WIGIAT...where is God for the soldier on the battlefield or the one who has returned with PTSD...these are the impetus for this week's question for the matriarchs.
I have been meeting with a female soldier who is suffering from PTSD. I need some helpful resources. She tried talking to her unit's chaplain but he was all about "getting back in the game" and she is asking the harder "where is God in all of this?" type of questions.
Mostly, I just listen to her story, spend time with her (not a hard task because she's awesome!) and reassure her of our love and God's love for her. (I've done my CPE - I know that being present where the person is and not trying to "fix" is important!) -- but -- she has been asking me for things to read (nonbiblical). It also doesn't help that I'm a pretty strong pacifist so the "just war" stuff doesn't sit well with me, either. Any suggestions?
Earthchick, who blogs at Earthchicknits , was our sole respondent this week:
It sounds like you have done all the right things so far – kudos to you for your faithful ministry. I feel such a burden for the men and women who are returning from war, and it’s so disappointing to read that this woman’s unit chaplain is not being the kind of resource she needs. It is wonderful that she has you.
I assume that when you indicate that you are a pacifist and that the "just war" stuff doesn't sit well with you, that you are simply acknowledging your own feelings in struggling through this with her, rather than indicating a desire to persuade her of anything.
I am writing not as someone who has ministered to soldiers suffering from PTSD but as someone who is familiar with military life (I'm an army brat and spent a portion of my early young adulthood doing a little bit of volunteer service in army chapel services) and who, as I indicated above, feels a strong sense of concern for those who are charged with fighting wars the rest of us have the privilege of being completely uninvolved in. I don't have firsthand knowledge of any resources, but there are three things I have run across in my reading that sound useful but that I can't personally vouch for.
I've recently read a few outstanding reviews of the new book The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows by Brian Castner, a soldier who served in
Explosive Ordinance Disposal, and then came home with Traumatic Brain Injury
and PTSD. It sounds excellent and it is high on my reading list. I am
recommending it not for your soldier, but for you. It sounds like an
exceptional glimpse for civilians into what these men and women are dealing
with, not only in war, but once they come home. Iraq
I've also read great reviews of the book Once a Warrior, Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transition from Combat to Home - Including Combat Stress, PTSD, and mTBI. It has gotten 5 stars from nearly everyone who has reviewed it on Amazon. It might be a good book for the two of you to work through together.
Finally, I'm aware of an organization called The Soldiers Project, a group of mental health professionals who offer free psychological treatment to service members. You can check out their website and see if there's a location near you. The woman you are meeting with likely needs long-term help, and probably beyond what a pastor has the time or resources to provide. So if you could find a group like this to link her up with, that might help.
Again, these are all suggestions from someone who has actually used none of these resources nor have I yet been in the position of caring for someone who is actively suffering from post-war PTSD, so take this advice for what it's worth. I'll be interested to read what others have to say. Blessings on you as you continue to minister to this woman.
Do you have something to say about ministry with men and women serving in the military? Experience as a soldier or a chaplain or pastor to those who serve? Please share your insights below.
May you live in God's amazing grace+