For all the years I have been doing genealogy and military research, I have heard from clients, friends, and family, ‘I wish I would have asked my dad or mom (or grandma or grandpa)……. about their military service.’ Even I have uttered those words. Time runs out, the individual dies, and the questions can not be asked. Sometimes we don’t even know we had a question until we dive deeper into the genealogy or military research or our personal and ancestral healing.
Perhaps the most common question I’ve heard clients and friends say is, ‘I would like to understand what he experienced so I know why he was the way he was….[insert angry, rageful, abandoned me, abused me, was depressed, an alcoholic, a drug abuser, anxious, etc.]’
There is a way we can better understand the experiences of our family member while in service or combat. We can explore those ‘tiny’ details we may have missed when we started researching.
SS Joshua Hendy – 1 June 1944
Last week I started looking again at the deck logs for the ships my grandfather was on and some new details stood out. This is an example of an entry on the deck log for the SS Joshua Hendy for 1 June 1944.
Pay attention to the event at 1039. While this event of striking a reef and the ship rolling and righting itself may not have been a combat event and may have been “not such a big deal” compared to what the men witnessed and experienced on other days, this event may have impacted the men on this ship.
Can you for a moment put yourself in the shoes of someone on that ship? Do you lose your balance unexpectedly? Hear noises that are out of context for a ship moving through clear waters? Wonder if you were hit and will you sink? Anxiety runs through you and you wonder if you must run to your battle station or prepare to abandon ship.
How might those thoughts and emotions affected the sailor in that moment, later that day or even weeks or months later if not addressed and processed? When we do not process events that affect us, it can become frozen in our body and a trigger later may unleash the old trauma which may have been forgotten. However, when in the course of war, event after event happens and is unprocessed, repressed and not processed when the veteran returns home, the accumulation can create a lot of issues for the veteran and his or her family for years to come.
Exploring the records with fresh eyes and paying attention to the smaller details can give us a better idea what shaped the person we are researching.
My Invitation To You
Write down the questions you have about your family member(s) that were never answered, or not answered when maybe they could have been.
Write down the issues your veteran or family member had that might have been related to war trauma. You can do the same for inherited trauma and family abuse.
Take your genealogy or military research papers out and look at them with fresh eyes. What do you notice?
Make notes about the ‘tiny’ details you find that might help explain why someone was the way they were or how that detail might answer a question.
What have you learned about your ancestor?
What have you learned about yourself?
Optional: Write a letter to the person you are researching and ask your questions or explain how you feel about how they behaved or treated you. Set the intention that your words and feelings reach their higher self. You can light a candle or set a circle of protection around yourself before you begin writing if you choose. When you are finished, burn the letter and send the energy of it to the universe for transformation.
This can be a very healing exercise. I have been writing letters to living people the last several months that I would like to share my feelings with, but know it will not be received by the person or I need to get it out of my system so I can heal. I have noticed that I always feel better and my healing goes a little deeper and the living person shifts after I do this exercise and they usually don’t know it. Everything works out for all our highest good when we take the time to process and release.
© 2021 WWII Research & Writing Center