Supporting veterans with survivor’s guilt on Memorial Day

Posted at 7:01 AM, May 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-25 07:01:16-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Memorial Day can be a painful trigger for veterans. Many service members experience feelings of grief and loss around the day of remembrance.

Thriveworks Counseling and Psychiatry Richmond licensed counselor, Alexandra Cromer, calls it survivor’s guilt.

Survivor's guilt is a response to an event in which someone else experienced loss, but you did not, according to the nonprofit, Centerstone.

“Don't be afraid to bring it up or don't be afraid to ask,” Cromer said, urging veterans to share their feelings and memories with others.

Veterans and service members often think about the friends that didn’t make it home. Some may experience PTSD symptoms, irritability or disturbances in their sleep schedule.

Cromer recommended working to find solitude and comfort by honoring those fallen heroes and channeling your emotions into good.

“Think about if there's a way that you want to honor them. It can just be their favorite color was blue wearing blue or we could do things like visit the grave. We could plant flowers in remembrance of them. If they liked volunteering, we could volunteer to honor them,” she explained.

The best thing for others to do for a veteran this time of year is to listen.

Traveling during the holidays can add to the stresses.

The experts urge you to plan ahead as much as possible. But still allow yourself to be flexible whether that’s getting stuck in traffic or a flat tire.

“This is one of the first summers I've heard a lot of my clients say, ‘Well, you don't have to wear a mask in places or have your vaccine card,’” Cromer recalled. “And while that's exciting, it also can be a lot more stressful because they aren’t used to socializing for two years.”

The 24-Hour Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is 988. If you’re a veteran or if you know one in need, you’ll be prompted to press one.

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