Archive for November, 2009


“After I looked at Veterans’ Children, I began thinking how much my childhood had many of the qualities you describe about your own,” an acquaintance emailed me last week.  “But my parents weren’t veterans.  They came to America to escape pogroms in Russia.”   Another email said “I think my mother must have had PTSD from living through the blitz bombings in London during WWII.”

Though this website focuses on the aftermath of a veteran’s trauma, people whose parents are not veterans are recognizing their own childhoods in the stories.

Trauma is not for the soldier alone.  Trauma seems an inevitable part of the human condition.  A hurricane, a car wreck, random violence, hate crimes.

Whenever a parent suffers shock or even prolonged stress, their personality and behavior change.  Without some form of healing, the change manifests itself in either melancholy or tension filling a house.  And the children absorb that energy.

A cruel characteristic of the young human brain is that children see themselves as being the cause of every effect they perceive.  So they blame themselves for the unhappiness or anger they feel within their families.  This perception of responsibility creates a desperate assignment to make it all better by making our parents happy.  But when our bringing cookies to our father, our performing little plays for our mother, our being the perfect student or athlete does not work, what can we think but that we are not good enough, not loveable enough, not inherently valuable?

As we would give anything to win our parents’ approval, we take on their moodiness, depression, or anger.  We breathe in their pain.

My hope is that by recognizing the dynamic between a veteran with PTSD and their children, we will begin to understand and care about the ripple effect of trauma.  Then we might develop the capacity to see how trauma is self-perpetuating.  It’s a universal pattern that we see most clearly today in veterans’ families.  This is because our society is finally recognizing veterans’ PTSD.  Perhaps if we could see how often domestic violence and familial histories of depression or feuding result from trauma that keeps repeating itself in every generation, we might begin to find the motivation to heal ourselves and one another.  And change our violent ways.

Can we imagine ending the pain and nurturing children free of horrors they never suffered or witnessed?  Free to reveal a humanity where a child’s joy thrives undiminished.

The Multigenerational Ripple of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The Multigenerational Ripple of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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Last week, on Veterans’ Day, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki spoke to a group of young veterans and asked if any of them suffered from PTSD.

No one raised their hand.

The retired general then asked:  “How many of you have a little trouble sleeping at night?”

Several hands went up.

“How many of you are overly vigilant about protecting your home?”

More hands went up.

“How many of you are having nightmares or find yourself having difficulty managing your anger?”

After several questions, almost every veteran in the room had raised their hands.

Why, then, did no one raise their hand when the Secretary first asked if anyone suffered PTSD?  With all the information now available about PTSD, do soldiers and veterans still not have critical information?  Or is it that PTSD still carries a stigma, a holdover of the belief throughout the 20th century that post traumatic stress disorder is a sign of weakness?

Shinseki went to great pains to describe the fall out of multiple deployments, how a soldier loses “resiliency” from repeatedly placing themselves in harm’s way.  He is working to ensure that the VA better tracks a veteran’s health after their deployment and/or service ends.

While that is good to hear, it doesn’t make clear what information soldiers receive about the dangers combat presents to their mental health.  Nor does it address the perception that PTSD carries a stigma.

But beyond these substantial obstacles to a veteran’s recognizing and addressing how symptoms of PTSD there is an even more formidable one:  a profound resistance to admitting that one’s spirit, one’s essential self, has been disfigured.

Because what part of us does the trauma of war wound?  PTSD has been categorized as an anxiety disorder, a mental health issue, the province of mental health experts. And just as the primary treatment for mental health illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is pharmaceuticals that help balance the brain’s chemistry, so is the mainstream approach to PTSD to prescribe drugs- very serious drugs.  But there is little evidence of that approach healing PTSD.

One of the pioneers in healing veterans suffering from PTSD is Dr. Edward Tick who sees PTSD as indicating a deep wound to the soul that resulted from moral trauma. Most mental health professionals define trauma as any event that creates a sense of imminent death.  While that is certainly a common experience in war, a more fundamental aspect of becoming a soldier is becoming trained to kill and assimilating the belief that war permits killing the enemy.  What had been evil is now permissible. In the case of soldiers who become witnesses to atrocity, the meaning of evil itself becomes more than the mind can bear.  This new moral framework takes a terrible toll on the soldier, a toll that often does not become evident for months, even years after service has ended.

The soldier returns, not the “same boy” who left home.  How excruciating and terrifying to look into a mirror and see a stranger-  a disfigured stranger, a person robbed of their core beliefs and self-image, a loss that cuts off from their community.

If we are to take care of our veterans and end the cycle of trauma, we must speak the truth about PTSD.  It is a soul to the wound that drugs and traditional therapy cannot cure.  As Dr. Tick has discovered from years of working with Native Americans and ancient mythologies, healing comes from making “the difficult inner pilgrimage to discover the sources of the suffering, and work(ing) hard to give meaning to the wounding, and find(ing) ways to reconcile and forgive.”  (War and the Soul:  Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from PTSD, Quest Books, 2005)

Rather than continuing to treat veterans suffering PTSD with the mechanical support of drugs and isolated therapy, let us provide spiritual support.  Let us help them create meaning for their wounds and find forgiveness- for us as well as for themselves.

The Multigenerational Ripple of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Category : Uncategorized | Blog
Welcome to Veterans’ Children

As I was growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s, more than anything I yearned for my father to pay attention to me, to be with me, not just in body but in spirit.  Because even when he spent time with me, he wasn’t there.  His eyes always rested on some distant point on the horizon, some place I could not see when I looked out at the direction of his gaze.  “See me,” I cried silently. See me.

It wasn’t until I was a grown woman when I discovered the photographs in his Army trunk four days after his death that I began to understand what had kept his eyes entranced, his lips sealed together during dinner, his arms pressed against his torso as I hugged him hello and goodbye.

My father was a doctor during World War II, and while he mentioned landing at Utah Beach on D-Day right behind the first wave of troops, the push through France and into Germany, the brutal Battle of the Bulge, he never mentioned the slave labor camp outside the town of Nordhausen, the camp, I came to learn after he passed away at age 80, that he helped liberate in April 1945. As I held the black and white photographs I found buried at in his army trunk my first reaction was shock. My mind could not accept what the horrific images told me: that my father had witnessed the evil heart of the Holocaust.  It took me almost ten years to ask his last surviving sibling what she knew. After two weeks of treating survivors at the camp he suffered a “mental breakdown” and was sent to the Riviera for “R&R.”

Over the next few years, as I met and talked with other veterans who had liberated the camps, I realized my father’s silent distance and melancholy had been manifestations of his PTSD, which had, in turn, created the conditions that led to my depression. Today I understand that it was his PTSD that made it impossible for him to acknowledge my grief from losing my mother when I was five. Until his death he steadfastly refused to speak about her, to explain her sudden disappearance from our lives. For him, as is true for many people who suffer from PTSD, any emotion at all must have felt like a mortal danger.

We children of traumatized veterans grow up sensing something is wrong, yet we cannot grasp let alone disperse the thick haze that surrounds us. Only when we go out into the world, have children of our own, begin creating our lives separate from our parents’ do we begin to discover finally within ourselves signs of our parents’ wounds, wounds that have left imprints within our spirits.

For some of us, those imprints manifest themselves as being more comfortable with distance than with intimacy. For others it is not knowing the difference between the healthy expression of anger and explosive rage. And for others it is a shying away from all emotions as they might open up the pain of buried memories.

Each of us has struggled to create our own paths even while honoring our parents’ histories. But then if we are fortunate enough to meet another child of a veteran who shares our experiences, we experience a profound connection that validates and supports us, informs and directs us, sustains us, energizes us to reach out to others and connect back to and be present for our parents.   All this helps to heal us.

That is what this Web site seeks to be- a widening of the path to healing the wounds of war, for the child of the veteran and for the veteran.  Let us tell our stories to one another because in sharing, we learn, forgive, and understand and heal.  In sharing we heal ouselves and one another.

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مبلمان اداری صندلی مدیریتی صندلی اداری میز اداری وبلاگدهی فروشگاه اینترنتی گن لاغری شکم بند لاغری تبلیغات کلیکی آموزش زبان انگلیسی پاراگلایدر ساخت وبلاگ بوی دهان بوی بد دهان