Monday Momism: A United Front
Several times I have been referred to as the battle buddy here at home. The first time was by my son’s former Commander so I consider it an honor. Most of you reading this are in my position, whether you are a spouse, parent or sibling of a combat veteran. The most painful battles here at home, though, aren’t with the VA system. They are in our own homes.
I’ve heard spouses complain about in-laws and parents complain about their adult child’s significant other. I’ve experienced it myself. In truth, we all have. We need to understand a few things about PTSD and TBIs and the first is that it’s not anyone’s fault, not the veteran who fought overseas and not the family who waited here at home. So friends and loved ones, let’s stop placing blame and start understanding.
Some combat veterans are married. This could very well mean that the parents have not had the actual up-close day-to-day experiences a spouse is having with the visitor brought home from war: PTSD. Mom and Dad, if this is the case, it is going to be harder for you to understand but the best thing you can do is a simple three-letter word: try. Do you want to know what your son or daughter experienced? Talk to another combat vet. It will pull at your heartstrings. Why another vet? Because even after war, our loved ones subconsciously want to protect us from what they continue to live with in their memories and nightmares.
Hopefully you noticed this is listed as a Monday Momism, which are the posts written here on the blog by the moms of combat veterans. Don’t assume that this is a spouse pointing the finger at a parent. This is a parent understanding what a spouse is going through on the levels of being the next of kin who lives with that person. A lot of our combat veterans went to war as teenagers who were single. My son was nineteen when he first went over.
We parents have those within the family who don’t understand as well. Sometimes it’s extended family members, sometimes a girlfriend/boyfriend or new spouse to either the veteran or even the parent. I have been fortunate in the fact that my spouse understands and accepts that my son came home with baggage.
There are wounds easily seen such as the loss of a limb. There are wounds that can be seen only with an MRI or an EEG such as a brain injury. Then there are wounds that can’t be seen because they are symptoms of memories those of us here at home cannot fathom or imagine. When a police officer is involved in a shooting, they are placed on desk duty and given psychiatric evaluations. Soldiers have to stay on patrol or return to it immediately. They don’t see a medic about the headaches that started the night they lost a comrade in an explosion. To them it is selfish to do so. They don’t take the time to write down the time and date of an IED explosion nearby or they would be constantly writing and not paying attention to their surroundings.
The truth is, the person the veteran lives with is going to be the one to see the symptoms of PTSD and a TBI the most vividly. If you are the spouse or parent of a single veteran, we want you to know that you are not alone. If you are the extended family member or parent of a married veteran, do some research on the symptoms and causes. Show some compassion and try not to be judgmental. I know that you may want to blame the family member closest to the veteran, and believe me, I would much rather be some nosy over-anxious mom of the same wonderful son I raised than the parent of someone forever changed by what he went through. The truth is, though, he doesn’t come home alone. Things are never the same again. The energy put into blaming the family member could better be served in understanding.
If you were directed here by the spouse or parent of a combat veteran, it is because that person loves the same person you do and wants all of you to join together in understanding and being a united front. The pacing isn’t because there is animosity between them. It is because the veteran’s mind is racing and he or she doesn’t like to go to sleep because of the nightmares, which then leads to sleeping in the daytime. The arguing isn’t because the family member is to blame but because the veteran subconsciously knows this person will still be there in spite of the moments of frustrations.
Our soldiers needed each other in the battle zone, now they and their immediate family members need the extended family here at home, if not to step in to help, then at least to understand and not judge. We feel guilty enough because although our loved ones did come home, we still lost a part of them over there, giving us our own form of survivors’ guilt. We don’t ask that you take it all on, we simply ask that you be a little more understanding, especially since we know you love them, too. A united front can help all of us more than you realize.