“While there has been abundant research quantifying war’s psychological impact, much of it has focused on PTSD, depression, and substance or alcohol abuse associated with combat exposure, there has been limited focus on grief among veterans.”Pauline Lubens
UCI Studies Grief in Veterans
In World War I we heard the term SHELL SHOCK. In World War II we heard COMBAT FATIGUE. After Vietnam we didn’t hear much new unless it was in regard to how many Americans viewed returning veterans in a negative light. Then by the 1980s we had PTSD to label veterans suffering from a variety of illnesses that were previously undiagnosed or ignored.
PTSD trickles down through our DNA into future generations. Growing up in a household where PTSD exists can create this in children and other family members. Any traumatic situation we find ourselves in can create PTSD symptoms.
With all the studies on PTSD and veterans, one primary component, especially when we look at veteran suicide is GRIEF. Yet, grief has not been studied until recently. Grief also creates issues for not only the veteran but the family and friends close to the veteran.
Unresolved, unacknowledged grief over what someone did in combat, or did not do, who they lost, survivor’s guilt and sadness of being the only one left, and many other ways veterans hold grief all contribute to their state of mind, the life they live, the joy (or lack of )they feel. This unresolved grief also affects those closest to them.
Finally, the University of California Irvine conducted a study on grief in veterans. You can read about it here. It is interesting what they discovered and how it deeply affects veterans, even separately from any PTSD they may have or had, and how it affects families.
A radio interview was done with the Ph.D. student who conducted the study and several listeners called in to contribute to the conversation, including a female Graves Registration Service soldier. The interview is powerful and full of many themes I feel we should all be exploring with our own families – even if we have to go back to our WWII or Korean War veterans to ask questions and look for family patterns. Grief is something passed down also.
Exploring Grief in Your Family History
In our society we are taught/trained/told to buck up, shove things inside, deal with it and move on, or solve a problem, when we talk about grief. We are given 2-3 days of leave from our jobs if someone in the family dies. Apparently all we need is 2-3 days to deal with arrangements, grieve, forget and move on. Our western society has not done a good job helping people to learn how to grieve, or explain why it is important to do so.
I invite you to explore the times and places in your life and family history where there was an opportunity to grieve and instead you pushed it away or did not fully deal with it. Consider the cost of that to yourself, your health, your family life, your history. How did your family veterans handle grief? How did their spouses and children? How do you? How can you begin to change this?
Do you need a resource to help you? I am taking a couple of courses with Shauna Janz through Sacred Grief. I am finding these grieving courses extremely helpful. I encourage you to check them out. I wrote an article about her Healing Conversations class here.
The website What’s Your Grief is also full of resources and articles. Have you explored this site?
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