The battle is over. Your hero has come home from the war. But now you can’t get him out of bed. How do you help your beloved veteran cope with the transition from the battlefield to the homefront?
Psychiatrist William Glasser, MD states there is a hierarchy of needs: survival, belonging, power, freedom, and fun. Your veteran’s needs for survival are being met: he eats, sleeps and procreates. You are providing all the necessary elements to fill this need for him, as if he were an infant to be cared for rather than the man, husband, and father he used to be. You need to find a way to help him move beyond this level. Don’t expect this to happen overnight! Be patient, but be expectant and move forward.
The level beyond survival is belonging. Ask yourself: does he belong to this family, and if so, as what –a dependant or a facilitator? What else does he belong to – a church, fraternity, support group, bowling league? Look for veterans groups near your area. Don’t let him escape to chat-rooms; help him form face-to-face relationships. An online search for “veterans support groups” brought up hundreds of possible sites. Three you might find interesting are
1. Veterans Organizations and Support Groups http://grunt.space.swri.edu/vetorgs.htm
2. PTSDA Anonymous – Veterans Talking to Veterans www.ptsdanonymous.org
3. Veterans Helping Veterans http://pub42.bravenet.com/freelink/show.php?username=3581616157
Newspapers, veterans magazines, web sites, churches, hobby-enthusiasts – all of these are opportunities to help him meet his need to belong.
Power. What does your veteran have control over? Think about setting expectations which he can and should rise to meet – control of his medications, of his meals, laundry and house-keeping chores, etc. Include him in the grocery shopping. Give him power over taking out the garbage and getting the mail. Eventually, he needs to take power over his finances, his career and education. If he’s not ready to become employed, encourage him to volunteer somewhere. He needs to have a say in his children’s lives. Which means, quite honestly, you are going to have to relinquish some of the power you, as a soldier’s spouse, have always had to wield.
Freedom. How ironic that fear and free share so many letters. To begin the path toward freedom, he must face the fears which imprison him. Unemployment? Survivor guilt? Autonomy after years of service? He can’t do anything about meeting his need for freedom (to become the man he wants to be) until he has begun to address the previously discussed needs. But begin talking about it. Begin listening to him as he states his desires for freedom. Help him find ways to escape from the fears which keep him sleeping his life away.
Fun. Help your veteran remember, realize, and experience the joy of life again. Incorporate a time for laughter, a joke, or a humorous moment each and every day. Survivor Guilt is one of the toughest PTSD issues for vets to overcome. Three sites you might read:
1. Treating PTSD #6 Survivor Guilt and Self-Destructive Behaviors www.homestudycredit.com/courses/contentND/trkNDO6lo.html
2. Survivor Guilt: How to Recognize it and Move Beyond it www.sedona.com/lp-survivorsguilt.aspx
3. Why Not Me? Dealing With Survivor Guilt in the Aftermath of a Disaster www.selfhelpmagazine.com/articles/trauma/guilt.html
You cannot convince your veteran that he has the right to have fun. But you can show him how to find it for himself.
You have placed yourself in this man’s life as his help-mate. As you help him rise up through his hierarchy of needs from survival to belonging to power to freedom and eventually to fun, make sure you, also, are progressing up these steps. You have needs which deserve to be met, too.
It took a lot of courage for you to marry a man who was willing to lay down his life for his country. March forward with that same courage and help your hero get out of bed and have a happy life.