The holiday season not always merry.
Jeff Lucey’s first Christmas after returning from Iraq was not a merry one. In fact, it brought out his pain. This is not uncommon for the veterans who are still carrying a heavy load of combat memories. Jeff had returned from Iraq to an elated welcome and indeed, he was glad to be back with his friends and family. But as the months wore on he could not simply be happy to be back in his old life. He was different on the inside and without help could not simply reinsert himself and move on.
Many veterans find their civilian lives almost surreal when compared to the stark, gripping, and often life-and-death drama of the war zone. This is not to say that veterans are constantly consumed by this alternate reality. But they may distracted by this more than others notice, or more than they care to mention in normal conversation.
The default expectation that comes with most holidays is to be upbeat and engaged in familiar celebratory rituals. There is an expectation to connect in a positive way with family and loved ones. But this very opportunity for connection can quite naturally bring out what the veteran may be most truly feeling. As unpleasant as that may be, it is real. This can actually be positive if it is welcomed. In Jeff’s case, his holiday disclosures were disturbing to the family but they were a milestone moment that prompted his family’s increased concern for his well-being.
Please take the time to ask veterans you know how the holidays really were for them.
January 4, 2015