By Hidden Heroes Caregiver Community Member Lisa Villont
I wrote this several years ago, and at my own Veteran’s request repost it to social media each year. In our home, we have found that these publicly posted thoughts help my spouse adopt a healthier attitude toward Memorial Day.
“Holidays of any sort, but especially Memorial Day, can be difficult for many Veterans. Here is a short list of suggestions for successful observations of Memorial Day, or any Holiday with your Veteran family members and friends.
1. Invite your Veteran family member or friend to participate in your planned activities.
2. Allow your Veteran to decline your invitation without placing pressure on him or her to change their mind.
3. If your Veteran accepts the invitation, accept that he or she may cancel at the last minute, may leave early, or may need to take a walk…~~~THIS IS NOT A REFLECTION ON YOU~~~As long as there is no reason to be concerned for their safety, carry on your planned activities. When the Veteran is ready to rejoin you, they will.
4. Keep the Veteran’s Crisis Hotline number someplace visible. 1-800-273-TALK press 1 for veterans.
5. Pressuring your Veteran family member or friend to “cheer up”, “stop moping around”, or “quit being such a downer” may result in a temporary change of behavior that makes YOU feel more comfortable. However, this may cause your loved one to feel more despondent. Sadness in a safe environment should be ok today.
6. Acknowledge to your loved one that you understand that you cannot fully comprehend what your loved one is experiencing, but that you are there for them if they need you.
7. Have kids? Cook out, have a water balloon fight, play in the sprinklers, whatever…it’s ok if your beloved Veteran chooses to sit it out.
8. Consider including a “Fallen Comrade” table setting at your main meal of the day. Your Veteran family member or guest may feel that the day has now been properly acknowledged. Consider inviting your Veteran to explain the symbolism and meaning of the empty place at the table. This will also help other guests at the table feel more engaged with your Veteran guest. For more information about setting a “Missing Man” or “Fallen Comrade” place at your table, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missing_man_table
9. If you’re planning to light fireworks, it’s always nice to inform your guests BEFORE you light anything. Even small, quiet fireworks SMELL like ordnance, and that can be a powerful trigger for many veterans.
10. Finally, relax, and remember, that today is NOT ABOUT YOU! It is about people your veteran loved, some of whom you may never have known. Encourage your loved one to grieve these losses in a healthy, safe, and respectful manner. If after a few days your Veteran hasn’t perked back up, gently suggest it may be time to speak with a good friend, a counselor, or a clinical psychologist.”