Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bittersweet Joy

We literally had two staff members working on this today, at the same time, without knowing the other one was, too.  Talk about the whole  "great minds think alike" thing.  And, since we are receiving SO many e-mails on this topic, we decided it couldn't hurt to post both articles!

The Family of a Vet family has been experiencing immense joy at the current news regarding Usama Bin Laden.  However, we have started to receive an overwhelming amount of emails from you regarding your loved ones with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how to help them handle this.

For some veterans, bin Laden's death has brought closure.  For others, it has re-opened the wounds that have cut deep into their lives.  For most, it has done both.  Dealing with this bittersweet feeling can be even more troubling.

Here's some Family of a Vet tips for dealing with this special time in our lives.

#1.  Don't be afraid to celebrate.  Someone who was an enemy of our country for over a decade has been brought to justice.  There is joy in that.  It's okay to have joy in that feeling.

#2.  Don't be afraid to mourn again for those you have lost.  Bin Laden's death has brought back to the surface our memories of those who have died during the war on terror.  Mourn again.  It's okay.  Give your entire family the space to do this.  Remember, your family must also mourn the losses that were not fatal.  Your family has suffered much because of this man and you must mourn for your own losses.

#3.  After mourning (or as part of it), celebrate their lives again.  Remember the sacrifices they have made, but do not fear to celebrate the life they had while on this earth with us.  A corny video of buddies goofing around, pictures of pre-deployment activities, and other memorabilia has a place now.

#4.  Take out some memorabilia from your family's OWN military history.  Talk a bit to your kids about it if they were too young to remember.  Daddy's spurs, Mommy's ribbons she wore.  These emotions are all at the surface again.  It's okay to talk about the deployment and let it out.  The more we talk about it, the more we can find it a place in our memories and move forward.

#5.   It's also okay to talk about when your loved one was wounded.  If you have a family member with physical injuries and/or an evac situation, this is the time to talk about that.  It's all at the surface.  No excavating is necessary.  Find points to laugh about.  In our family, I literally yelled at my husband when I got to the hospital because I was so frustrated with him waiting to get wounded until 3 weeks before he was due home.  It's a source of laughter and joy now...and that's okay.

#6.  Spend some time alone.  Give each other space to help you sort through all your own feelings about  this.  It's a real challenge and handling this with grace and dignity takes strength and courage.

#7.  Reach out to others.  The entire FOV staff has leaned on each other during this time.  We ask you to please lean on those you know who will understand - both virtually and in real life.  The world is full of millions of veterans.  Reach out and find them. (If you don't have anywhere to do this, our Facebook page is a good start and has lots of people who are in the same "boat" as you: http://www.facebook.com/lifeaftercombat)

#8.  Smile.  Really.  It's okay.  I give you permission.  :)  In all honesty, it's okay to smile.  It's okay to reach out and find joy.

#9.  I know we've said this before, but get back in life!  If ever there was a time to put one foot in front of the other and start finding your path back to life, love, and joy, this is it!  Try to add at least 1 thing you love into your life every couple of weeks and start to find balance in the world past your pain.

# 10.  Go through FOV articles for more information on dealing with PTSD and STS (or secondary PTSD).  Some of our best ideas are already on this site just waiting for you to find them.  As always, our staff of volunteers is here to help you in any way we can!

Heather A. Hummert
Proud Wife of a Purple Heart OIF Veteran
Contributions Coordinator for Family of a Vet ~ an organization dedicated to improving the quality of family life for OIF/OEF veterans.

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