Remembering: Why Community Is Necessary For Healing

"Poppy"

The timing and synchronisity of Remembrance Day/Veteran’s Day with what I’ve read in Judith Herman’s book, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror is perfectly suited for a day when we remember the fallen soldiers of war. I am not a proponent of war, but I am sympathetic to the cause of helping fellow humans overcome traumatic experiences and achieve reintegration with the community. Herman discusses the important role of the community in helping survivors of war reintegrate and overcome their traumatic experiences. The community’s recognition of and appreciation of their sacrifices as well as that of their fallen comrades, is of upmost importance to the mental health of those traumatized by war. I’d like to share some excerpts from Herman’s book with you.

“Sharing the traumatic experience with others is a precondition for the restitution of a sense of a meaningful world. In this process, the survivor seeks assistance not only from those closest to her but also from the wider community. The response of the community has a powerful influence on the ultimate resolution of the trauma. Restoration of the breach between the traumatized person and the community depends, first, upon public acknowledgment of the traumatic event and, second, upon some form of community action. Once it is publicly recognized that a person has been harmed, the community must take action to assign responsibility for the harm and to repair the injury. These two responses—recognition and restitution—are necessary to rebuild the survivor’s sense of order and justice.”

She goes on to address war veterans specifically:

“When veterans’ groups organize, their first efforts are to ensure that their ordeals will not disappear from public memory. Hence the insistence on medals, monuments, parades, holidays, and public ceremonies of memorial, as well as individual compensation for injuries.”

The very meaning of November 11th is to remember. This day every year is demarcated for that purpose, and war veterans are assured of it. I must admit this is the first year that I’ve had any awareness around the importance of Remembrance Day/Veteran’s Day ceremonies for the healing and reintegration of soldiers’ mental health. Many of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and some recognition from all of us can go a long way is helping to relieve that for them. They’re worth it, not because they are soldiers, but because they are human. Please take a moment to remember and recognize these men and women today.

~ “Probably the most significant public contribution to the healing of these veterans was the construction of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. This monument,which records simply by name and date the number of the dead, becomes by means of this acknowledgment a site of common mourning. The “impacted grief” of soldiers is easier to resolve when the community acknowledges the sorrow of its loss.” -Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery

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