A post-Iraq and Afghanistan War era brings the ramifications back home to us.
Earlier this month the Army reported 325 confirmed or potential suicides among active and non-active duty military personnel in 2012, many of whom had deployed to these war zones.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a national nonprofit organization which provides immediate and long-term emotional assistance to those who grieve the death of a loved one in military service, reports that about 18% of their current caseload involves military families who are “grieving a death by suicide.”
“The reality is that while combat operations may wind down, the impact of these wars, and the high state of readiness the military must maintain, means that the need for services and bereavement support will continue for military families,” said Ami Neiberger-Miller, spokeswoman for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a private support group.
In hind-sight, the signals were there, but now, too late for action. These individuals feel a need to take their own lives, and loved ones are left to feel the guilt of not being able to “stop it.”
We need to help the family members understand what has happened to their service member while they were away fighting in a war, and let them know that what our military are dealing with is larger than the grief that is felt by those left behind.
According to the Ambiguous Loss and Deployment: Assisting Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom Through Application of Van Deurzen’s Four Worlds Model , viewing deployment in terms of ambiguous loss (experiences of loss or separation that is not clearly defined or does not bring closure) may help in understanding a person’s perception of and adjustment to an event (i.e., deployment). And, during deployment all members of the family experience ambiguous loss.
As a community, we must ask ourselves if it’s possible that these individuals who take their own lives feel that there are no means of closure once they come back home and are immediately integrated back into their communities.
A deployment term is typically 12-months, in that amount of time, a person’s life changes; an individual grows and becomes accustomed to their surroundings, they adapt to their surroundings. A year is enough time to challenge the thoughts of existence and conform to situations presented.
However, many challenges begin when the soldier comes home. A life settled into on the other side of the planet is not permanent and ends once the deployment is over, and in some cases, our service members feel that life ends for them.
To no fault of the family member, the tendency to resume a life that is now over seems the right thing to do- the family wants so much to begin the day where it had ended upon deployment, yet the soldier yearns to close the day of his departure from what they’d known for so long.
To close the gap of communication, we must, as a community, accept the significant changes that occur for our service members and their family. We must understand the days between deployment and return, and must recognize that those days were not spent together.