Yes, People, the Families DO Matter!

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

The day a person even insinuates that a group of people doesn’t matter is the day they fall into that dangerous, deadly human trap – apathy.

If the family members of veterans didn’t matter, why are there so many outreach efforts intended to give them emotional support? While I’m sure nobody, unless they were being deliberately cruel, would state that vet families don’t matter outright, plenty of people, by their words and actions do hint that what they go through isn’t important.

When a status was posted on social media in recent months about veterans with PTSD, a comment rightfully pointed out that the families go through a lot, too. The OP’s, response was something to the effect of how pointing that out “doesn’t help the veterans”.

Seeing as how the OP has never been in that position that I’m aware of, she certainly doesn’t know what it’s like. Many family members of veterans with PTSD, particularly if the vet also has addiction issues as my late father did, go through their own hell on earth because of it.

Why does this matter? Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind:

  • People with PTSD and substance abuse issues who don’t get help do need it – without help, they are endangering themselves and others around them. Sometimes recognizing the hell their loved ones go through is what it takes for them to see their need for help.
  • Just because the spouse (or ex-spouse) and the children didn’t serve doesn’t make their lives any less valuable. To send the message that civilians impacted by a veteran’s trauma don’t matter shows the same type of callous disregard that many of our country’s leaders have for military and veteran families in general.
  • Glossing over the experiences of the families also shows a lack of respect for who the veteran is as a person. To act as though a veteran’s existence revolves completely around their identity as a veteran and nothing else shows no regard for them as an individual. Most do, of course, value their family members and to see others show such little regard for their loved ones hurts them, too.

In a nutshell, it’s safe to say that denying a veteran’s family’s need for help does more harm than good. No person, veteran or civilian, is an island, and true healing can only occur when all sides are considered.

The Siren Call We May Miss

Scream and shout

First of all, I’d like to thank Sister Gloriamarie (knitternun)  both for inspiring this post and for her support of the Facebook page I’ve created that offers help and hope to veteran families. My hope is that my  Hope and Healing for Veteran Families Facebook page will be a safe refuge for children, spouses, exes, friends and others who want to help a veteran in their lives or need healing from trauma inflicted by one no longer in their lives.

One of the things I’ve had to cope with since my biological father’s passing is people treating him as an exalted being who never did or was even capable of wrongdoing. In their eyes, his status as a perceived war hero absolved him of any wrongdoing.

I’ll be blunt: my father was not free from any taint of sin from the moment of his conception. Nor was he a monster, he was a good person at heart who never overcame his personal demons. However, his PTSD symptoms were significantly aggravated by his drinking habits, and many people in his life did little or nothing to help him.

As Gloriamarie said, the symptoms of PTSD are a siren call for help. Like sailors of old myths and legends, many people who ignore said siren call have to witness or be part of a shipwreck – in this case, the shipwreck of a life ruined by mental illness and/or alcohol abuse.

There are many reasons people ignore siren calls, one of them being pure and simple denial. It’s easier to believe that someone you love just “enjoys a few beers” and that their behavior is essentially harmless than believe they can cause some to fear for their very safety.

For some it’s easier to think that the more outrageous behaviors are something to laugh at. After all, how many people want to believe that behavior that horribly embarasses one family member is anything other than said family member being overly sensitive?

Unfortunately, for others, it’s easier to think that those who had to deal with a veteran who refused serious help were making things up or exaggerating. I think it’s all part of the denial game, assigning the blame to others instead of facing the fact that their loved one needs help.

Hindsight is better than foresight by a long shot. It’s impossible to know whether a marriage may have been salvaged or whether a parent may have mended a relationship with a child they alienated.

However we can, to a certain extent, control what happens going forward. The best way to build a bridge between yourself and others harmed by the same person – stop making frikkin’ excuses!

Don’t just chalk things up to the fact that they were drinking when they said hurtful, hateful, relationship-destroying words – recognize that words cannot be unsaid, and the wounds may not fully heal.

Never, ever, treat drunken antics as though they’re a joke – such behavior can impact others in the person’s life that their perception as a hero won’t fix.

Lastly, don’t put your head in the sand and ignore a veteran in your life that is crying for help by their actions. Recognize that sometimes they won’t allow their spouse or children in too deeply emotionally – it may fall on those in their lives prior to marriage or children to have influence in their recovery.

If it’s now too late, don’t dishonor your loved one’s memory by making excuses, making light of others’ suffering, or refusing to acknowledge the role of their brokeness. Do honor their memory by showing love, mercy and compassion to those they hurt the most in their lives – don’t turn your backs on them, you do need them, even if you can’t let see it.

 

Save

Save