Note to my American Readers: In Canada, November 11th is Remembrance Day. It’s a bit like Memorial Day, but without the mattress sales or backyard cookouts; it’s a somber occasion that can be challenging to cope with.
With less than a week to go before Remembrance Day, some of you might be looking at the calendar and hearing that music from JAWS playing in the back of your head.
I know – you don’t want to think about it. But, not thinking about it means you rob yourself of the opportunity to prepare.
Here’s a few ideas for how to get through it:
Start with a review of what you did last year. Who did you spend the day with? What did you do? What parts of that worked, and what parts need improving? This is your best starting point for getting a sense of what you need: if you spent the day with friends but felt exhausted by the end, then perhaps you need some more time to yourself. If you were by yourself but felt isolated, then consider spending part of the day with people.
This is going to sound cheesy, but: give yourself permission to feel. Military culture means that you expect yourself to be this unwavering wall of steel, where nothing gets under your skin. Well – this is a day that’s supposed to get under your skin, because you care.
So – this year, instead of telling yourself to suck it up harder and make sure you don’t choke up or let a tear slip out – tell yourself something like this: “Hey, you know what? This day is to remember all the sacrifices. Yeah, I’m going to get choked up – and if anyone’s got a problem with that, then they need to get their compassion chip adjusted!!!”
That way, you don’t have to worry about getting emotional – it takes a lot of pressure off of yourself, and might make it easier to get through the day.
Now – that’s all pretty light and fluffy so far, right? Heads up – this next part digs deeper, so give yourself some time to read it in a quiet space.
Lots of people struggle with a sense of guilt and shame about fallen comrades, because you lived and they didn’t so, somehow, your brain twists this into being all your fault. Maybe you even realize that these feelings don’t make logical sense, and you kick yourself to stop feeling this way but can’t let it go. That makes getting through this day particularly tricky.
If this is you, then here’s a tough question to ask yourself: what are you doing to remember and honour the fallen today… and what are you doing just to punish yourself for having lived?
There’s a difference. If it feels like you’re punishing yourself, then you’re not genuinely honouring anyone.
So – switch gears. Work hard to remember one happy memory about your friend. Try to remember it in as much detail as you can. Do your best smile like you mean it. Spend a little less time and energy on punishing yourself.
There – you’ve just honoured and remembered them. Well done.
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~ Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.
*Fine print: Please feel free to share the link to this blog wherever you think it might be helpful! Reading this blog is a good start, but it’s no substitute for professional help. It takes a different kind of courage to admit to yourself that you’re struggling. PTSD is not a sign of failure – it’s a sign that you’ve been through a lot, and have tried to stay strong for too long. If you need help – you’re in some pretty great company. Reach out, and give yourself a chance to feel better.
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