Monthly Archives: March 2014

It is never too late to seek treatment for the symptoms of PTSD! Relative Peace of Mind is a Spiritual Gift…

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my books, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1… (Kindle $2.99), and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

The statistics we don’t here about from post Vietnam War veterans…  Quote from this website article… Listen to the “Wall Song” before you leave this page…

Some Disturbing Facts About Vietnam Veterans

By , June 9, 2010 11:31 pm

I’ve recently been re-reading Chuck Dean’s outstanding book Nam Vet. I think some facts are worth sharing:

  •  Since 1975, nearly three times as many Vietnam veterans have committed suicide than were killed in the war.
  • Fifty-eight-thousand-plus Americans died in the Vietnam War. Over 150,000 have committed suicide since the war ended.
  • The suicide rate among veterans who have completed the local VA program is estimated at 2.5 per hundred.
  • The national accidental death and suicide rate is fourteen thousand men per year—33 percent above the national average.
  • Of those veterans who were married before going to Vietnam, 38 percent were divorced within six months after returning from Southeast Asia.
  • The divorce rate amongst Vietnam veterans is above 90 percent.
  • Five-hundred thousand Vietnam veterans have been arrested or incarcerated by the law. It is estimated that there are 100,000 Vietnam vets in prison today, and 200,000 on parole.
  • Drug-and-alcohol abuse problems range between 50 percent and 75 percent.
  • Forty percent of Vietnam veterans are unemployed and 25 percent earn less than seven thousand dollars per year.

Korean War veteran finds “peace” later in life is worth it…  Quote from this website article written BY CHRIS COBB, OTTAWA CITIZEN MARCH 29, 2014…  Click to see video clip interview!

PeaceNightmare ends: Korean War veteran finds peace after half-century struggle with PTSD…Jim Purcell 

“Casey didn’t live to grow old.

In the muddy, rat-infested trenches of the Korean hills, they had a bunker to sleep in and, like many 18-year-old boys, Casey loved to sleep.

The Chinese shell scored a direct hit on the bunker while he was napping.

“He got his head blown off,” says Purcell. “Casey come out there like a chicken with its head cut off, except it wasn’t quite off. He come to the door of the bunker and just dropped. That stayed with me for years. I’d wake up screaming, ‘Get out of the bunker, Casey. Get out of the bunker.’”

*****

Just like my father, Vernon’s, story of watching his best friend, Ken Powers, get his head blown off while the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Jim Purcell watched his buddy get his head blown off in the trenches of Korea in 1951.  While listening to this video clip interview, it was like listening to my Dad talk about a horrific traumatic experience that never leaves your head.

Like my Dad, Jim waited until later in life to seek treatment for the symptoms of PTSD.  And in my own case as a PTSD survivor, I waited until age 64 to start my journey of healing.  Too many warriors wait and sometimes it can be too late, especially when we look at the almost unbelievable statistics from Vietnam veterans listed above… “Fifty-eight-thousand-plus Americans died in the Vietnam War. Over 150,000 have committed suicide since the war ended.”

The stories of emotional pain and tragedy in life after war are too many to fathom.  I watched for many years while my father struggled with severe PTSD symptoms each and every day of his life until he was in his 60’s.  Dad finally received treatment through a balance of prescribed medications and counseling.  He started to calm down in his mid to late 60’s and lived a relatively peaceful life until 1998 when he passed away at 79.  I like to remember my Dad as a happy man even if it was just over 10 years of his life as a senior citizen.  His treatment was a work in progress but he was into the regimen because it made him feel so much better.  He and my mother spent quality time together traveling and enjoying life during those years.  Dad especially loved the ocean and beaches where they frequently spent time in Ocean Shores, Washington or walking in the parks overlooking Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.

Although the emotional pain and suffering lasted for over 40 years following WWII and Korean War, a few years of the gift of peace of mind was well worth it for my Dad and is true for many warriors who often wait until it is almost too late.  Dad’s awareness of PTSD, treatment, and path of healing was also a gift to my mother and other family members who felt more comfortable being around him in his later years.  Veterans should not only consider themselves in the process of healing, but remember how much loved ones benefit from seeing a happy camper.  Family members will all say that not having to walk on eggs shells at home was a real gift to them as well.

Steve Sparks, Author, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1 and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story…click on my author page to order…

Listen to the “Wall Song” before you leave this page…

 

 

What are the true costs of war to the children and families of veterans?

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my books, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1… (Kindle $2.99), and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author spouse-daughterWith her husband away at war, Liz Snell has been a single mother for much of her marriage. Her youngest daughter Briannah is 10 now, and the family is together at Camp Pendleton.

The unreported cost of war…the children and families…  click on the powerful and revealing article and video clip…quote from this website article…  From CNN, “The Uncounted”

“Every day, 22 veterans commit suicide. That number is sadly familiar. It has become a symbol of the cost of war that extends beyond the battlefield.

But no one is tracking war’s impact on another group: military spouses, siblings and parents.”

*****

My mother, Marcella, is turning 96 years young in September of 2014…  She lives comfortably in an assisted living home in Reno, Nevada surrounded by loving care givers.  Judy and I are planning our next visit with Mom later in May while traveling to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Mother is a surviving WWII and Korean War spouse and mother who served too!

I recall vividly the many times mother would say, “I wish I never lived!”  At best she contemplated suicide or wishes of not living.  I don’t know if she ever tried to carry out the act.  I do know Mom was and still is suffering from the symptoms of PTSD after all these years.  She was a single mother with first born son, Jerry, for all of WWII.  Dad was in Pearl Harbor aboard the USS West Virginia during the surprise Japanese attack on the US Navy Pacific Fleet on December 7, 1941.  My brother, Jerry, was born three months before Pearl Harbor.  Dad finally came home in June of 1945, the beginning of the war at home that never ended.  He was later deployed during the Korean War for almost 1 year.

I write in my book about our family’s struggle in life after war during all the years of my own childhood, and as an adult affected by growing up with a WWII hero severely affected by the symptoms of PTSD.   I believe my mother was damaged beyond repair.  I also believe we children could not avoid being affected by the toxic and sometimes violent nature of home life during the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  It was a time in our lives we all wanted to forget.  All we ever thought about was growing up and getting away from the scary dysfunctional behavior and never returning home again.

As reported in the referenced article by CNN, America has often turned its head away from the children and families who paid a big price as the sole caregivers and descendants of veterans from all wars.  In this report and video clip we see the heart wrenching interviews of military family members who tell us more about the challenges of military life and the lingering effects of war on children and families.  The wars and the horrific memories of combat never ended for combat veterans when they returned home.  It has always been very difficult and sometimes hopeless for veterans to eventually readjust to civilian life and find a happy place at home again.  It is also true that loved ones and family members suffered terribly during the long deployments of the men and women deployed during all wars.  I can say from my own experience as a post WWII military child that the war did not end once Dad returned home.  It was just getting started…

Steve Sparks, Author, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1 (Kindle $2.99) and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story…please go to my author page to order…

“Family resilience is important as it provides a way to “bounce back” from tough times. Learn more about this skill and the way it can benefit you and your family.”

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my books, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1… (Kindle $2.99), and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

ReadingToGroup

March is reading month… click on link…

Michigan State University, “Family Resilience…”  click on link…  Quote from this website article…

“Most people would agree that resilience is a good thing but may be confused about what resilience actually is. Resilience is considerably more than just being able to function following a difficult time in your life. Family resilience is the ability to develop and grow strengths that can help you meet life’s challenges, be able to work through them in a positive way, and emerge stronger in the process. Practicing resiliency skills is an ongoing process – not something you only use when times get tough. You may be surprised to learn that building resilience is not difficult.”

*****

I am fortunate in my work to pick up on the very best in articles and reference resources for children and families challenged in life.  Family centered traumatic experiences, including caring for a loved one who just returned from war, can tear a family apart over time.  I know this to be true because of my own childhood and life experience with my post WWII & Korean war family.

Michigan State University’s “family resilience” support programs and research is a good example of showing families how to be proactive by practicing resiliency skills over an extended period of time.  I had to learn how to become resilient by experimenting over a lifetime while watching my family become torn apart from war.  We just did not know what to do back in the 1950’s except survive one day at a time.  We didn’t understand what all the toxic behavior was about and why my father was so angry, depressed, and anxious.  We just thought about the celebration of the end of WWII and Korean War, and how we could all move on as a loving family.  But we didn’t know how to help ourselves nor were there any resources or access to support children and families who struggled in life after war.

I am very grateful that now in the 21st Century, families have excellent access to resources to support and complement family needs during tough times.  We can learn how to communicate more effectively as a family unit.  We are now open about the roots of toxic behavior and how to address specific family circumstances.  I am also happy to be in a position to share what I have learned with the goal to make a difference for others.  If I can help one person or one family move forward in a constructive way…a journey of healing, it is most rewarding.  It is also healing for me, keeping the emotional pain of my own life experience at a safe distance.    Take a closer look at what Michigan State University is doing to help children and families grow and become stronger even under very challenging circumstances.

Steve Sparks, Author, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1 and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story… click on my author page…

Medical Marijuana Research for PTSD Moving Forward…

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my books, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1… (Kindle $2.99), and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

1395145343000-AP-Medical-Marijuana-California

Harborside Health Center employee Gerard Barber

(Photo: Jeff Chiu, AP)

Medical Marijuana Research at University of Arizona… Quote from this USA Today report…

“A researcher at the University of Arizona is a step closer to studying how medical marijuana affects veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Although there is a “mountain of anecdotal evidence” that marijuana helps with PTSD, there has been no controlled trial to test how marijuana suppresses the symptoms, including flashbacks, insomnia and anxiety, said Suzanne Sisley, the study’s lead researcher.”

*****

I am no expert or researcher on the subject of medical marijuana…  I do believe we have proven that prescription medications, especially when combined with alcohol, cause major problems as a treatment strategy for PTSD survivors.  From my own experience, prescription medications with a narcotic component made me worse off.  I do use a prescribed anti-depressant and it seems to help as compared to not taking anything at all.  Anti-anxiety medications help me relax with the on-set of a potential panic attack or a high level of anxiety.  I also use an anxiety medication to help me sleep rather than a specific sleeping prescription drug.  All of this has been a long process of experimentation and appropriate medical professional guidance to find the right balance.  The best part is that, finally, after many years of frustration, the balance seems to agree with me.

Anecdotal experience and research in using medical marijuana for cancer and other health issues, suggests we should investigate further.  I am in favor of finding better ways to treat the symptoms of PTSD using complementary medications or even marijuana moderately as directed by a physician.  By far, however, alternative treatments using mindfulness strategies are the most effective for many on a long term basis.  I am convinced there is an ideal balance for each individual with the right kind of professional help.  My fear is that right now we just seem to try prescription drugs of all kinds as a challenging experiment.  With the risk of using alcohol at the same time, there is a danger of developing bigger problems for trauma victims, including suicide as the worst case outcome.

Please be guided by your primary care physician and medical professionals as you find the right treatment strategies, including prescription medications.  Some states, like Oregon, do have medical marijuana available with a prescription right now.  The main point is it can be life threatening using prescription drugs without appropriate medical advice and treatment strategies overall.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story & My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1… Click on my author page…

The music of healing while practicing mindfulness…relax and enjoy the music of Pablo Arellano!

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes and Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

Beautiful Music of Healing…watch this…click

Pablo Arellano Healing Piano 22

Pablo Arellano is a Mexican composer, director and writer, who specializes in the movie industry for more than 15 years. Mr. Arellano studied music at the New England Conservatory in Boston and early in his career he discovered that the entertainment industry was his passion. Mr. Arellano has taken his gifted talents into many leading directors roll with 8 hit movies, (Art house Factory Production currently available in 10 countries and 5 languages: 2012 – Prophecies from the heart, 2012 – A new consciousness, The Infinite wisdom of love, The Big Bang within you, The Infinite mind, Francesco’s Heaven, Mayan Secret and Path of Joy).

In addition Mr. Arellano has composed and produced 8 albums with distribution in more than 5 countries (Spirit of Silence, Soft Passion, Angeles Call, Brillará en ti, Brillará en ti 2, Atlantis Healing Live, Hacia el Sol and HIM soundtrack)

Along with his artistic accomplishments Mr. Pablo Arellano enjoys every minute of his life and spends time learning about the internal silence of every human being.

*****

While on the subject of mindfulness and living in the moment, please enjoy the music of Pablo Arellano.  I listened to his music for the first time today and now I’m a big fan!  Take 30 minutes, sit back, relax, and leave all the baggage where it belongs for a little while.  I even took a short nap and felt so refreshed and ready for the day.  Living in the moment has brought joy and peace of mind into my life.  Music plays a huge part in healing in life after trauma…

Steve Sparks

Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  

What is “mindfulness meditation? How does it help manage anxiety and depression?

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author
Mindfulness Begin as a Buddhist Tradition

Mindfulness…living in the moment…Via 
on Mar 23, 2014  

 

Mindfulness, for me, can be elusive. How about you?

After studying this infographic and perusing all the benefits of mindfulness (and how mindfulness actually works), I’m going to be more mindful about being mindful.
Instead of scurrying through my to-do list (which includes, by the way, slowing down and breathing) at record pace, I’m going to set an alarm every hour and dedicate at least five minutes to meditation. This can be as simple as looking out the window at trees. Or walking outside and breathing in some fresh air.
My numero uno roadblock in life is anxiety and, hey, if mindfulness can alleviate that, then mindfulness needs to become my middle name. My bff!

So, without further adieu, may I present the mindfulness infographic so you, too, can learn its benefits and how it all works:

*****
“Living in the moment” makes it so much easier to think about the concept of “mindfulness.”  I have written blog posts about this topic many times to not only remind myself, but to help others practice the discipline.  Mindfulness is definitely a work in progress along the path of healing in life after trauma.  It is alternative treatment centric, so to speak.  When you get good at focusing on being in the moment, keeping the pain of the past at a safe distance is possible.  We call this kind of practice, meditation.  It is also a good idea to have a partner to help with the right kind of healthy distractions that create a sense of well being in your mind.
Check out another more recent post on this blog on the topic of “living in the moment” and learn more.  Your comments and experience on this topic would be most appreciated.
Steve Sparks
Author

“Post Traumatic Growth (PTG)” research at UNC Charlotte shows that trauma survivors do thrive similar to cancer survivors!

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

UNC Charlotte, Department of Psychology

What is Post-Traumatic Growth?  Quote from the Post Traumatic Research Group, Department of Psychology, UNC Charlotte…

“What is post traumatic growth? It is positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event. Although we coined the term post traumatic growth, the idea that human beings can be changed by their encounters with life challenges, sometimes in radically positive ways, is not new. The theme is present in ancient spiritual and religious traditions, literature, and philosophy. What is reasonably new is the systematic study of this phenomenon by psychologists, social workers, counselors, and scholars in other traditions of clinical practice and scientific investigation.”

Positive Psychological Change!  Quote from this Wikipedia website reference…

“Post-traumatic growth or benefit finding refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances.[1] These sets of circumstances represent significant challenges to the adaptive resources of the individual, and pose significant challenges to individuals’ way of understanding the world and their place in it.[1] Post traumatic growth is not simply a return to baseline from a period of suffering; instead it is an experience of improvement that for some persons is deeply meaningful.[1]
This concept is part of the positive psychology approach.[2] It is commonly reported by cancer survivors.”
*****

“I’ll show you!”  These were the words I said out loud and in self-talk as a child and young adult! These 3 words kept me moving forward even under some very tough circumstances.  Failure just was not an option for me.  As a child and young man, my family culture was all about failing. “Let’s kick him while he is down” was my perception of the predominate voice expressed most of the time while growing up as a post WWII and Korean War military kid…  All we ever heard was the negative side of everything and everybody, and we all drank the kool-aid every day.  Once I became old enough to think about my future, I told my Dad one day, “I’ll show you.”  And to this day at the prime age of 67, this positive attitude is as strong as ever…  And, once well on my way to success in professional life, I did show Dad big time that this kid could make it!  That being said, the personal side of my life was a big challenge for many years with considerable pain and consequences.  The baggage remains to a large degree and my journey of healing continues…  

Relative peace of mind is possible in life after trauma.  I am encouraged each day in my own life with increased awareness and mindfulness while highly engaged in making a difference for others.  I am grateful for all the support and for the work of institutions like the University of North Carolina for branding the “I’ll show you” theme as Post Traumatic Growth…

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  Click to order e-book or paperback copy…
My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma Part 1…  Click to order e-book… $2.99!

Good news for helping kids at risk in the State of Vermont! The ACES Adverse Childhood Experience Questionnaire will help educators help kids by integrating the the science of adverse childhood experiences (ACES)…

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes & Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

Dr. George Till, Vermont state legislator and physician

Vermont first state to propose bill to screen for-aces in health care…  Quote from this website article…March 17, 2014
By in UncategorizedTags: ,,,,

“When Vermont State Legislator and physician Dr. George Till heard Dr. Vincent Felitti present the findings of the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study at a conference in Vermont last October, he had an epiphany that resulted in a seismic shift in how he saw the world. The result: H. 762, The Adverse Childhood Experience Questionnaire, the first bill in any state in the nation that calls for integrating screening for adverse childhood experiences in health services, and for integrating the science of adverse childhood experiences into medical and health school curricula and continuing education.
That Vermont would be the first in the nation to address adverse childhood experiences so specifically in health care at a legislative level isn’t unusual. More than most states, Vermont is a “laboratory of change” for health care. It has embraced universal health care coverage for all Vermonters, and it passed the nation’s first comprehensive mental health and substance abuse parity law. (Washington State passed a law in 2011 to identify and promote innovate strategies, and develop a public-private partnership to support effective strategies, but it was not funded as anticipated. The Washington State ACEs Public-Private Initiative is currently evaluating five communities’ ACE activities.”
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The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) has been the subject of my talks and blog posts in the past.  And in my work with Neighbors for Kids in Depoe Bay, Oregon, I worry everyday about the kids who are at risk in our program.  I also worry because of my own childhood adverse experiences living in a post WWII home challenged with the invisible wounds of war.  Kids are often silent about what happens at home.  There could be adverse circumstances contributing to emotional neglect and child abuse.  Most kids put their game face on when they walk out the door for school each day.  If we only knew more as a result of the kind of health care legislation passed in Vermont, we could do so much more to help these children during the day.  The additional information suggesting adverse or toxic home conditions would help to tailor mentoring programs that could make a difference.  As a public-private partnership or non-profit Neighbors for Kids after-school health and well-being programs could provide at risk children the extra attention they may need to get through the day with a more positive and hopeful mindset.  If we were able to identify more serious or critical needs, outside resources could be called upon to assist the children and families affected

When examining the ACES pyramid chart above in this post, it is clear that at risk children can develop behaviors detrimental to health over time, which potentially lead to disabilities and social problems.  In the worst case, completely left alone emotional baggage from childhood and young adult life, can lead to early death.  I believe the ACES comprehensive study proves that helping at risk kids early on, can make a difference in the physical and mental health of children as a whole.  Proactive adult mentoring and loving care often provides children who are at risk with that extra edge needed to get through the day, and a much better chance to succeed in building a happy, healthy, and productive life as an adult.

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story
My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma 

How to repair families torn apart by war and PTSD? Is it even possible after decades of moral injury and dysfunctional behaviors?

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at Barnes and Noble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

Broken: Candy Desmond-Woods comforts her husband Tom, an Iraq veteran who came home with debilitating PTSD and a serious alcohol problem
Wrenching: Woods, a veteran of two tours in Iraq Army, visits a memorial at Northwood Community Park in Irvine. He wept as he saw the names of comrades whose bodies he carried and as he imbibed to dull the pain


“Tom was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He’d carried dead comrades, cleaned blood and gore off the dashes of bombed Humvees, and piled slaughtered dogs he and his fellow soldiers killed in order to keep their cover, among other horrors. And it was starting to show.
 
Tom quickly got two DUIs. Candy took away his car keys and booze, but it didn’t help.
‘I don’t know what it feels like to be happy anymore,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what it feels like to be healthy anymore.’
 
He soon got a third DUI and feared being thrown in jail for good.
Candy, despite mounting worries, stuck by him.
‘Why,’ he wondered.
‘Because I know who you really are,’ she said. ‘I know you’re gonna be OK. OK?’
 
Tom went to jail, but only briefly. A sympathetic judge sent him to an intensive, indefinite, last-ditch rehab program designed to keep soldiers like him out of prison.
 
Candy knew it was for the best.”

 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2419761/Haunting-photographs-familys-battle-stay-veterans-PTSD-tears-apart.html#ixzz2wKX1TDAk
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Families torn apart by war…

Gunnery Sgt. Felix Rivera with his son, Christian, and his wife, Sandra, at a White House event for caregivers of wounded service members this summer. Felix has traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder from getting blown up in Afghanistan in 2009. It took the last two and half years for the family to find their footing again.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SANDRA RIVERA

Repairing a family torn apart by war and PTSD… Quote from this website article By Megan McCloskey

Published: November 20, 2011

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — The breaking point came when Sandra Rivera found their 9-year-old son backed against a wall with his arms over his face, shielding himself from her husband’s screaming.

Desperate, she did what is unfathomable for a Marine wife: She called her husband’s commander.
It was a Friday in fall 2010, about a year and a half after Gunnery Sgt. Felix Rivera emerged as the sole survivor of a car bomb in Afghanistan. By the following Monday, he was checked into a mental hospital.
His struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury were ravaging their marriage. Husband and wife had been relegated to patient and caregiver.”
*****

A heart breaking question from one of my followers triggered the realities of my own post WWII and Korean War family.  For the most part we are all estranged, damaged beyond repair by decades of dysfunction and emotional baggage created by my father’s severe PTSD.  Dad left us in 1998. Mother will be 96 in September, living a relatively comfortable and safe life in a wonderful nursing facility in Reno, Nevada.  Mother can smile and laugh at times, but still suffers from the memories of a toxic home life with emotional and physical abuse stemming from my father’s PTSD, including her own life experiences as a child of the Great Depression era.

The problems of our dysfunctional family were so great, I wrote a book(s) with the hope that we could start to heal as a family and live our later years enjoying each other as siblings…together again.  My sister, Laura, has joined me on a similar journey of healing.  My brothers live and cope with their past by keeping a safe distance from the conversation.  My own children seem to be more comfortable not discussing the topic as well.  I respect that living and coping with PTSD is an individual matter, and will not judge the choices of loved ones in confronting the emotional pain of the past.   My body of work, including this blog, is healing for me and countless others outside of my family.  My sister, Laura, saved the day by supporting my work completely with unconditional love.  We have a very close bond and friendship in these later years of our life.  And she helps me with my work in making a difference for others who struggle with PTSD and moral injury.

It would appear from the references picked above, that it is critical for a family to start very early in life after war and trauma to receive help and treatment from outside mental health professionals and lay persons who can be objective.  This is when the kids are younger and not damaged beyond repair.  It also means that the military spouse and mom takes a very strong leadership role and does not back down!  We should give medals to the military spouses and moms who stick it out and save their families from lifetime estrangement!  

The bottom line is do not allow your family to be torn apart over an extended period of time by the effects of PTSD when a parent finally comes home from war.  Once we become adults it would appear that we all go our own ways, mostly in denial with bottled up anger from the roots of a highly painful childhood.  

Christal Presley’s book,  30 Days With My Father, shows that deliberate intervention with parents by a child of a veteran later in life can be successful.  Christal’s story does show that a high level of awareness and persistence can work in repairing long standing estrangement.  But it does not address how other siblings would have influenced the outcome, since Christal is the only child.  Christal’s account of her experience bringing her family back together again offers much hope, but shows the hard work involved in mending fences in a family torn apart by war.

Although I succeeded in following my own journey of healing and in helping others outside of the family, my original goal of fixing the Sparks family failed.  So my sister and I count our blessings, enjoy a close friendship, and share peace of mind.  I hope and pray that with the high level of awareness we have today regarding PTSD and life after trauma, that families will be more motivated to seek help immediately before it is too late…

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story
My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1