History has carried the heavy burden of war. Those who have chosen to serve their country through the military bear a heavy emotional burden when they come home. For many, unpleasant memories resurface again and again – despite the fact that they have returned to a safe place. These internal wounds often go unhealed for a long time, and for some it never heals. Many veterans who had been deployed to war-ravaged regions of the world return as different people, frozen by the horror of traumatic losses.
In any traumatic experience, our body shuts down, unable to process what has happened. In time the body can re-adjust itself, realizing that the event is in the past, and can focus on the future. Those who have experienced endless traumatic events in war, however, often can’t recover internally; their body continues to react as if the event was still happening.
The military has a unique culture, one that is very different to civilian culture. Some discharged members may experience ‘culture shock’ as they try to adjust to civilian life and a civilian workplace. Some may find it hard to accept the difference between living as a private citizen and life in the military. Talking about an experience as a service member can be daunting. Not just because the individual may have to relive traumatic events, but because now those events are being shared with the others.
Memories are signposts depicting where we are in life, and – in relation to grief – where we are in our own healing process. Some memories simply dissipate because we no longer have need of them. Others remain to provide comfort, a sense of history, or a personal lesson. If, after a significant amount of time following a loss, difficult memories still evoke overwhelming emotions, our body may be asking us to address how the relationship affected our life in an adverse way.
Sharing memories can do just that – help address those influences in our lives so that we can begin healing.
To assist veterans in their journey toward healing, Rutland Area Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice (RAVNAH) is proud to offer Veterans’ Voices. Veterans’ Voices is a program that honors those who have served in the military, as well as active duty members – and the families who support their service. The program gives veterans, service members and military families a chance to share their stories about their lives and their experiences – and leave an enduring legacy behind.
Veterans’ Voices interviews are conducted between two people who know and care about each other. A trained facilitator from RAVNAH Hospice guides participants through the interview process. Participants receive a CD copy of their interview and, if desired, a copy will be archived at the Folk Life Center in Middlebury, VT.
RAVNAH believes that the simple act of listening tells veterans how much they matter, and by preserving that conversation for future generations, we assure them that they won’t be forgotten.
If you are interested in more information about our Veteran’s Voices program, or bereavement services available at Rutland Area Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice, contact Marc Miele at 770.1634 or firstname.lastname@example.org.