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.