Posts tagged " transition challenges "

Soul Care Conversation (Faith Community Response, Seeking a Restorative Path, Conflict Transformation)

October 19th, 2016 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversation is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

Last week we concluded our discussion on restorative justice as we discussed the fourth of four principles, follow through. This week we will look at the third component for seeking a restorative path, conflict transformation. For our discussion this week, we will re-look at a Soul Care Conversation we had in February, as a follow-up to Dr. David Hooker’s January 2016 blog, “Engaging Conflict”. He provided us with a foundational statement when he stated, “In order to engage conflict we must first acknowledge that: People are not the problem; the problem is the problem.”

THE EFFECTS OF STRESS

For the veteran, what is the problem? Extreme stress! The effects of stress during war impact the whole person, the whole family, and the whole world community after the veteran’s return. How does stress affect how we deal with conflict?

Our warriors’ mission is to ensure US security and maintain peace. To accomplish this they are purposely placed at the very center of conflict as they engage in combat operations and/or humanitarian assistance missions. Both require our warriors to live and work in environments of extreme stress.

Military training and combat operations have one big thing in common – survival. In previous blogs, we determined that while in combat, certain circumstances threaten the physicalmentalbehavioral, and spiritual health of the warrior. Post-traumatic stress or deployment-related stress are normal reactions of normal people to extreme and life threatening events. It is part of the human survival response. Warriors often experience during a combat deployment intense fear, panic, confusion, helplessness and even horror. Extreme stress while in combat may disrupt the warrior’s performance.

After the warrior has returned from war, extreme stress remains ever present as the veteran feels like he or she is at “war.” Veterans carry the edge of hyper-vigilance, grieve the loss of the close bond with a battle buddy and the loss of doing something that holds significance and purpose, and finds themselves in a slower pace of living. It is difficult to shed the warrior mentality, to let go of the behaviors that kept the warrior alive while in combat.

The extreme stress of combat may cause several symptom patterns; restlessness, difficulty concentrating, guilt, anxiety, irritability, and hyper-vigilance. These can threaten the veteran’s health if not managed appropriately. When these symptoms linger for months it could lead to other illnesses or behavior issues such as depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), addiction, abuse, and suicide.

These symptoms are at the heart of the inner-conflict, of soul wounds. But they also become part of how the veteran relates to those around them. How the veteran works through the symptoms of extreme stress will enhance not only how they deal with their inner-conflict, but also how they engage conflict with others.

CHALLENGES OF TRANSITIONING HOME

How can we engage conflict? Now that the warrior is home, not only will the warrior have to process their personal experiences of war and deal with their inner-conflict, they will also have to face numerous reintegration challenges with their family and community. Reintegration is characterized by the veteran’s returning to his or her daily life as experienced prior to deployment. Reintegration can be a turbulent time for the veteran and the family, as members must re-form into a functioning system. One of the greatest challenges appears to be renegotiating family roles as the veteran encounters the often-unexpected difficulty of fitting into a home routine that has likely changed a great deal since his or her departure. Typically, over the course of one or more deployments, the at-home parent and children assume new responsibilities. Now that the veteran has returned, the veteran may desire to take back the responsibilities.  This can cause conflict.

In earlier blogs, we looked at some of the challenges each family entity may experience. We reviewed the reintegration and transition challenges of the veteranspouse, and the children. It is understandable that the transition from warrior to civilian can be overwhelming. On top of the challenges experiencing extreme stress while at war, the returning warrior now faces the stress of transition and reintegration. These may appear as insurmountable obstacles.

Understanding the nature and patterns for reintegration challenges enables the veteran and family to have more control over their lives. This knowledge will enhance a good reintegration and also allow for the veteran and family to engage conflict well.

HOW CAN WE ENGAGE CONFLICT WELL?

The trauma of war is a story of the whole community to include the faith community. As we all bear witness to each other’s story we form a foundation for engaging conflict. We begin to develop skills to listen with our hearts, not only our ears. As we listen with our hearts, we accept responsibility for our veteran’s wounds and we open ourselves to being a catalyst of grace.

How can we do this? Our warriors and veterans need our collective forgiveness for what they did and what they saw in the name of freedom and security. They need our support and participation to find meaning, purpose, healing and restoration. As a nation and faith community we must journey with each of our veterans through their pain, grief, loss, guilt and shame. Our veterans seek our acceptance and understanding for the horrors they witnessed and the horrors they committed.

Additionally, our veterans need to forgive us as a nation. We sent them to war to do our nation’s bidding. Each of us must take responsibility in that we could not engage conflict well in the world community.

The faith community has a critical role. At the core of a person is their soul, that which gives a person meaning. When the soul is in anguish, this can become a spiritual scar that can be identified as a “soul wound.” Soul wounds produce guilt and shame. However, a soul wound goes much deeper because the battlefield strips away the warrior’s belief system so that at the very core of the wound is the feeling of brokenness and hopelessness. In fact, the feeling to the warrior is that the spirit has left them.

What can the faith community do to understand these challenges and journey with our veterans toward healing? The veteran’s story is sacred as is the faith community’s story. By understanding the veteran’s story in the context of the spiritual meaning within a particular faith community context, we then can relate to the person, not the war.  This is the most important step toward developing a relationship of trust with the veteran and their family. The faith community can role model this technique for engaging conflict.

There are several steps in engaging conflict through the lens of soul care: first, by understanding our veterans experience extreme stress while at war; second, through awareness of the challenges of transition and reintegration returning home; and lastly, by accepting responsibility as a community in nurture and support.

What experiences have you had in your faith community that model how to engage conflict well? Next week we will look at the fourth response of the faith community, creating space. Until then, thank you for the conversation…

Soul Care Conversation (Transition and Re-integration Challenges – Experienced by the Spouse)

November 25th, 2015 Posted by Blog 3 comments

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversations is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

Last week we focused our conversation on the challenges of reintegration and transition for the veteran. This week, we will discuss specifically the challenges experienced by the spouse.

THE EXPERIENCE OF REINTEGRATION

As we explored last week, the post-deployment experience is an important stage for the returning warrior. But it has just as important implications for the stay-at-home spouse. There are several key factors to be considered;

  • understand expectations for couple and family reintegration
  • be patient with own feelings and in dealing with the veteran’s mood changes
  • intentionally become reacquainted
  • deliberately re-develop and build on communications and intimacy

As the spouse considers these factors, he/she will be better prepared to understand their specific reactions to their warrior’s return. The stay-at-home spouse reactions vary greatly, between not having to adjust at all during the transition and reintegration, to the spouse not knowing their partner because they have drastically changed thereby making it difficult to adjust.

CHALLENGES OF TRANSITIONING HOME

While the warrior is deployed, the family attempts to keep everything as normal as possible.  The spouse and children attend work, school functions and their faith community. The children continue to play soccer, baseball, and cheer. They visit the grandparents and go shopping. Normalcy is paramount for the family.  Also, the spouse may find it difficult to navigate the military systems in order to better integrate into the community or to find support resources.

Several dynamics affect the family during reintegration. The returning warrior has changed, and so has the spouse and children.  The spouse and the children functioned alone.  The warrior denied his/her own needs in order to serve their comrades as the spouse denied his/her needs for the family. The warrior followed rules and regulations and the spouse navigated the bureaucracy of military support agencies. At times, neither the warrior nor spouse understand or accept these changes. All of these could affect the reintegration of the couple and family.

The reintegration process includes numerous challenges for the spouse;

  1. Feelings of joy and relief because their warrior has returned from a combat zone may be mixed with unexplained anger because the spouse may feel displaced.
  2. The spouse may find it difficult to fit the returning warrior back into the family routine. This may include  re-balancing children discipline and responsibilities.
  3. While the warrior was away, the spouse  learned a new sense of independence. The spouse may now find it difficult to share in decision making.
  4. Getting to know the warrior again. There may be some fear and concern for the reactions being displayed by the returned warrior, or fear that they will no longer connect.
  5. Communicating expectations and the story of his/her experience during the deployment may be difficult because the returning warrior may not be receptive nor interested.
  6. During the deployment, the spouse most likely found a social support network. Who do they turn to for advice now that their warrior has returned?
  7. Lastly, the spouse may begin to worry about the next deployment that could affect their openness to allow the returning veteran to reintegrate back into their relationship and the family’s lives.

During the course of the Post 9/11 wars, the Army developed pre-deployment training for the warrior in order to prepare them to survive on the battlefield, and what to expect during re-deployment in how to better process the transition and reintegration with the family. This training was required for the deploying service member. Additionally, the Army required every Soldier to attend the same training prior to re-deploying. The Army opened the training to spouses both pre and post deployment. However, spouses were not required to attend.  For various reasons, many spouses chose not to attend.

The training provided the warrior and spouse some mitigating factors in order to better navigate through the reintegration process. Some of these factors included;

  • frequency of positive contact during deployment
  • importance of good communication and patience to give time and space to re-adjust
  • overall acceptance and adjustment to deployment
  • spouses use of military support programs
  • adjustments to expectations according to the age of children
  • celebrate together the personal growth each person has achieved during the deployment

Of course there are some negative factors that could cause stress to the spouse while the warrior is deployed that most likely will linger into the transition phase;

  • poor and difficult contact with the warrior during deployment
  • mistrust of the warrior’s faithfulness to the marriage vows while deployed
  • negative beliefs in the value of the warrior’s mission
  • the warrior’s exposure to imminent threat while in combat

An awareness of these stressors will help the spouse during reintegration.

There is definitely another important factor that must be addressed. If the warrior was wounded, either physically, mentally, or spiritually; this places great stress on the spouse and the reintegration process. The Rand Corporation conducted a study per the Dole Foundations’ Hidden Heroes on how many caregivers provide 24/7 care to their wounded veteran. There are 5.5 million from all wars which includes 1.1 million for the Post 9/11 wars who are parents, spouses, children and friends who 365 days of the year provide quality care to their loved one who was wounded in war. This places a great stress on the family and the reintegration process as well.

These are just a few of the transition challenges experienced by the spouse. Please, share your challenges so we all may benefit from your experiences. What tools did you use to assist you through the transition phase during re-deployment? What would you not do again?

Next week, we will focus our conversation on the challenges the children experience during reintegration. Until then, thank you for the conversation….

 

Soul Care Conversation (Reintegration and Transition)

October 29th, 2015 Posted by Blog 1 comment

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversations is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

Last week we concluded our conversation on the context of war as we reviewed the Post 9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the next four weeks we will focus our conversation around the challenges of transition and reintegration for the veteran and the veteran’s family. This week we will introduce reintegration and discuss some of the transition challenges.

INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS REINTEGRATION?

Reintegration is characterized by the veteran’s returning to his or her daily life as experienced prior to deployment.  Despite much literature suggesting that the reintegration stage lasts several months, this stage can actually persist for months to years depending on the individual veteran, his or her family situation, and the fuller context of the service member’s life.

Reintegration involves:

  • learning how to reconnect with your family and loved ones
  • taking care of YOU!

Let’s look at both of these aspects separately.

LEARNING HOW TO RECONNECT WITH YOUR FAMILY

Most likely, the warrior and family maintained contact during the course of the deployment. Letter writing, emails, and the occasional phone calls provided opportunities to remain as close as the distance in miles would allow. However, in some situations the separation only exacerbated an already difficult relationship. Couples discover that the distance makes it difficult to communicate. Or, the couple engage in power games, stretching an already strained relationship. For couples experiencing a healthy relationship, some fine-tuning may be needed when the veteran returns.

Reintegration can be a turbulent time for the family, as members must re-form into a functioning system. Some studies suggest that relationship stress and negative family function may reach a peak between 4 to 9 months after the service member’s return.

Challenges in reintegration often can center around:

  • renegotiating family roles
  • veteran encounters the often-unexpected difficulty of fitting into a home routine that has likely changed a great deal since his or her departure
  • at-home parent and children assume new responsibilities
  • spouse took on many of the roles the service member accomplished prior, such as paying bills, disciplining the children, repairing the car
  • veteran may desire to take back the responsibilities

This can cause conflict within the marital relationship as well as effect the family dynamics.  (In the following weeks we will look in some detail the challenges each family entity may experience.)

For the veteran who is single, there are some challenges as well. It is important for the veteran to consider what impact the deployment had on him or herself. How will this impact social relationships and living habits? Some of the same challenges that effect the married veteran will also be prevalent for the single veteran:

  • the veteran’s significant other may have changed during the deployment
  • immediate family members may have expectations on your time
  • changes have occurred in some family members; such as illness, divorce

It is important for the veteran, spouse, and other family members to know that the transition from combat to home will provide numerous challenges. Knowing this will assist all family members to begin to communicate expectations and understand the changes that may have occurred in various familial entities during separation.

TAKING CARE OF YOU

Military training and combat operations have one big thing in common – survival. While in combat, certain circumstances threaten the physical, mental and spiritual health of the warrior. Combat stress and post- traumatic stress are common reactions to a combat deployment. Extreme stress while in combat will not only disrupt the warrior’s performance, but it will threaten the veteran’s health if not managed appropriately after he or she has returned. When symptoms linger for months it could lead to other illnesses or behavior issues such as:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • PTSD
  • addiction (gambling, drugs and alcohol)
  • domestic abuse
  • child abuse
  • suicide

Veterans are extremely resilient and strong. However, sometimes their strengths can be a challenge. As a veteran may not recognize that they have endured extreme hardships or stress, they may have difficulty recognizing that they may need personal care. Sometimes, family members and friends notice changes in the veteran that may cause them concern.

Therefore, the returning veteran should look at the steps needed to take care of themselves.

What can the returning veteran do?

  • complete all medical screening
  • be aware of the post-deployment reactions
  • accept training in coping skills
  • focus on relieving symptoms of distress
  • connect with care providers in order to get required help
  • prior to military separation, visit respective service branch assistance programs in order to ensure benefits and resources

Understanding the nature and patterns for reintegration challenges enables the veteran and family to have more control over their lives. This knowledge will enhance a good reintegration.

What can the community do to understand these challenges? How can the community be a part of a good transition home? The answers to these questions can lead us to understand the role that the community can have in assisting the veteran disengage from military life and begin a full reintegration into civilian life.

Next week, we will look at the transition challenges a veteran will experience upon their return home. Until then, hope to have you join the conversation….