Monday, October 25, 2010

Will you love them enough to learn?

Chaplain Kathie

My husband was married before we met. He was married soon after he came back from Vietnam. During their six years together, she didn't want to know about Vietnam, had no tolerance for his nightmares, flashbacks or short term memory loss. She didn't want to hear anything about Vietnam and they separated so many times he lost count. She just couldn't take it and this, this was when his PTSD was mild.

His Dad, a WWII veteran with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, didn't want to talk to him about war at all other than a few stories about some of his friends. His Mom didn't want to talk to him about anything other than what she wanted him to do for her.

Friends didn't want to listen and he never felt he could talk to any of them even if they were willing to listen. A few of them were also Vietnam veterans but they didn't talk about much either. There was no communication and no support. They had nothing to really connect. No emails with buddies back home in the states. No news reports from around the country. No books on PTSD with personal stories were written. There were only clinical books for me to read when we met and I wanted to find out why this veteran was so much different than everyone else in my family.

My Dad was a disabled Korean Vet and my uncles served in WWII. My husband was totally different.

Today there is the Internet, books, videos, media attention, sites like this one putting together news reports from around the country and more programs than I can remember, yet today there are still high numbers of divorce, suicides and attempted suicides with more and more veterans ending up homeless from Iraq and Afghanistan. Their families and friends are not perfect. Most of them have the same attitude my husband's inner circle did when they could have been trying to be supportive instead of telling him to "get over it" and stop.

Today wives like me are no longer left in the abyss trying to claw their way out alone because they have a lifeline to reach for, but too many never take hold of it. Their families, spouse and kids, suffer just as much as they do but they have the power to end the suffering and begin the healing. They have the power within their reach but they just won't take it.

Do they love their veteran enough to learn? Do they care enough to find out what they can do to help instead of judge and blame?

My husband's ex-wife didn't care enough to find out what she was facing and their marriage ended after six years. We've been married for 26 years and with all the heartache and struggles, I wouldn't have missed a day of it because in the process of learning what I could do for him, I discovered a more marvelous man under all the pain he carried.

All of us can discover the people they really are under all the pain when we care enough to learn and help them heal. In the process, we heal ourselves, forgive what caused us pain because we understand what is behind it and know how to respond to help them see the person they are under all of it.


  1. I have seen your blog a few times. In your last post you write about wives of vets theses days have more options to get help or talk about the issues.

    But I wanted to know, what is it like for the spouses of female vets who have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan with PTSD? Do they stay around, do they get help?
    Often when women are sick, their husbands leave, is this true for vets in your experience? If you've had chaplaincy experience with this, would you be willing to write a blog post about it for a women's news site?

    amy cross

  2. Amy,
    Thanks for asking. First all of us need to be aware of some basic facts on humans in general. Some will never care about anyone else when it really matters, so nothing we can tell them will do any good or make any real changes. In the case of a veteran, male or female, our goal needs to help them understand what they need to know and then how to forgive the people in their lives who decided to walk away. That's a tough one but it is possible. Many veterans, male and females find me when their families have already fallen apart. Then my work changes to helping them first then helping them to forgive. This opens the door for the next time someone comes into their lives for them to know what real, lasting love is and to know they deserve to be loved.

    For women it's a bit harder because we are the Moms but their husbands can learn the same way women do. My point about this piece was that when Vietnam vets came home, there was nothing for wives like me discovering we had been inlisted into the military when we never fired a shot. We didn't go to war, it came for us because we fell in love with a veteran. A lot of us lost the battle and our husbands died or left or we kicked them out but a lot of us made it long past what an average marriage could.

    As I said, 26 years for us is nothing compared to some of my friends lasting over 40 years. Their husbands were still serving in Vietnam when they got married and they lasted because they loved their spouse enough to learn how to help them.

    I would be happy to write anytime for any site. The more people know, the more we can win this fight against PTSD and save our families.

  3. Awesome Kathie. Thank you for having the courage to share your heart and personal struggles of your family here for others to gain from.

    Many will be given love and support through articles like this. God Bless you and your family.

  4. Thank you Jim!

    It breaks my heart that so many are suffering when none of it has to happen. In a way, when I am helping them understand this, I am helping the "me" I was in 1982 and feeling totally lost and alone.

    Thank you for all you do to help them heal too. I wish they all knew God the way we do so they could know they are loved.


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