I just watched a true life story about a soldier who killed his girlfriend and then a few years later took his own life. This man fought in a war and had severe PTSD. He didn’t just say he had it, he was in military mental health hospitals more than once for treatment and released more than once against his own will back to his unit. I am struck with the negligence of the military in this story, but even more so I am struck with the wake of destruction that this negligence brought to the lives of many people. It literally brought tears to my eyes to think of the young girl’s family and his family who are left helpless and mourning. It angers me that there is the possibility that it could have been prevented. I know that this has occurred not just in the Army, but in all the branches of the military. It even happened right here on our own base Marine Corps base. In both cases family members plead for help for their loved ones, and they were not taken seriously. I don’t understand why this happens.
PTSD (and I believe that it is very real, for those of you that don’t) is not the only thing that can leave marks on the lives of military members and their loved ones. Deployments themselves are difficult. To experience the daily absence of your loved one, especially when you know that they are in danger, is absolutely nerve-wracking. I wish that I could explain it in a way that would do it justice. But to never know when you will hear your loved ones voice again, or if you will, is life changing. For me…I rarely slept. Even now…with Frank gone in a place that is NOT Afghanistan I cannot sleep. I am paranoid as he moves around and works that something absolutely terrible will happen to him. I cannot see every night that he is okay, so I cannot sleep. It makes daily life hard. Not knowing when his job will be done, and when we will be reunited, makes each day even more difficult. I cannot imagine what life would be like if once my Marine came home, so did the war. I know that there are many ladies that have finally gotten their husbands home to discover that they were not all there. I know that I don’t have to worry about that this time, because Frank is not in a place like that, but my heart goes out to the many ladies that face the very real possibility.
I think that everyone’s biggest fear when their husband’s are deployed is not necessarily that they will come back changed, I honestly never worried about that, but rather the biggest fear is that our husbands will not make it home alive (in my experience). Worrying about whether this would happen to me was constantly on my mind. I cannot even describe to you what it felt like to get the news. Physically my body rejected it and I literally puked. Mentally I was numb. Emotionally I was all over the place. What losing Michael has done to my life can only be described by using two words: irrevocably changed. Nothing was the same after Michael died, and nothing will ever be the same. Something that I struggle with today is that I don’t have the answers for other people in pain. I can only tell people about my experience, what I have done, but I cannot give them answers because there are no answers. I wish every time I meet someone who has felt a similar pain to mine that I could take it all away from them. I wish that I could give them all the answers, but I cannot. From the outside I am sure that it looks like I have some answers…I have been able to love again.
Loving again is something that seems absolutely impossible when you lose your husband. For some it is, for others it becomes a possibility, for more of us it becomes a reality. I cannot even tell you how it became possible for me, it just did. The fact that it became a reality for me has been wonderful, but each and every day is work too. Just because I have Frank does not mean that my heart is healed. I explained this a little earlier…having Frank in my life brings me a balance. Before him all I had was the pain (or at least that is all I could see). I got up each day because I had the kids to take care of. I cried in my closet or under the bed to protect them. I smiled because I didn’t want them to know a Mommy that was sad. But the pain was there and it was suffocating. I can’t say that I hurt less today, but the pain is not as suffocating because I am in love and I have something to truly smile about. I know that I had the kids, and I am sure that there are people who think I am a bad person because they were not my reason to smile, but you have to understand how consumed I was by my grief. I enjoy the kids and they definitely are a reason for me to smile now, but it took me loving again…and realizing it was possible to love again…to remember everything else that I DID NOT lose on July 8th, 2009, and to be everything that I was supposed to be to my children. It took that step for me to appreciate everything that remained after the death of Michael.
Military life is hard. There is no other way to put it. There are so many possibilities of what could happen, that we never quite know how a situation will turn out. I willingly became a part of a military man’s life again, despite all I had previously been through. I felt as though no one else could or would understand me. I still believe that is true…but I amend it and say that no one can understand me like Frank does. That is because he is a Marine, because of all that he has experienced, and because he took the time to get to know me: Amy. Not me: “the widow”. The only advice that I can give families in the military is to live your lives for the time that you get to spend together.
For women who have lost their husbands like me (and even men who have lost their wives), live your life for yourself. You cannot walk through the rest of your life living it in accordance to what you think your late spouse would want. What you want matters. I have seen many women go down the path of doing things because of something their spouse said, but it really and truly has to be about you living, you walking towards your future and whatever that may be. What you choose in the end for yourself will be right because there is no perfect answer to how we are all supposed to handle this. There will be a lot of rocky roads…that is reality…but you can get there. There has already been so much taken from you…don’t deny yourself a voice and a life. (Note that I did not say new love-my path is my path-it is not for everyone. Having a life is something completely different than having a love.) If you have children, don’t deny them YOU. The real you…not the you who makes it through each day. I did. I hugged them, I loved them, I cared for them, but I wasn’t all there. They need you. They need you to take care of yourself so that you can take care of them. So make yourself get up, shower, eat, because in the end it will matter to them. Remember that the you that you knew before you lost your spouse is not the you that you are today. Every day will be work. Find people like you that are the most like you, heal the best that you can so you can give your children a whole you. Don’t give up.
*I don’t feel like proofreading tonight…I am a little emotional…so forgive me*