Filed Under American Patriotism, Bless Our Troops, Chrisrmas, Christmas, Family, Healing, Holiday Season, Holidays, Journey, PTSD, Tears of a Warrior, Veterans, War | Comments Off on Having a Happy Holiday
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
It has been several months since I wrote the last blog. Honestly, I chalk it up to lack of motivation and simply feeling I had little else to say that would be worth anyone taking the time to read. Some individuals even commented on how many of the past blogs were a bit depressing. No kidding! Many of these individuals may have never had the combat experience or served in the military. It is difficult to understand something that has not been experienced. Humor at times can be difficult, especially during the holidays when you live with a person suffering with Post Trauma Stress. The experience is so not funny.
Yelling at those who don’t seem to appreciate or understand this type of suffering would definitely be something I’d have to mention in my next visit to church and confession. Just hope it might be a different priest who won’t say something like…. “Well, seems like you haven’t made much progress in this area”.
At this point my entry into heaven would be further compromised. At the very least I would be on Santa’s naughty list.
So, why am I writing a new blog now? Because it is Christmas. My favorite holiday (along with Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day…). Really, I love the smell of the season, the food, the lights in and outside of homes, carols, and the various displays around town. Unfortunately, as much as I love Christmas, I am reminded of how many of our veterans find this particular time of year a huge challenge. Christmas may be an unpleasant reminder of all that was lost – those who never returned home and those still serving in harm’s way far from home. Depression, anger, feeling alone and removed could be emotions that have to be dealt with once again. It is hard to be jolly or even be around those who are jolly when you are fighting to just keep your head above the waters of Merriment.
Tonight Tony was talking on the phone with a friend and veteran who was facing another season of cheer and trying to simply get through it and keeping his emotions/temper in check. During the conversation Tony mentioned that it was this time of year when he was in Vietnam and severely wounded. He lost many of his men during a horrendous battle and later spent months in various military hospitals trying to heal from his injuries. All these decades later it is not the physical wounds that test him the most. It is the emotional aches that make the holiday season taxing. Instead of all the Ho, Ho, Ho,….. I know that certain days he wants to scream, No, No, No More!!!
For years I had no idea of what he faced or continued to face. My delight during this time of year only exacerbated his loss thus causing more than one argument. Now that we both know better, we finally do better. I try to be a bit calmer in front of him, and he tries to take better care of his emotional needs by having more quiet time, going on long walks or taking Bailey pheasant hunting. And both of us focus on counting our blessings.
We’ll be darned if we let the PTS Grinch steal Christmas ever again.
Filed Under American Patriotism, Bless Our Troops, Chrisrmas, Christmas, Combat PTSD, Dream, Holiday Season, Holidays, Tears of a Warrior, Tears of Joy | Comments Off on YES, MY DEAR VETERAN, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
“Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”
Francis P. Church
At this time of year it may be hard for many to believe in much of anything, not to mention a person named Santa Claus. Nevertheless, I still love the story of how the letter, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” came to be. It was written way back in 1897 by a man named Francis Church. Mr. Church was an editor of the Sun newspaper and when receiving a letter from a small girl by the name of Virginia O’Hanlon asking if there was a Santa Claus he wrote his now famous letter. You see, Virginia’s father told her if something appeared in the Sun it must be true. Golly, how times have changed. At any rate, I still find his response to the small Virginia a reminder how important it is to believe in the kinder, sweeter things in life. How miracles surround us every single day, but in our despair we may only be able to see the cruel, bitter, and oftentimes heartbreaking fragments of the moment. Perhaps reading Mr. Church’s famous letter might remind us all of what is really important during this holiday season. His words are as enduring now as they were way back in 1897.
The answer as published in the New York Sun was:
Virginia, your little friends are wrong.
They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
If you are finding yourself in the Grinch mode, read Virginia’s letter and think about whatever is good, precious, or beautiful in your life and choose to believe.
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
Ok, its official, I’m in love with Hope. Always have been. Don’t know why. It defies logic most of the time. When days are good this is an easy task to be in love with Hope. When things are tanking in the toilet being in love with Hope isn’t so simple. For any individual who has experienced loss, trauma, or any of life’s emotional challenges, Hope may be the only thing that serves as one’s raft in a storm. Without Hope it can be impossible to manage getting through the present minute let alone waking up to another tomorrow. Hope is the ingredient that provides emotional as well as a sense of physical safety.
You may ask what gear can we put in our life rafts that may help us sustain our journey with Hope. For a start – include at least one person who believes in us. One person who will stand with us during joyful and difficult times. One person who can demonstrate we are loved and worthwhile. To have that one person be part of our crew we must also be that person for another human being. Taking without giving does nothing to encourage or grow Hope. Another piece of gear is simple giving yourself permission to step back and take time to let go of some of your stressors. Give them up to a higher source or put them in writing and then throw it in the trash. One last, essential item in your boat must be joy. Be willing to search out a bit of joy each day, and be optimistic that a tiny bit of joy will be waiting for you the next.
For me, Hope is the one thing that gives a deeper purpose and meaning to life. In spite of the horrors of combat, warriors (and their families) seem to truly understand such a concept. Being stripped of personal well-being, observing others injured and killed sometimes leaves you with only one thing, and that is the capacity to perceive that our existence has a purpose greater beyond our immediate understanding. This is HOPE in action. Hope that boosts our resilience. Hope that enhances our emotional muscles and Hope that gives us a vision for a better tomorrow.
Whatever our pain, however stressful our lives might be right now, we cannot let these things take up ALL of our time. We must leave some room for laughter, for pleasure, and for joy. Hope can live within us even in what can be the most desperate of times.
So here is my Holiday wish for you,
May you be filled with the power of Hope and what can be — Be in Love with Hope.
by Janet & Tony Seahorn
It is almost Christmas, a few days left until we celebrate the special event that people around the world have been doing for centuries. Some of us know this occasion as the birth of Jesus. Some call it the “thank goodness the shopping is over season”. And some simply hope the day passes as quickly as possible, overwhelmed by the season of consumerism.
Weeks ago we put out to our readers an opportunity to do something for themselves and others. To do something that would calm the spirit, or an act that would make a difference for someone else. We promised to share a few comments from our readers. I learned something from this experience. Veterans fight courageously, suffer silently, and strive for goodness every day. Here are a few we received.
One veteran’s wife wrote that her husband’s close friend had suffered a serious accident and has been in a coma in the ICU burn unit since mid November. Her husband and several other Vietnam Vets have taken turns twice a week spending the night at the hospital to relieve the wife and family. They watch as their friend “continues to fight ‘awareness’, flailing arms, legs, head, and not opening eyes or focusing. We can only imagine what is going on inside his head, the thoughts, flashbacks of Nam, the unwillingness to come to”, she recounts. Their involvedness has caused her husband and the others to have their own ghosts emerge – burn centers and trauma is a trigger to their days in Nam. Now they also take time to reflect on their blessing.
My brother John wrote: Let us start that list with our name at the top because if one cannot make themselves happy first, then how can we make anyone else happy. Second on the list has to be my best friend and companion Wyatt, my lab retriever. A prayer John uses every morning is “GOD HELP ME WALK WORTHILY THIS DAY SO THAT WHEN I LIE DOWN AT NIGHT I WILL NOT BE ASHAMED”. Then I thank HIM every night for everything that happened that day.
Others discussed how they had written a letter to a family member. Some of the letters were sent to tell a particular person how much his/her presence in life has meant. How by simply being present provided a sense of belonging and safety. Others wrote to ask for another chance, a chance for redemption, a chance to help the estranged person understand the long and difficult journey the writer has endured. Perhaps, after years of alienation, there will be forgiveness, compassion, and a better understanding of each individual’s existence. Possibly a miracle may happen and relationships may begin to heal. At any rate, it is more important that the effort was made.
The last one we will share tells of how a veteran and his wife were in a grocery store when they noticed two nuns shopping. The nuns would pick up an article, look at the price tag, then put it back on the shelf. Obviously, he writes, they could not afford much. As the man was checking out, he kept his eyes on the nuns. When their bill came up, he walked over and told the cashier he was paying for their items. Needless to say, the ladies were both surprised and quite grateful. He is now a part of their prayers. What was most important, he writes,
“At the end of the day I took the challenge and went out with my wife and helped somebody.
Taking the initiative to help others made me feel good about myself”.
Thank you again for sharing your stories. We hope that your season has been healthier and happier. We know for certain each of you reading this Christmas message has made a difference for others. You are simply a blessing for many, and you deserve an abundance of Simple Blessings.
We included this in last year’s blog. Here it is again.
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said “Its really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.”
“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ‘ Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘ Nam ‘,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue… an American flag.
“I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”
“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done, For
being away from your wife and your son.”
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret, “
Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
It is hard to believe that another holiday season is upon us, beginning with Thanksgiving and ending with the celebration of a New Year. With this period comes the challenge of facing the days with too much to do or too much idle time, too many people to be around or too much loneliness, and the memories of past holidays spent in combat or loss. For some, these are anniversaries of death and destruction. They may not bring joy and goodwill, but sadness and loss.
So, I write today’s blog to remind myself and perhaps others confronted by the days ahead to not be afraid of the darkness. It is not about getting rid of the shadows but getting beyond them. Stepping into sunlight, even a small glint is enough to dispel some of our gloom. As human beings we were not meant to stay in sadness but to shine, in spite of our troubles and hurts. Hard to believe, but nonetheless true.
The only way I can ever get beyond the shadows is to look up; to search for the pure, the just, and the beautiful. To focus on what can be if I keep moving forward. I do not have to center my thoughts only on what has been lost, but what is waiting to be gained if only I believe. Believe in the goodness of others; they abundantly surround us waiting to enter our life. Believe in a more loving world even when the media fill the airways with ugliness. Believe that as we search for the decent we find it in the softness of a breeze, the melody of a song, or the laughter of a child.
A few months ago my sister gave me a CD by the Canadian Tenors. On the album is a lovely song with a chorus all of us can use at sometime in our lives:
There will always be a shining star;
There will always be the rising of the sea;
There will always be an angel watching over me…
And angels voices say to us, these things will never die.
Choose to believe the skies are filled with shining stars even if clouds conceal them. The seas and oceans rise and fall with the changing tides. Most comforting of all is choosing to believe that there will always be angels watching over us… and these things will never die. So if you wander into that dark place, remind yourself of those angels, the thousands of shining stars, and perhaps you will be the tender hand reaching out to hold another being in need of your light.
by Janet J. Seahorn
You hear stories about the patriotism of small town USA. The way the community comes together as a single entity to honor its military – those individuals who have served our country. The events always include a bit of flag waving and back patting, “Thank you for your service”. This Memorial Day we had the honor to experience one such town. This is a town, Evanston, Wyoming, which far exceeded any story or past city we have visited.
It was early Sunday evening when we arrived in Evanston. Tony was asked to be the guest speaker at their annual Memorial Day event. We had just returned the day before from Europe. Both of us were more than a bit jet lagged, and I was secretly wishing I was sleeping in my comfy bed back home and wondering what the heck we were thinking when we first accepted the speaking engagement.
As we drove through the streets around town, we noticed flags flying from bridges, street corners, store shops, and of course homes. More flags than we have ever seen. The cemetery was filled with flags and brightly colored flower arrangements. A motorcycle bike rally made the atmosphere even more charged.
Then we passed a truly humbling sight, the town’s monuments set right in the center of the Court House and Civic Center. Monuments that went way back to the Civil War. The most interesting two tributes were to the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. These were modeled after the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C. What made them unique, however, was the black granite slabs held the names of every resident of the county who served in the war zone, not just the names of those who had died. The words carved into one stature said it well, “All gave some; some gave all”. Wow! We have never seen a town where every military person was acknowledged. You could trace the heritage of the community’s military generations from WW I forward. Many families had at least four or more last names engraved on each monument. So much sacrifice for a household to bear.
As we listened to the Memorial Day speeches, watched the presentation of flags honoring all military branches, including a flag for the POWs and the MIAs, heard the hallowed sounds of the bagpiper bellowing Amazing Grace, and viewed the solemn and appreciative faces of the people, it was a “lump in the throat” experience. Yes siree, Evanston, Wyoming is truly one of America’s most patriotic towns. It was obvious that such gratitude is a daily way of life, not merely a one day event. They live the words, God Bless America, and God Bless those who serve her mission of freedom and liberty for all.
Thank you for sharing your patriotic spirit with us and showing the world that honor, integrity, and flag waving are not political statements, but a way to demonstrate respect for the sacrifice given by the few, so that the many can live in a land of abundance and independence.
-by Janet J. Seahorn
Gosh, can you believe it is Easter/Passover and once again families gather to celebrate the spirit of the season. Many will also hunt Easter eggs, gorge on chocolate bunnies, and enjoy family dinner and getting together. This is a time to rejoice, but can also be a time of turmoil. There is ample opportunity for our Snotty Vets to practice breathing, self-control, and “looking” cheerful – even if it’s only a facade. Today I woke with the children’s rhyme of “Here Comes Peter Cotton Tale”, but instead of the regular words this is what came to mind:
Here comes Peter Cotton Tail
Hopping down the combat trail,
Hippity, Hoppity, Demons on the way.
Yikes! How weird is that! Yet, the reality is many people who have suffered severe trauma find holidays incredibly challenging. When everyone around appears to be laughing, enjoying company, having a great time, for some with experiences of trauma, all this joy may simply exacerbate the feeling of depression and isolation. You desperately want to join in the festivities and you desperately want to feel normal. So the downward spiral continues.
Last blog I wrote about Snotty Fish and Snotty Vets. In reflection I remembered past family gatherings where my Snotty Vet tried anxiously to fit into the interactions. He participated gallantly until it got to be too much, which is when the teapot began to spout. Too much steam building in a confined container and something has to give. If only we had known about PTSD, its effects and ways of coping, family gatherings could have been much saner and safer for everyone.
Therefore, here are a few suggestions that have worked for us. We discovered these over many years of observing roller-coaster emotions.
- Don’t try and force your Snotty Vet to participate more than he/she is able.
- Allow them to swim in whatever pond helps them to feel safe and calm.
- Plan the loud festivities that can be annoying for many – not just Snotty Vets – to be in places that are outside or in very large surroundings. By being smart, it reduces the tension and permits everyone a chance to find areas that aren’t so irritating.
- Be thoughtful about the length of time anyone has to spend taking part in the activities.
- Be sure to find a good balance in how you celebrate. Be reflective and enjoy some quiet time as well.
Oh, and be sure to have a Happy Easter/Passover. Celebrations are still important to cherish. They can be the occasions that help us bond more tightly and even heal a bit.
And be sure to be kind to bunnies that wear combat boots.