Commentary: It takes strength to ask for help
September 14, 2010
By Maureen Rose
FORT KNOX, Ky. (Army News Service, Sept. 14, 2010) -- Watching Soldiers carry the coffin of a warrior who has been killed in action is a tough story to cover.
Seeing a uniformed brother struggle to maintain his professional composure as he renders a salute, then follows the coffin to its destination, makes my throat tighten with emotion. Hearing the sobs of a bereaved mother starts the tears down my own face.
It's a fairly predictable sequence of events, but the predictability doesn't
make it any easier to observe. The grief that comes with burying a child is
absolutely unimagineable for me, the mother of three.
But I suspect that at some point, the bereaved will feel a sense of pride.
Pride that the Soldier gave his life for a worthwhile cause -- he died honorably, making a sacrifice that would make a difference for others.
Unfortunately, there is another kind of death that offers no pride to balance out the grief in the ultimate scale of justice: Suicide.
It's a word we're hearing more and more in the armed forces. Unfortunately, there are statistics to prove it's happening more often among all the uniformed services.
Suicide speaks of painful burdens borne by those who've ended their own lives and perhaps even more pain for those loved ones who will ask themselves "why'" every day for the rest of their lives.
They'll ask, "What could I have done'" or "Why didn't I see the signs'" "Why was I so afraid to say something'" or "Why didn't I listen longer'" "Why didn't I take them seriously'" "Why did I rely on an impersonal professional who didn't know my kid like I did'"
The stream of guilt-laden questions will continue to flow -- sometimes in a torrent, other times barely a trickle -- but never dry up.
I've interviewed several people whose loved ones have ended their own lives. The circumstances surrounding the deaths and the victims vary widely, but there is a common thread among those left behind.
They all said they would never be able to "recover" from the grief; they would never stop asking why, and they would never forget their child, sister, or brother.
They all felt they could have and would have done more if they had only understood the gravity of the symptoms being displayed. They each said they should have schooled themselves to recognize the signs of depression and suicide.
As a parent observing their grief -- even those who are now a decade away from the awful day -- I swore an oath that I will not make the mistake they made. I will learn and I will listen so I never have to own the kind of grief and guilt they share.
I have never marched onto a battlefield or held a weapon in combat, but I'm convinced that the toughest wars are waged in our minds.
The strength it takes to reach out for help is a different kind of courage, but it's still courage.
Please don't cast your loved ones into that heart-wrenching tide of grief. Tell someone -- your battle buddy, your platoon sergeant, or yes, maybe even your mom -- but talk to someone if you're in trouble.
Don't wait until depression pulls you under.
You think you're Army strong' Prove it!
(Maureen Rose is the associate editor of the Turret newspaper at Fort Knox, Ky., and she wrote this commentary for Suicide Prevention Month.)