Post Mothers Day PTSD Threads: How do military families manage during holidays?

by | May 15, 2012

The above site and non-profit organization does an effective job of stimulating dialog with military families on Facebook.  I couldn’t help picking up on the popularity of comments and healthy venting on Mothers Day.  While reading through the conversation and responses, it became clear that certain common threads of spouses of combat veterans and PTSD challenges came through along with a few lessons learned.  The family dynamics and interactions reminded me of my own family story and book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. 

While highlighting the conversation threads below, it became clear that three points can be concluded.  a) The stigma of PTSD causes families to hesitate talking about the complex dynamics, including seeking treatment.  b) Becoming withdrawn and silent about the challenges of readjustment following combat deployment worsens the problems of communications among family members.  c) Making each day in the context of helping others or making a difference for the greater good is healthy and healing for the veteran and the family as a whole.  Please read the highlights and decide for yourself.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Mothers Day Sharing Highlights edited by Steve Sparks

Why Holidays/Celebrations are tough for you to get into, and also share if you’ve found ways (thoughts or actions) to make it easier on yourself and those you love?

Being the typical Marine, he doesn’t think he has any problems…”

“He refuses VA help, as he doesn’t want to be seen as weak…he seldom talks about the dreams/nightmares…Unless I catch him at a weak moment right away…”

“We go visit his mother on Mothers Day; it’s comforting to both of us…”

“Most of them don’t know they need help till it gets catastrophically bad…”

“We found that service dogs, “ Battle Buddies,”  help tremendously.  He trained his own and now we train for others. We have started a nonprofit Corp, called K9’s for Wounded Warrior Program/Rescue. We rescue death row dogs qualify them and give them to soldiers or veterans with emotional or physical or both. It’s an amazing transformation…”

“PTSD broke my family apart…”

“My sister hasn’t visited all weekend. I miss her but she doesn’t understand PTSD, so I have to keep my distance. She’s afraid of me now…”

“Because I feel like I’m not a good enough parent. People can tell me until they are blue in the face that I am, but that is how I FEEL…”

“What do you say to that when you are beating yourself up inside for not being a good enough wife and mom?”

“I think your anxieties are shared by many, many mothers with daughters will always think they couldn’t have a better Mom …”

“My husband is numb around holidays, partially due to his childhood and the other half is from being deployed 3 times…”

“EVERY parent has faults (June Cleaver was fictional) and every GOOD parent has regrets or things they wish they had done better, BECAUSE they care…”

“My veteran loved one has never been big on holidays either. I think it brings emotion to the surface, or it’s that he’s expected to behave differently…”

“Society places a lot of stress on us and myths of how ‘it’s supposed to be’; how married life is supposed to be, etc., etc. It’s whatever works for the 2 of you…”

“We pull our resources and donate to a needy family.  All the expectations fall away and benefit someone else…”

“But I tell you I still don’t know who my husband is anymore…”

“But I have to say I believe he has taken me down with him. I have nowhere to go. I have to stay with my husband…”

“I will keep trying to find a way and I hope that one day they will be proud of me.”

“War makes our men different than before. The best we can do for ourselves and veterans of war is to keep the difference in mind but realize the past is gone, and we can make a new future, it’s just how. We know that we still love each other, but under different circumstances now…”

“If your husband is getting help, and taking it seriously, then he probably needs your patience and support. You will have to “relearn” a new him and I know from experience that just that alone can be very upsetting. It’s hard living with an angry, depressed stranger, and I have cried buckets of tears (out of his sight) over just that part of things…”

“I do know my husband won’t be the man I used to know…”

“My feeling is I have no time for me. My husband needs me, my children need me and we have no money to hire a babysitter and no family here at all.”

“PTSD gets a little bad on certain holidays, but we deal with it and move on…”

“During the holidays memories of the warriors I have lost and I start thinking about how much they would like to be with their family, which pulls me down.  So, I tend to withdraw from these times. It is not that I do not want to be there. It is just I don’t want people to see me in that frame of mind.”

“I just can’t handle being around people… I go to moms and that’s it…”

“I do have my nieces and nephew and I try to spend as much time with them as I can… it helps some.”

“My in-laws are coming for a few days and it’s SO stressful. My husband gets so irritable when they are here. We always bicker because they do and it’s just frustrating. They don’t understand what we are going through and they think that everything is just fine, and it is not…”

“YOU are the person living with him and helping manage his PTSD so there are NO bounds to overstep. You should call them ahead of time and very carefully explain his PTSD to them and explain to them that they will be hurting their son if they behave that way around him…”

“Some people just do not understand what we go through when we come home.  I would first try to nicely pull them aside & tell them…”

“Be bold & tell them exactly how you feel & make them listen…”

“Mum and Dad, things aren’t rosy here, and we aren’t sure whether this is a good time for you to come, can you leave this for awhile, we still love you so that’s not the problem…..OR.. mum and dad, (hopefully before they come, talking on the phone is easier than face to face) I don’t know if you realize this but he has some problems from the war; little things set him off and he doesn’t like himself.   You know you can find out about his problems by finding reading material on PTSD, as he really would like you to appreciate that this is real for him.  He doesn’t feel this is a good time to be coming, as he is not well…”

“Set the boundaries…”

“It is your home and it is your husband. It is your responsibility to make sure your husband receives the support he needs….especially from friends and family…”

“They should join a group in their home town that helps support PTSD Veterans. It’s their son, IF they really LOVE him, then they will do their best to help him…”

“It’s that simple. Do what’s best for your family. They are the ones you live with every day…”

From a member: “I am so thankful for all of the support I have gotten from this page. As a spouse I spend each day educating myself and talking to other spouses, sometimes even hours into the night until I am so tired I can’t see straight, to help me get through all of the pain, as my marriage is pretty much to the point to where it couldn’t get any worse…I want support, help, advice, anything would help from the other side of all of this..from our veterans here with ptsd. so that I can have a greater understanding of what I can do, or what NOT to do in my current situation, whatever could help improve my marriage. I don’t want to go into detail with my situation completely publicly, so if anyone is willing to speak to me please comment and let me know. Thank you Military PTSD for all you have done ♥”


About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
View all posts by stevesparks →

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