Usually if you mention the word Anniversary to someone they think of marriage, other romantically link dates (first kiss, engagement...etc), baby's milestones, and really just important dates in your life that fill you with such joy and happiness.
However, there are also other kinds of Anniversaries, the dark, black sheep of the Anniversary family. These are the dates of events you wish never happened or you could forget. These are the kind of Anniversaries that put military, veterans, and their loved ones on alert. You have Anniversaries of the death of fellow soldiers. Anniversaries often referred to as "Alive Days". Anniversaries to big events that ended in tragedy. There are others of course, but the point is these days lead to depression, detachment, anger, and guilt. These reactions could last only the day of the Anniversary, but they can also last for days and even weeks around this date. Some people have certain Anniversary dates that are just weeks apart that a whole certain time of year is a mess for them.
It isn't enough that we must keep an eye on our wounded heroes on holidays such as Christmas, because even what should be happy times can cause them a World of grief in this PTSD World we live in, but we also have extra dates through out the year in which we must stay on alert.
March hasn't been the best month.
This year you have the Tenth Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq (March 19, 2003).
Then a week or so ago we learned that an Army psychologist Sean saw after his deployment had succumbed to his own PTSD. It of course left Sean feeling even more vulnerable about his own.
Then you have today.
Today is the Ninth Anniversary of the death of one of Sean's Army buddies.
I never got to know the guy, the way I knew many of his other buddies and I am sorry for that, I heard he was a great guy.
Sean has been feeling this Anniversary pretty acutely and it didn't help that the other two things that came up this month were all crammed close to each other. It has left Sean very little time to process things. He has become reserved and quiet. He sits on his computer, playing Mass Effect multiplayer or watching YouTube videos as a distraction. Video games and YouTube videos have always been his go to things when he needs a distraction.
I have done my best to distract him. Ironically using another upcoming Anniversary date (a happy one) as my ammo. It has only helped a little.
It is difficult as the Caregiver and wife to sit by and watch him this way. Our son has asked him to play some video games with him but my husband has had to decline because his frame of mind isn't well. I've done my best to explain to Layn about what is going on and he tries to understand with his six year old mind. We have been blessed with a pretty compassionate child, but I know it doesn't make things any less difficult for him either. Of course due to Sean's inability to give our son the attention he requests it adds to his guilt.
When Anniversaries like this come up it puts me in a kind of inner struggle. Should I do more to help distract Sean? Should I leave him to work through it? Is there a balance of what I can do to help as well as let him work through what he needs to do? How can I make the children better understand? Then of course my own guilt in not being able to help much kicks in. It is a very annoying cycle that goes on in my own mind so I can only imagine what kind of cycle Sean's mind struggles with.
In the end though I usually settle for helping him talk through what he is feeling since bottling things up has never proved helpful. I give him the space he needs but at the same time show him the support too. When he feels ready, he talks. I've always felt communication is key in any relationship, but it really and I do stress on the REALLY helps us in our situation. I find when Sean can give me some insight of what is going on in his head, it helps me to be better able to guide him through the difficult times. When I am honest about how things are going for me, it allows him to find ways to be helpful during the times he feels alright enough to help. It brings back some balance to the relationship, balance that usually gets taken away when someone is disabled.
So, we had a chat. He mentioned how if someone like that Army psychologist could succumb to his PTSD what does that say about someone like him? He wondered if releasing his own inner demons years ago to this guy, ended up contributing to it? He talked about Kreider. He mentioned how he didn't think it was fair that he has a family and children and at times happy life and Kreider will never experience that. He even talked about how he is trying to not let it bother him so much, but it still seems to.
Then I shared my wisdom. I told him that we don't know what the psychologist's situation was. He may have lacked the support system Sean has. I doubt Sean's demons contributed because this was many years ago. Most likely the guy struggled to deal with his own demons while also possibly dealing with others' demons too and his mind lacked the ability to process it all. Either way we don't know, anything we could come up with would be pure speculation and it does no good to dwell on that. As for Kreider, it is difficult to not let it bother you. I asked him if he had been in Kreider's place, would he have not wanted Kreider to live a happy full life just because he could not? It is okay to move forward in life and to find happiness. The memory of those we have lost will always be with us and we will honor those people, but I personally believe that they would not want us to forget to live in our mourning of the loss of them.
It will always be tough to lose someone, especially when they are so young. It touches so many people in so many ways. Today is a day of remembrance for so many Blue Spaders like my husband and like every other Anniversary on the calendar it will be one day that is never forgotten.
Kreider may not be here with us today, but he lives on in his family, his friends, and his fellow Blue Spader brothers and he always will!
So, even though not every Anniversary we come across on the calendar is a happy one and we may have to treat these days by walking on eggshells, they are still days we must face.
And I won't let Sean face his alone.