This weekend, I had planned to write about the tips and tricks I learned to help my kiddos deal with the big emotions that can be so hard for them, but every time I would open the computer, I’d stare at the blank screen — I just wasn’t feeling it. As the deadline for my post was looming closer and closer, I tried to get motivated to write, but just couldn’t. Finally, last night, as I was attempting to sleep in a tent for Memorial Day Weekend camping, I realized why I couldn’t write a post: It’s Memorial Day Weekend! My mind was on something else, something much more important to my family; I was focusing on what Memorial Day Weekend is for our family.
Memorial Day Weekend is different for our family.
The emotional impact of this past weekend is something so many military families go through, just like us. You see, my husband is a 100% Disabled Combat Wounded Veteran. He served our country and was deployed in Iraq. He lost several close friends there. He’s not the only one. So many of our military that have fought overseas know someone that did not come back home. And for them, Memorial Day Weekend takes on a whole different element.
Sure, we do all the typical Memorial Day activities. We went hiking, we played in the pool, went out on the boat, had s’mores, and camped out in the tent at my parents’ home. We celebrated the unofficial start of the summer like I am sure a lot of you did, BUT there is a melancholy in it. We are not just doing this for some summer fun. We are doing activities that will keep my husband from going down the rabbit hole of grief and despair. The outdoors is good for his soul and it is the best way to honor the friends that he misses.
I met my husband after he came back from Iraq and our first Memorial Day Weekend together was eye opening for me. My husband (boyfriend at the time) was dealing with survivor’s guilt, PTSD, depression, and a myriad of emotions that so many of our military deal with when they are back home. Those first few Memorial Day Weekends he was deep within himself as he was surrounded by so many reminders of those that he loved and lost. It was scary to watch.
That survivor’s guilt, PTSD, depression, etc. don’t disappear. He just learned how to deal with them in a different and healthier manner. He fought VERY HARD to get to the point he is at right now. We can do those fun things during Memorial Day Weekend now, but our entire family, including the children, know that Memorial Day is a very sacred day to their father and therefore us as well. It is a day where we allow him to grieve and remember his friends in a way that is best for him. We hike. We camp. He pours a beer for them.
This weekend has been wonderful and so fun, but we also had moments when my husband was sad or withdrawn, or maybe even snapped at us in a way that we aren’t used to. In moment, he needed to be alone, and I didn’t react in the most understanding, empathetic way every time. I felt responsible for not keeping up his happiness the entire time and would get hurt if it wasn’t working. I’d forget that he needed to remember, honor, and grieve as well. Next year, I will do better. Each year, I learn just a little bit more about how to help him through this sacred holiday. My children will continue to grow and learn the importance of Memorial Day in a very personal way, a way that so many of our friends THANKFULLY will never have to experience.