I don’t think I was alone yesterday as I reached for a tissue (or 3) watching the DDay 70th anniversary commemorations from Normandy. The rows upon rows of white gravestones in the cemeteries, the dwindling numbers of veterans who are still alive 70 years on, the dignity of these brave, inspiring souls, the sacrifice they made for OUR good. It was good to remember…right to honour…important to commit: we will remember.
And there was something else that I remembered. It wasn’t until decades after their return that ‘shell shock’ became recognised as something more than a ‘phase’ veterans would/should snap out of.
I remembered how PTSD has only relatively recently become the name of the ‘dis-order’ for people who have experienced life-threatening situations that affect their mental health; change their personalities and alter their basic functioning.
And I remembered that these veterans did not come back to homes, communities and services that understood PTSD then. Those that needed it, did not have access to support or healing.
I remembered the baby-boom. That many of these returning ‘heroes’ were already parents, or became parents shortly after their return. And this is significant to me, having worked with non-military parents with PTSD. The impact of trauma that leads people to the condition of post traumatic stress disorder, affects who they are, how they function, how they relate to others and always in my experience, affects their parenting; it affects the children.
Working with families, I see the impact in individual cases. What happens when more than 1 or 2 or tens of families are affected by trauma? What is the impact when a generation is brought up in a family where at least 1 parent has PTSD?
I remembered while during my masters research, finding a study in Australia that discovered the children of veterans returning from Vietnam had, over time, a suicide rate that was 3 times higher than the national average for their peers.
Trauma affects people, affects parents, affects parenting, affects children.
What was the impact on the course of our country’s history by a generation of children being brought up by grieving mothers or returning war heroes who were not understood, supported or helped to heal from PTSD?
It’s a sliding doors thing, and we will never know, but I can’t help but be curious – how might we as a nation be different now, if that help had been available to them then?
What they did for us undoubtedly influenced the course of our nation. We will remember.
For a gentle look at how parental trauma can impact life for children have a read of GROUNDED – whilst it may seem to be a book for parents and teachers, many others, of all ages, have found it helpful in understanding their own childhood experience.