own public relations practice just outside of Washington, DC.

We spent one picturesque day at the beach with the kids swimming and all of us in the sun and having enjoyable.

Then our lives– quite actually– exploded.

I understood on the way back that I ‘d missed a call from my mama, so I called her back and she didn’t get. I then called my auntie, who told me that my brother, United States Army Specialist Christopher Neiberger, age 22, was eliminated in battle that day when a roadside bomb exploded.

It seemed like my life also exploded because moment. I remember dropping the phone. I keep in mind hearing somebody yelling. I recognized that the individual yelling was me. It was the minute everything altered.

We rushed to my parents’ home in Florida. A news release was provided by the Army after our household was informed, and soon I was handling reporters not for my customers– but on behalf of my modest and mourning moms and dads.

Only 24 hours after I ‘d been carefree and pedaling on that beach bike, I sat down together with my 2 enduring siblings to talk with our hometown newspaper and tried to sum up what the legacy of my little brother would be.

I had turned in a magazine story simply before going to the beach and she needed me to check my interview notes and fix something.

I sent the modified copy to her standing with the laptop computer at the end of the driveway using a next-door neighbor’s WiFi signal, as my moms and dads were still on dial up.

However survive it we did.

We flew home to DC the next day to prepare yourself for the household to show up for the burial service. I anxiously vacuumed sand out of my living-room carpet, purchased towels due to the fact that I had no time at all to do laundry, answered the door for floral plans and casseroles, and made a plan to get everyone to the cemetery on time in rush hour traffic with the army casualty officer.

10 days after Chris was eliminated in fight in Iraq, he was buried in section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Ami Neiberger Miller Chip Somodevilla Getty Images ARLINGTON, VA - AUGUST 16: Brig. Gen. William B. Garrett (L) presents the flag to the family of U.S. Army Specialist Christopher Todd Neiberger during his burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery August 16, 2007 in Arlington, Virginia. Assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, 1st battalion, 18th infantry regiment, 2nd brigade combat team, Neiberger, 22, was killed by a roadside bomb August 6 in Baghdad, Iraq. Neiberger is the 360th military person killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Neiberger-Miller (right) with her household as they exist the flag during her sibling’s burial event at Arlington National Cemetery in August 2007 in Arlington, Virginia.

Chip Somodevilla/Staff/Getty Images.


The media covered the burial with our family’s approval, so there was video on the news and in newspapers around the nation.

I got up early the day after the burial service to say goodbye to my household and picked up the newspaper– there was a picture on the front page of the city section of The Washington Post showing us getting our flag the day previously at the cemetery. I made a psychological note to pick up a few more copies and started to return to bed– I was tired from the last 10 days.

My hubby and I took a look at each other and it resembled a light bulb went off in both of our heads. It was our wedding anniversary. We settled on cards and dinner. My hubby stated his stomach still hurt, and he believed he needs to see our medical professional. I always believe he’s a hypochondriac, because my papa is a physician, so I joked, “I’ll even drive you to the appointment because it’s our anniversary.” It was such a normalizing moment– a suggestion that we were “us” and life could in some way start again.

However even after all we ‘d simply been through, life still had other plans.

Our medical professional informed us to get back in the cars and truck and drive straight to the emergency clinic. Oh crap, I thought.

In the hospital, they called a doctor out of surgical treatment on someone else to take a look at my hubby. Now stress and anxiety began churning my stomach into ugly knots. I knew they wouldn’t do that unless there was something actually wrong.

And he had emergency situation surgery that night for a condition that could have eliminated him– an incarcerated hernia that, luckily, didn’t go septic.

We never got the cards. Or supper. A wicked nurse tossed me out of his hospital room.

I sat in the waiting room and wept into the very same Washington Post I ‘d gathered from my driveway that morning. In 11 days we went from being on vacation, to my brother dying, to that hospital waiting space. I was mentally now at all-time low.

Ideally absolutely nothing tragic ever happens to you. While my story may be distinct to me, all of us face battles in life. It’s challenging to figure out how to start once again, after catastrophe strikes. Here’s what I did to reconstruct, and my recommendations:

1. Start slow and require time off.

My husband had a month long recovery, so we did not participate in service conferences or networking occasions for a while– and fortunately much of DC shuts down in mid-August. Customer e-mails kept coming in. I mowed the lawn and we consumed some of the casseroles people had brought, and read our e-mail. We took our time to ease back into the rhythm of company life.

2. Continue to interact with your customers and contacts.

After a tragedy is when your customers and contacts need to speak with you. Some of them will legally care about you and want to know you are OKAY or how they can assist. Others will be worried about the ongoing work you do for them and how their work might be impacted by what you’ve gone through.

3. Lean on individuals you trust.

This is where having a network is a big reward. I had a friend who usually assisted cover press calls for my customers while I was out town on vacation each year. She assisted me beyond that first week, and understanding she was there to assist my customers offered me one less thing to fret about.

Read more: 7 ways entrepreneurs and business owners can better handle their psychological health and wellness

4. Keep your contact lists– not just your customer lists– and interaction systems up-to-date.

While I had a list of our active clients, I didn’t have a ready-made list of a few of our other contacts, like individuals we connected with or previous clients. We didn’t have a business e-newsletter (like we do now) that I might quickly send out a message out to or a service Facebook page. Having those would have made letting people know we were taking time off, and letting them understand when we reopened, a lot easier.

5. Signal when you are ready to begin working once again.

Just you understand when you are prepared. A few of your contacts or existing clients may wish to use brand-new work or get started on a project, but be not sure of your accessibility and not wish to trouble you. So you have to signify that you are all set again for business– whether that means you compose e-mails, or you make phone calls, or send out an e-newsletter and make a Facebook post.

In those first couple of weeks back in the office, I was sent out two proposals and invited to bid on them.

Check Out more: A business owner offered his style company to Salesforce after having a psychotic break in his early 30 s.

Thanks to good health insurance, we didn’t deal with a big costs from my other half’s emergency situation surgery.

9. Look for help when you need it.

I started returning “out there” at networking events and it wasn’t all great. At a females in company networking occasion, everyone attending needed to get up in front of the whole group and discuss their organization and household. I did fine on the business part, however when I got to the household part I wept and felt ashamed. The truth was that I had spent a lot time tending to everyone else and their needs in all of this– that somewhere deep inside I had forgotten to look after myself. I found help with a therapist and the peer assistance of other gold star households.

Life can alter in an immediate and today we may all feel like we are living in a state of continuous crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Making some preparations– whether it involves getting your financial resources or insurance in order, keeping your records and contact lists straight, or being flexible and taking care of yourself– can give you stability and boost your comfort.

Ami Neiberger-Miller founded Steppingstone LLC, an acclaimed independent company near Washington, DC in 2003 offering public relations, writing, graphic style and website style services. She is the enduring sis of US Army Specialist Christopher Neiberger, who was eliminated in combat in Iraq on August 6, 2007 and she stays a supporter for other gold star families. Connect with her on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook

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