Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What? You Too! I Thought I was the Only One!

When each of our boys started sleeping all the way through the night, it was a big deal.  Feedings in the wee hours of the morning soon ceased. Walking the floor with a baby suffering from colic lasted only a matter of weeks even though it seemed like months at the time!  Time marched on and they soon reached a point of seemingly staying up all night and sleeping during the day during school breaks.

It never occurred to me that a grown man could go decades without sleeping all the way through the night.  Last week as I visited with a lady who was married to a Vietnam veteran I learned otherwise.  During the course of our conversation she shared a significant event that took place in her husband’s life prior to his death.

Her husband came home from Vietnam damaged emotionally. I have no idea what kind of attention that he received as he readjusted to civilian life. Awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is no doubt greater today than it was in 1973. She told me that he suffered from intrusive memories and painful nightmares on a very regular basis. She watched him suffer in the wee hours of the morning for years.

But in 2003, something of great significance took place. Her husband traveled to another state to reunite with fellow Vietnam Veterans that he served beside during his overseas service. The sense of community they experienced with each other was beyond words according to his wife. They shared openly about their pains and difficulties. It was profoundly healing. 

She also became acquainted with the spouses of the veterans that reunited. As the spouses continued to correspond with each other after the event, she discovered that some of the men slept all the way through the night for the first time in 40 years. The reunion with their fellow soldiers was that healing.

I visit with people every single day that are damaged emotionally in one form or another. I also interact with people that have been exposed to trauma. I hope that whatever contact I have with them is healing. I realize that emotional difficulties are infinitely complex, but positive interaction with other people can soothe damaged emotions. 

But I am also reminded that bringing people together that have had similar life difficulties is also imperative. C.S. Lewis was correct when he said: “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! you too? I thought I was the only one.” Obviously the renewed friendships that took place at the reunion of Vietnam veterans were characterized by such revelations!  May your life be blessed with such moments of friendship.  Friendship heals. 

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