Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Soldiers Project - Part Two: "Helping Our Wounded Warriors, Their Spouses & Their Families Heal"

Although Veteran's Day is just behind us, I would like to continue acknowledging and honoring the sacrifices that our  military members and Veterans have made and are making. For those who have returned home and for those yet to return, many will fight on - battling their visible and invisible wounds of war.  One of the organizations which has been dedicated to providing free and confidential mental health treatment to military service members and Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and their extended families is The Soldiers Project.

The Soldiers Project (TSP) is a non-profit group of volunteer licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and marriage and family therapists who give of their time and services to help our wounded warriors, their spouses/partners, and their families heal. Although most couples and families face many challenges within their relationships, military members and their families are confronted with unique circumstances precipitated by the dynamics and demands of their respective careers and work environments.
Couples who have been together for even a short period of time know that is takes a steadfast commitment of mutual respect, patience, understanding, and selflessness from each partner in order to make a relationship work. Effective and timely communication is often regarded as a key in navigating through the stresses, struggles, and set-backs of daily living. For most civilian couples who are with one another on a daily basis, cultivating and sustaining a trusting, healthy and mutually satisfying relationship is hard, hard work.

With long periods of separation, with movement to and from high-intensity environments to home settings, and with a myriad of additional combat and civilian stressors, military couples or partners (and their families) are confronted with issues that can damage and destroy the most solid of relationships.  

In my interview with Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Lani Bain Stoner (who has worked with The
Lani Stoner, MFT
Soldiers Project for three years), she addresses some of the most common challenges that military couples and families face, and she provides healing strategies to work through them. I hope you will take a listen.
The Soldiers Project - Part Two: "Helping Our Wounded Warriors, Their Spouses and Their Families Heal"

Common struggles  include the following:
  • Trust for both the at-home spouse or partner and the away spouse or partner.
  • Problems coping with stress, for both partners.
  • Expectations each partner has about their spouse's role in the household, their duties, and other family responsibilities.
  • Cultural or belief differences.
  • Personality differences and communication styles.
  • Emotional and physical changes.
It is often comforting to know that most, if not all couples at one time or other, will need to work through these issues. However, military couples and their families often find they are ill-prepared to handle these issues which surface abruptly and under extremely stressful time lines, as deployment and command orders dictate schedules.

Although I have not had the privilege of working with The Soldiers Project, I have counseled numerous individuals (couples and families) who have served in the military or who have been first responders, and I specialize in treating abuse/trauma victims. Because of a culture and climate that often regards 'seeking counsel' as a weakness or that it is 'shameful' to admit suffering, I would like to encourage military members and Veterans to start by taking three healing steps:

                                                            First, give yourself the gift of time.  
Time, Healing, and Grieving
After leaving a high-intensity environment, no one can be expected to return to a home environment, transition, and quickly adapt.  This is not realistic, and it sets an individual up for failure and disappointment. Individuals may need weeks, months, or perhaps even years to adjust and assimilate into the home culture. There is no shame in that.  Go slowly - step by step. Go one day at a time; one breath at a time if you need to. But, give yourself time.

Secondly, give yourself permission to heal.
Although this may sound foreign, there is nothing shameful or cowardly about reaching out for help.  As long as individuals stay bound to their past, they remain in their pain. PTSD, depression, or self-soothing in unhealthy ways will not get better by itself.  Military members and Veterans - you are our heroes; you will always be. And, you are human. The bravest thing you can do right now - for yourself and your loved-ones - is to get the help you need. It's time you are your own hero.
Thirdly, give yourself ample opportunity to grieve your losses.
I have heard many family members and friends say about their loved-ones who have served, "Holli, he/she is not the same person who left. The person I know now is a stranger."  This is probably more true than most of us know.  Our service men and women have experienced tremendous loss - physically, emotionally, psychologically, relationally, professionally, spiritually, and the list goes on. They, and their loved-ones, must take time to grieve each and every one of these losses.  Our service men and women must work through the denial, anger, depression and bargaining in order to reach a level of acceptance. And then, our warriors can begin again - to reframe and reshape their lives, one day at a time.
Always A Hero duty service men and women and Veterans, you are always our heroes.  Take the time you  need to reintegrate back into your home life, rediscover your relationships, and to redefine and renew your body, mind, and spirit. 

For more information, please visit The Soldiers Project   National # 877-576-5343
For more articles written by Lani Stoner, please visit  The Soldiers Project Couples Therapy Series

For today's show and more information, please take a listen.  The Soldiers Project - Part Two: "Helping Our Wounded Warriors, Their Spouses and Their Families Heal"

For last weeks show, please take a listen.  The Soldiers Project - Part One

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