31 Mar A TO Z: 26 ISSUES TRANSITIONING VETERANS FACE #7
Losing a friend or a loved one is a very traumatic experience. Over the years, I realized that though a part of life is moving on after tragedy, it’s never easy. When we lose a fellow brother or sister on the battlefield, or during a training exercise, we can be left with many emotions that pull us in multiple directions. These feelings can’t be ignored; but they also shouldn’t consume us. However, if we don’t address what occurred, there can be many challenges moving forward.
The truth is our minds can only take so much before chemical changes occur, which have a significant impact on our emotional state. While serving in the military, there’s a process the mind goes through, especially when witnessing or hearing about a fatal incident. It’s a psychological rollercoaster as you try to understand the who, what, why and where of it all. It’s like being in a dark room; it doesn’t make sense why someone had to suffer a cruel or unfortunate fate.
When you hear about something traumatic you did not witness, you have the same physical and emotional reactions, because of the “Band of Brothers and Sisters,” which is equally painful. Soldiers and veterans tend to be too hard on themselves, as they try to be perfect. What’s unfortunate (yet, wonderful) is we are NOT robots or machines. Rather, we are people with feelings. The same thing that makes life painful, makes it rich.
Therefore, when we lose someone, there’s pain we have to face. Everyone does this differently. The question which plays over and over again in our mind is why them and not me? Why didn’t I do more and how am I going to be the same? These are normal feelings we go through.
What clings like Velcro is the guilt. Understanding it was not your fault and you did everything you could is crucial to recovery. We are trained to leave no man or woman behind. When we do leave someone behind, it’s difficult to move on and let go. Having a process to cope positively is extremely important. Moreover, talking to someone really makes a difference.
Remember, you are human. Like everyone, pain and change will be a constant. The great thing is we don’t have to do it alone – if you are willing. It’s not brave, courageous or tough to suffer needlessly – it’s selfish. You see, you may think it only affects you, but it affects everyone around you. Remember, there’s a reason we were created with the herd mentality; we were designed to be better together. So reach out, make a friend, be a friend and get well.