Article by Jeannette Davidson-Mayer
All of us living in a military family have those friends and family members who just don’t seem to understand “a day in the life of a military family.” Over time, we realize that our relationships with people we love are being strained because they don’t always understand the life we lead.
For some of us, our hero comes home wounded — lifelong wounds — that can cause even more pressure and strain on already fragile relationships.
For a long time I struggled with these family and friends. In fact, I have more than struggled. I have flat out gotten angry, cried, attempted to rationalize, and slowly tried to let go. There were attempts to help them understand… to show them what we are living with… but you cannot fully walk in another person’s shoes, it’s just impossible.
I’ve been slapped in the face with comments like, “You’re abusing your husband,” “You’re the reason he is the shape he is in,” or my favorite: “It’s the medications, and you’re ruining him.”
Some we would no longer hear from them again, they just faded away like that lost sock in the dryer to never be seen again.
Comments like this really made me step back and look at myself, and question my caregiving skills. Was I really creating all the damage to my husband? Would he be better off without me? Self doubt started to take over, adding to the pain from the loss of people I use to rely on — people I considered true friends.
I felt isolated, and alone in a world where there was no one else like me.
As I started to share our family story openly, I realized who was still here. It was refreshing when a few of them started to understand why we just snuck out the door during a family dinner, or why at the last minute we canceled attending a friends BBQ.
I am so thankful to those family and friends who were able to comprehend the ever-changing new normal of our lives.
Over time, my rational skills became more focused. I began to accept those who left our lives, making it easier to open our hearts and home to those who were still here, along with the newcomers entering our lives. During this experience, I learned a lot.
First lesson learned: Some of those who left our lives did not have the ability to understand — or accept — our new ever changing new normal. They just didn’t know how to overcome the challenges emotionally. For that, I forgive them. This is not a lifestyle all people can live in. And that is okay.
Second lesson learned: Harsh words are spoken out of anger, out of lack of knowledge, or out of fear. Some family members have said the meanest words to me because they don’t want to accept what was happening to DeWayne. He has been their hero for so long. To see him in a different way, less strong, and needing help, was hard for them. For these people, I forgive them and pray that one day they will find a way to accept, while understanding he is still with us, along with his ever changing new normal.
Third lesson learned: There are some mean people in the world, who were never truly “real” family or “real” friends. Living with this new normal means a lifelong need of assistance, and attention drawn away from those who don’t like it. For these people, I forgive them and pray they find their place in the world that makes them happy.
Do I still ache for the friends and family we have lost? Yes, for we never truly get over the pain, we just learn how to live with it. For some of the loss, I am glad they are gone. If we can’t support each other, then they were never truly a friend to begin with.
As for the family members who chose to say harsh things. I have found a few family members who will stand up beside me and go to battle for me. Very thankful for this support and understanding.
No matter where we go in this world, we will always run into people who don’t like our ever changing new normal, a highly demanding lifestyle, or they don’t like Ava the service dog. They don’t like the war. Which is fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But it was our men and women in uniform who proudly stood up to defend their freedoms.
So proudly stand up for your freedoms. Caregivers, Veterans, Supporters of all Military Families know you are not alone. Join together in support of each other. Share your challenges, your hardships, your stories. Share your laughers, your hugs, and your smiles. Strength comes from the knowledge and support of others beside you.
Say Farewell to those who don’t understand, who verbally attack, or just don’t show the care and support your family needs. It is okay. It isn’t easy but it is okay.
We are a Military Family who is American Made!
We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter!