Several years ago a group of students changed my life in a way that I never expected. Students change my life everyday, but this experience brought me to my knees.
In my graduate course on shame resilience, students form groups based on their interests and research how shame resilience applies to the populations of their choice. In this class one of the groups applied Shame Resilience Theory to military veterans. The group was made up of two veterans (one from Vietnam and one from Afghanistan), two partners of deployed soldiers, and two children of vets.
All shame work becomes very personal very fast, but this was different. Our entire class of 70 graduate students had to process through some very difficult feelings, assumptions, and even shame.
Here’s what I learned:
When I let my politics dictate my level of compassion for veterans, I contribute to their pain and to the suffering that is happening in the world.
When I step up (and through my beliefs about war) to hold space for the grief and trauma that they are holding, it changes their lives and creates a more loving and less violent world (which is ironically the goal that holds us back from reaching out to them).
I felt physically sick this morning when I read that veteran and veterans advocate Clay Hunt committed suicide. After interviewing many veterans over the past few years, I wish I could say I was surprised. I wasn’t. I was just deeply saddened and reawakened to my responsibility as a compassionate human being.