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Brothers Jerry, Danny & me with Dad, Vernon, on a road trip during late 1940’s… Post WWII
For reasons that are basic to survival, traumatic experiences, long after they are over, continue to take priority in the thoughts, emotions, and behavior of children, adolescents and adults. Fears and other strong emotions, intense physical reactions, and the new way of looking at dangers in the world may recede into the background, but events and reminders may bring them to mind again.
There are three core groups of posttraumatic stress reactions.
First, there are the different ways these types of experiences stay on our minds. We continue to have upsetting images of what happened. We may keep having upsetting thoughts about our experience or the harm that resulted. We can also have nightmares. We have strong physical and emotional reactions to reminders that are often part of our daily life. We may have a hard time distinguishing new, safer situations from the traumatic situation we already went through. We may overreact to other things that happen, as if the danger were about to happen again.
Second, we may try our best to avoid any situation, person, or place that reminds us of what happened, fighting hard to keep the thoughts, feelings, and images from coming back. We may even “forget” some of the worst parts of the experience, while continuing to react to reminders of those moments.
Third, our bodies may continue to stay “on alert.” We may have trouble sleeping, become irritable or easily angered, startle or jump at noises more than before, have trouble concentrating or paying attention, and have recurring physical symptoms, like headaches or stomachaches.
We may try our best to avoid any situation, person, or place that reminds us of what happened.
During the coming weeks I will be focused more on the “children of combat veterans” and children in general who survive traumatic life events. As a post WWII military child and US Navy veteran from the Vietnam era, I have observed and experienced in my life time that we parents risk pushing the kids away as if they did not matter during times of family emotional stress. I strongly believe as in my case as a parent and PTSD survivor that knowing as much as possible about how children are affected from the potentially toxic home circumstances and conditions of life after war, we can protect youngsters from secondary emotional damage from PTSD, including Complex PTSD. As in my particular experience as a child growing up with a parent who suffered severely without treatment from the trauma of WWII, we siblings carried PTSD forward in our adult lives without treatment as well. Children inhale the pain of parents and store it! Kids are survivors as well, but often live with the pain of memories from emotional neglect and abuse growing up in a dysfunctional family culture… The emotional pain caused by trauma often surfaces as a nasty laundry list of the symptoms of PTSD affecting the next generation and the next unless we seek a path of healing. But finding our own journey of healing in life after trauma is not possible unless as adults we become highly aware of the circumstances and conditions at the root of life long emotional pain and challenges stemming from living in a highly toxic home as children.
Several reference links are included above in this post. My readers can take their time and come back to review the information and resources as time permits. I plan to pick certain specific topics in the coming weeks and try to relate my own experience as a military child from post WWII and Korean War as well as my adult life as a parent. It has been very healing for me to connect the dots over the past couple of years while researching and writing my book (a life experience case study) and building a respectable following as a regular blogger. I know it has helped me to embark on a journey of healing that has brought peace of mind that is now treasured. I also know that my blog has helped many others who write to me and share their own stories, including those who generously give their time to the cause of life after trauma and PTSD awareness. I often reference in my blog posts these individuals and heroes who survive and thrive. It has become particularly important for me to focus more on the children of combat veterans and others who experience traumatic life events. I believe the long term solution to healing PTSD is through protecting children as much as possible from exposure to the emotional stress circumstances and conditions created at home from parents who bravely and honorably serve America in combat to protect the freedoms we all enjoy. I know in my heart and soul that those who have served America in past wars, including my father, welcome the new higher level of awareness and conversation concerning life after trauma…
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.