Healing from Veteran Trauma as a Spouse or Child - Premier Counseling
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Healing from Veteran Trauma as a Spouse or Child

By: Kelly Burroughs, LPC, LMFT

 

Healing from Veteran or First Response Trauma as a Spouse or Child

 

Healing from trauma as the spouse or child of a veteran or first responder can be challenging. 

 

Being a spouse or child to someone who has worked in active duty military or emergency first response is inherently stressful. 

 

There is a certain code of conduct expected of spouses and children in the world of the military and emergency response, and so duty and honor become something ingrained in them just as much as their spouses and parents.

 

Duty and honor can, at times, be conflated with a severe sense of independence, which makes asking for help difficult. 

 

Photo by Ioann-Mark Kuznietsov

Concerning Spouses and Children of Veterans

 

Spouses and children of veterans and first responders, active or retired, not only become particularly adept at handling their own traumas without help, but they are also often so humbled by their spouse or parent’s work that they minimize their own struggles by comparison.

 

Spouses and children can find it difficult to do what they consider ‘complaining,’ when faced with such intense sacrifices made by their spouses and parents. This can leave a person feeling like there is little room for them to express themselves, that it would be selfish or dishonorable of them to feel anything but gratitude, but that’s simply not the case.

 

While sharing mental health struggles, or healing from trauma might be difficult to begin speaking about as a spouse or child of a veteran or first responder, it’s important work to do. 

 

Your feelings are valid, important, and just as real and necessary to process as those of your spouse. Comparing trauma isn’t productive, it doesn’t help anyone, it only hurts you, and so this is where healing can begin.

 

Learning that there is honor in asking for help where it’s needed, learning to rely on others, and learning to give weight and value to your own experiences and emotions.

 

Photo by Sarah Medina

Healing Trauma and Honoring Ourselves

 

It’s so often a much easier thing, to honor and respect what our spouses and parents endure while in the line of duty, than to give honor and credit to ourselves. 

 

In November, we discussed supporting children of veterans and first responders, the significance of early interventions when there are signs of distress and more. A major part of creating a strong support system for children is making sure they feel validated and heard. Comparison to others is a silencer – children, just as adults, have complex and rich inner lives, and they need the time and space to be heard and validated.

 

Similarly, for spouses, there is so much pressure to make less demands, manage your needs without relying on your spouse ‘too much,’ and there is often an experience of shame that comes with unhappiness. 

 

Unhelpful thoughts begin to crop up, like ‘I’m upset about [x], but I have no right to complain to my partner when I know how much they’re sacrificing to provide,’ and this stunts communication, and leaves you, a clearly loving spouse, without comfort.

Photo by Alberto Casetta

Where to Find Help for Spouses and Children of Veterans

 

Group, family, couples or individual therapy can be helpful in managing these ways of thinking.

 

In truth, what most of us need in these times is someone to truly hear us, validate us, and offer us the professional guidance in learning new thinking patterns, and new behaviors that will better suit us for the future we have made in the civilian world.

 

If you’re ready for help, contact us and make an appointment today.



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