Grief is a tricky thing. It ebbs and flows and can turn our realities upside down and inside out. Unresolved grief can span generations and consume the living in ways we may not realize. Have you ever considered how the unresolved grief from World War II may still be lingering in your family and how it might be affecting you?
There are many types of grief one can experience. One in particular is called ambiguous loss. This term was coined by Dr. Pauline Boss and refers to a lack of information and closure that surrounds the loss of a loved one. Many military families throughout time and all wars have experienced this type of loss when their loved one has been declared MIA (Missing In Action), KIA (Killed In Action), or is unrecoverable.
This may be because their service member’s remains are in a location that is not conducive to retrieval (think a plane down in the Pacific Ocean). Perhaps they are known to be Killed on a certain day in a battle, but there was nothing left to retrieve or the remains are comingled with others. Additionally, the remains may have been where they fell for so long that nothing remains. There are other options that exist but these are a few.
I have been working on some new WWII projects and one in particular for an Aviation Electrician’s Mate named Frank L. Peterson. Frank served in the U.S. Navy as a gunner on an aircraft stationed on the USS Belleau Wood CVL24 in 1945. Sadly Frank was KIA on 27 March 1945 when his torpedo bomber was hit by “friendly” anti-aircraft fire and it crashed as an emergency landing on the ship was attempted. The plane ended up in the ocean. Frank will never be recovered. His family was informed of the event that led to his death (I’ve heard stories), but it leaves me wondering how they processed their grief, if they processed, and how the family is impacted today.
With many clients I’ve worked with over the last 13 years, many have suffered this type of loss where a husband or son, grandson or nephew, is unrecoverable for many years or forever. Clients have reported that the family, at the time, emotionally shut down. Never spoke of the lost veteran again. Never allowed any other children or grandchildren to be named after the war hero. The grief ran deep and down through the generations until someone chose to research the veteran’s story.
Have you considered this perspective of ambiguous loss……the families who lost a veteran to their physical or mental demons? Those veterans who spent some or all of the rest of their lives post-war in a Veteran’s Hospital? In a sense, the loved one has been lost, especially in cases of mental health diagnoses. A wife may be legally married but living as a “widow” because her husband is no longer physically present. A child may be a “war orphan” because his father is in a veteran’s hospital.
My family experienced this with my grandfather. His service was surrounded by stories told to me, unfounded by fact. Our family was impacted by the loss of this man, the secrets held, and emotional withdrawal of his story as it impacted any of us. It has taken me years to dive into the depths of his story, his life, his service, and how it was affecting my life and relationships on an unconscious level.
Confronting our own grief or that of our family that has been passed down through our DNA as inherited trauma can be scary. What will we discover if we open up this pandora box of the past and start asking questions? Who might we upset or offend? Why is it even important to ask questions and find answers or process the grief?
In many families there is one person who is the family healer. The one who is called upon by the ancestors to ask the hard questions and find answers. To tell the story so others can heal. Often this person carries the brunt of the family’s unresolved trauma or grief. I know because I have personally experienced this and it affected my life in shocking ways. Once I faced the past, my entire life began to change.
At this point in our world history, it is vital that we step into the space of family healer and bring these darker stories to the light. It is time to heal. It is time to confront these beliefs, behaviors, and patterns we carry from the past. When we heal, our ancestors heal. The world heals.
Are you ready to step into this space? If so, you are invited to register for my upcoming Family Patterns Study Group. This 5-week study group will help you identify through genealogical and military records, family beliefs, behaviors, patterns, and traumas that exist and help you think about ways you are living these energies. Current sessions begin 27 March 2023 and 22 April 2023. Summer sessions will be added soon.
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