Today is Memorial Day in the US, a day we honor all Americans who have died in all wars. “Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers.” (Wikipedia)
There hasn’t been a time in history where war–on a small or large scale–was not raging somewhere on this earth. Rather than be ethnocentric and think of only American victims (My blog has been read by folks in 86 countries since the beginning of April) I’d like to dedicate this post to both civilians and soldiers who have died in wars all over the world. The number is higher than I can ever imagine and grows each day.
On Memorial Day, I am saddened to reflect on the toll war takes on our psyches, families, and communities. It seems like in this day and age, we should have evolved pass the point of needing to use physical violence to enforce a political intention. However competition still rules the world and until we let go of this need to win, it will continue.
What is shocking and disgraceful is that for every American soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans are dying by suicide. “An American solder dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year — more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began.” says Nicholas Kristof in his NYTimes op ed “A Veteran’s Death, The Nation’s Shame.” We need to do something. Read my article about Soldiers and Suicide.
There are many programs helping soldiers adjust to life after witnessing the atrocities of war, but these have fallen short in addressing the magnitude of effects on the soul.
War and the Soul
Edward Tick wrote an amazing book, War and the Soul. He has been working with WWII veterans, refugees from war torn countries, Viet Nam veterans, Gulf War veterans, and now Iraq and Afghanistan vets for over 40 years.
“In my book, I explain that what we call Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is not an individual psychopathology, but has its roots in our community and spirituality and can only be healed by communal and spiritual means. War’s unrelenting destruction and suffering are too big to be healed by conventional methods. It belongs to all of us.” Edward Tick
He tells about how Native American cultures helped their warriors coming back from battle by taking on the guilt and fear as a community rather than allowing that huge burden to stay upon the individual. His program, Soldier’s Heart offers a genuine healing and homecoming from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by helping vets developing a new and honorable warrior identity supported by community.
However, mostly our veterans have at their disposal overcrowded VA hospitals with extensive waiting lists. To lighten their load, our veterans hospitals requested mental health practitioners in private practice to register for Tricare- our countries military health insurance-so that veterans and families of veterans do not have to pay extra for our services–widening their access to quality care. Despite us complying and opening the door to veterans and their families, VA hospital rarely refer out. Perhaps they are fearful that we are inadequate in our skills, but anything is better than our desperate children waiting 6 months and driving 3 hours for an appointment.
There is going to be 1 million veterans in the next five years. We cannot keep doing the same thing and expecting something different. We have to change the way we help them. I will follow Ticks lead. Come at it from a shamanic point of view. Help them put the value back into their life, spiritually, emotionally, communally. Help them heal on deep levels.
I accept referrals for all people with history of trauma. I do therapy and healing locally in my office or online over Skype.
“We enlist soldiers to protect us, but when they come home we don’t protect them.” Nicholas Kristof
What do you think of the effects of war on the soul?