Talking about your Reintegration

Minnesota soldier returning home, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons When my brother came back after four months in Afghanistan, my parents and I didn't really know how to best support him. We didn't know what he saw over there, how he felt, if he had regrets, or how the experience made him stronger.

Being the reserved and private person he is, "fine" and "nothing" were habitual answers to most of our enquiries.

For someone like me with extraverted Feeling preferences, it took a lot of restraint not to fly home, hug him violently, and make him tell me everything. Because that's what I would do - share, in order to connect, establish harmonious partnerships, including physical and emotional support. I don't know what type preferences my brother has, but it's most certainly not ENFJ.

It took many weeks and months of intermittent contact, little chats, quick calls via Skype, and each time a little morsel of information would come out. I did my best to listen and emulate his style of narrative. He set the tone with detached analysis, logical and rational explanations. In other words, none of my Feeling vocabulary would have been received as any help at all. Instead, we kept the experience at a certain distance, and I worded my concerns in terms of potential pitfalls to watch out for.

The vet you might be talking to perhaps prefers talking about their experiences in detail. If your communication preferences are for general themes and broad strokes, try and hold back the potential connections you see until they have finished. Interruptions may send the message that you're not interested in what they have to say.

By the same token, if you prefer to receive information in detail, but the vet you're talking to only gives the bottom line, try not to push too hard. Perhaps more details will come out over time, just not in the one single conversation.

Luckily, my brother is a pretty balanced and self-reflective guy, who had already come to most of my conclusions and suggestions by himself. He had seen how other soldiers handled themselves in the field, and saw first-hand the damage denial, e.g. in the form of excessive alcohol abuse, can do.

Sadly, denial is one of those tricky things that you don't know you're in until you decide to step outside yourself and look in from a different perspective. This can be hard, especially if you're trying to find your way around your home town again, maybe even raising your family, or having to find a new job.

If you notice a change in your sleeping patterns, mood-swings, loss of appetite, more feelings of sadness or frustration than usual, please take these signs seriously and talk to someone. If you're uncomfortable sharing what you saw with your family members, because you want to protect them, you don't want them to worry about you, or you fear they wouldn't understand, please take advantage of the support available to you. Ideally, that support staff will be on a similar wave-length, perhaps they've gone through a similar experience, and they're trained to counsel.

Grace After Fire 's mission is to provide the means for women  Veterans to gain knowledge, insight and self-renewal. We serve to  protect the Veteran, connect the resources and renew the woman.

The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24/7/365.