Every year on November 11th, citizens in 54 Commonwealth countries pause to honour the men and women who have served.   In the United States they call it Veterans Day, we call it Remembrance Day.

This year, when you pause to give thanks, don’t just remember those who stood and fell, remember those who are fighting still.     Remember the soldiers who are far from home fighting with guns and bullets and remember too the vets who are safe at home but fighting with memories and grief.     For too many, the painful legacy of war is that we were taught to silence emotional pain and pay attention only to the physical.   

When bombs are dropping and bullets are flying it is totally appropriate to treat the most severely wounded and tell others to wait.   This kind of triage is vital for the survival of the physically wounded but it does not touch our mental and emotional wounds.   Too often soldiers are sent home with their physical wounds healed and their emotional wounds gaping.

Throughout history, the soldiers who have put themselves at risk, have done so to give us a better quality of life.   We do not honour that gift by acting as if we are at war and only caring for those who are hurt the deepest.     If you are lucky enough to live in a place that is not currently at war, then honour the soldiers who fought and died to ensure your safety.      Tend to your wounds.

Soldiers risk everything to give us physical safety.
Dare to risk a bit and help all of us find emotional safety.

We cannot ever repay the debt that we owe our soldiers but we can, pay it forward.

Be one of the people who listens.

Be one of the ones who talks honestly when things hurt.

Make it safe for folks who’ve been through losses, to admit that they are hurting.

You don’t need to fix their wounds.   

You only need to listen.

How do you listen?    The answer is:  Gently.   

Lean in and listen with your heart wide open.   

Listen to understand, rather than to give an answer.

Listen for as long as you’ve got and when you realize that you’re hurting, or are needed elsewhere, end the conversation kindly and move on.   It’s not necessary for you to give more than you’ve got.

Be gentle with yourself.

If you can, listen when others talk about their pain you are helping to heal our world.

That’s quite a thank you to give, to the ones who risked it all.

Written by Catherine Mitchell, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist serving the Durham Region.