Jane A. Simington, PhD. 2017
Cenotaphs and anniversaries stir our individual and collective memories of life-changing events. November 11, like other anniversaries that mark military victories, are bittersweet for they temper the glory of triumph with the sadness of the sacrifices made and the vileness of war.
In preparation for our involvement in the November 11 ceremonies, my husband Bill and I processed some memories of our relationships with his Veteran Father. Bill’s initial thoughts were of how the war had interfered with his ability to develop a son-father connection; since for the first several years of his childhood, he knew his Father only as the “man” in the photo on the dresser. As Bill described how this lack of early bonding had impacted, even into his adulthood, his relationship with his Father, I wondered how many other men of my husband’s age had been affected similarly and, how many of today’s little boys are also denied the benefits of father-son bonding due to the separations caused by wars. I pondered too, how many other Veteran Fathers, even after their homecomings, remained distant and seemingly detached, due to their constant inward-pull, there to relive over and over, their war terrors.
Prolonged traumatic experiences, such as those resulting from combat trauma, are characterized by neurobiological and clinical features of detachment and subjective distancing from emotional experiences. The cost of emotional distancing can significantly interfere with the establishment, re-establishment, and maintenance of intimate relationships; as well as the avoidance of the necessary mental and emotional processing necessary for trauma healing to take place.
Clinicians are reporting that in ever increasing numbers, combat veterans are seeking non-conventional and complementary techniques for the treatment of their post-traumatic stress. Researchers have identified that combat veterans are doing so because they desire wholistic care that addresses their spiritual needs. James Hillman (1996) noted that people come into psychotherapy not only to relieve the pain of their traumatic symptoms, but to also find a personal story that honors their soul. Combat veterans and each of their family members need, not only their psychotherapists, but each of us to recognize and acknowledge the intensity of the inner anguish experienced as a result of war terrors and family abstinences. As we pause on November 11, to honor and thank our combat veterans and their families for their suffering, their sacrifices, and their sadnesses; may we deeply reflect on how, despite the glories of triumph, there is a vileness in war that allows for no winners.