By Kelly Cummings, LSF Communications Manager, Certified Trauma Professional, Military Veteran Caregiver, and White Star Sister
If someone you love has lost his or her life while serving our country, or as a result of visible or invisible service-related wounds after coming home, every day is Memorial Day. However, as the official day of observance approaches, feelings of loss and survivor’s guilt may become more intense.
If Memorial Day is typically a difficult time for you, it’s a good idea to put together a healthy coping strategy. Some survival techniques can be self-destructive and make us feel even worse. (i.e., Self-medicating and isolation.) However, there are positive ways to remember, honor, and cope.
- Reach out
For some of you, PTSD, anxiety, and depression leave you drained. When you’re going through a tough time, you may feel like you want to be left alone. It feels easier to avoid other people, but isolation can actually increase anxiety and depression. (Check out this article from Psychology Today to learn why!) If you can muster the energy to reach out to the right people, you find that feeling connected sparks a little hope and gives you the fuel to keep going.
- Call the people that understand where you are. Not everyone can relate to your loss, and that’s ok. But right now, you need to feel connected, because you are not alone in the struggles you are facing. Seek out the people who get it.
- If you are a combat veteran with symptoms of PTSD, mild Traumatic Brain Injury, or Chronic Pain, we can help. (If you’re not sure if you’re experiencing symptoms, try our self-assessment tools.) We have a no-cost, three-day PTSD Symptom Management Virtual Program. If you can’t commit to three days, we also offer 30-minute check-ins with LSF Clinicians or Yoga Instructors. You can learn more at https://lonesurvivorfoundation.org/virtual-program/.
- Once things get back to normal, there are thousands of nationwide and local organizations offering recreational, peer support, and networking groups. If you don’t know what groups are available in your area, ask your friends if they are involved in anything that you can check out with them. This short list of suggestions for both veterans and civilians might give you some ideas as well.
- Get Active
Exercise releases endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals). It can give us a temporary break by letting us get out of our heads for a little bit. Put on your silkies and go for a solo memorial run or hike. Carry a flag or photos of those that you’re honoring. Post about it on social media if that’s your thing.
If you are not the athletic type and the thought of exercising causes you even more anxiety, let your intention be to participate in an activity just for the good feeling of it. You don’t need to compete with anyone or push yourself…. just breathe and find movement that feels good. Find something appropriate for your current health and ability level and give it a try to manage anxiety and depression. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Go to a local park with a walking trail. If you don’t know where to go, you may find an idea at mapmywalk.com.
- If you use a wheelchair or have limited mobility, try searching for seated exercises on YouTube if your doctor has cleared you for exercise.
- Check out the Veteran’s Yoga Project Home Practice Library. You don’t need to be a veteran to take advantage of the mindful movement practices on their site.
- Create Something
Sometimes words can’t adequately express your feelings. After all, trauma is experienced through your body, your emotions, and your memories. (This is why creative arts therapy can be useful for PTSD recovery.) Try using a creative outlet to help with anxiety or depression. Here are some ideas.
- If you’re a musician, write a song. For inspiration, check out Battle Cry: Songs of America’s Heroes.
- Try painting or drawing a picture that describes how you feel about your loved one.
- Make a scrapbook.
- Create a piece of jewelry that memorializes your loved one.
- Make a memorial quilt.
- If you want to take a deeper dive by seeing a creative arts therapist, you can find one in your area by entering your zip code here and selecting “Art Therapy” under the Types of Therapy heading on the left side of the page.
We know that nothing can take away the pain of losing someone that you love. We hope that something suggested here will help provide a little relief from intense feelings of loss or guilt. You are not alone, and we encourage you to reach out and let others know that they are also not alone. You never know the potential power of an encouraging word!
The whole team at Lone Survivor Foundation is deeply grateful for the sacrifice of all of our veterans, especially those who are no longer with us “having paid the ultimate price while doing their work, and in death still stand watch over us.” Never Quit. Never Forget.
If you are a veteran in crisis or are concerned about one, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255 or text 838255.
Founded in 2010 by retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, Lone Survivor Foundation leads veterans & their families on a path to healing from combat trauma. Learn more at http://bit.ly/lsfprogram.