The gift of finding peace of mind… Happy Birthday, Dad! My gift to you on this day is forgiveness and healing…
Posted: December 20, 2013 Filed under: Appreciation, Brat Life, Memories, Parents, PTSD, Service, Trials and Tribulations, Veterans, War and Peace
by Steve Sparks, Author of Reconciliation: A Son’s Story
I used to hate the thought of calling my Dad on his birthday. I really didn’t see the point of saying “Happy Birthday” to someone who was perceived as an SOB. I would rather celebrate his birthday by feeling the gift of freedom from his sphere of control and the chains of bondage… Let’s all face it, my father’s behaviors were unacceptable and abusive toward loved ones, both emotionally and physically. None of us really understood PTSD during our childhood and most of our adult life for that matter. I spent my time trying to distance myself from Dad as a child and adult proving to him that I would not fail as his son; rather I would succeed beyond anybody’s dreams. Although I was able to prove this to Dad before he passed away, it really didn’t feel very good. It seemed like a no-win accomplishment. We still had a rocky relationship and didn’t like each other. I do believe there was a kinship of sorts tucked away somewhere that needed to be released. That didn’t happen until years after Dad passed away in 1998. My anger was so deep I did not attend his memorial service.
It’s a new day! I have a better relationship with Dad now than when he was alive. I talk to him everyday through my work as an author and blogger. I am completely free of anger toward my parents in general. The painful knot in my gut has been gone for over two years now since writing my book, starting this blog, and speaking at book signing events and participating in forums…keeping the PTSD awareness conversation going. If I had known what I know today about Dad’s severe emotional suffering from combat stress during WWII and the Korean War, we would have had a different relationship. I know our life together would have been different but not easy. The difference would have been understanding the roots of his behavior and how the invisible wounds of war damaged his heart and soul.
I can’t go back and change anything. I can go forward with my own journey of healing and help others heal along the way. I am a survivor of traumatic life events, but now thrive with a sense of forgiveness, healing, and peace of mind never achieved until later in life. My relationship with Dad also thrives, and now it is with honor to acknowledge his birthday each year on December 10th. Dad would have turned 95 on this day. I do wish he were here though. Our conversations would be far different today than they were before he left us in 1998. But I have the feeling that he sees what is happening in my life and is very proud of his son taking up the cause of PTSD awareness to help others who are challenged each day with the painful symptoms of moral injury and PTSD..
THOUGHTS AND ATTITUDES: A healthy outlook on life makes full recovery more achievable:
1. Challenge negative beliefs. Replace such thoughts as, “I always have bad luck…nothing will better from now on…everything is going wrong,” with, “Is there any real reason to think that…maybe things will change for the better.”
2. Adjust self-talk. Convert negative messages into positive ones, for example, replace “I’ll never get through this,” with “I can do this, but it’s okay to feel scared.”
3. Use previous ordeals that have been successfully overcome as a “power base.”
4. Consider alternative outcomes for worst-case scenarios, for example, “I can still see my friends, I can enjoy the little things in life.”
5. Imagine how this event will be viewed in the future, remembering how things do change over time.