Love Our Vets-PTSD Family Support
7/1/16 at 02:50 PM 0 Comments

PTSD & Fireworks Don't Mix!

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Independence Day and other patriotic holidays are a blast! Party time! For many. But for others, this “blast” propels them right back into the heat of battle. Physically and emotionally. How ironic and gut wrenching that the very soldiers who sacrificed so we could celebrate our freedom may be the ones who struggle most on this day.

So what can we do to help those who may be veterans, or may have Post-Traumatic Stress from other traumas? And what can those who battle PTSD do to successfully make it through? We cannot delete the day on the calendar, nor should we deny ourselves the privilege of celebrating these events with gratitude (and fun!).

First and foremost, we need to remember that we cannot fix it. Although there are many resources to help PTSD (see, it will always be there at some level. Rather, as friends, family and loved ones, it is our privilege to care and support in any way we can.

Some of the typical signs of PTSD might include flashbacks, avoidance, numbing, putting up walls, withdrawing, hyper-vigilance, irritability, easily startled, memory blocks, sudden bursts of anger or other emotions, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, fear, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other addictive behaviors, difficulty holding a job, relationship problems, and suicidal thoughts or attempts.

If you are new to PTSD, a good place to start is to learn more about it and how it affects those we care about, as well as those of us who love them. The best way I understand it is that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can affect anyone, resulting from exposure to a severe life-threatening trauma. At that moment, the whole person gets locked into emergency mode – fight or flight or freeze survival – which will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Physically, emotionally and mentally. 24/7 they live as if that trauma, crisis or a fatal attack could strike at any moment, overwhelming their ability to cope. When something triggers them, they have no reserve with which to handle it in a healthy way as others might.

The potential triggers this time of year are everywhere. One wife relates: “We were in a department store and they had fireworks blasting away on all the TV’s! Five soldiers hit the floor – along with mine! It took hours to calm him down. People just don’t realize. And it’s not funny.” The crowds that go along with official fireworks displays can also be a source of triggers.

Bottom line? The person needs to feel safe and be safe.

As the wife of a veteran who has struggled with PTSD for over four decades, I like to share from what I am learning personally, as well as from the input of many others (see LOVE OUR VETS: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD). The good news is that many of us are learning and growing successfully in spite of the PTSD. Here are some tips that might help you and those you love to feel safe and be safe on this upcoming holiday:

*Surround yourself with good people, perhaps other veterans or family you know and enjoy.

*Pet lovers – stay close to your furry friends. They don’t like fireworks either!

*Treat your body with good comforts such as a soothing massage, your favorite music, closeness with the one you love, and great food.

*Many find it helpful to leave town, or go somewhere quiet.

*Others turn on loud white noise, watch a good movie, or crank up music to drown out the sounds of the fireworks. Maybe a good pair of earplugs at bedtime.

*Stay sheltered indoors, far away from loud explosions and lights in the sky, and do not even drive that day if you can help it.

*And for the loved ones, you may want to just sit quietly with them, listen when they need to talk, and always respect their space when they need to be alone.

*As you do what you can to help them, NEVER stop living yourself, but do what YOU need and want.

Finally, I encourage all of us to be respectful of those who may be doing all they can to just survive. Then let’s make a point to stop and THANK anyone we know who has served and sacrificed for our freedom, the reason we can celebrate, with or without fireworks.


Welby O’Brien is crazy about her Veteran husband, and together they face the daily challenges of PTSD. Holding a Master’s Degree in counseling from Portland State University and a teaching degree from Biola University, she has authored LOVE OUR VETS: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD (, Good-bye for Now (grief support), and Formerly A Wife (divorce support)(WingSpread/Moody). She is also a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America, as well as Shepherding Women in Pain (Moody). Welby initiated and continues to facilitate the spouse and family support network known as Love Our Vets – PTSD Family Support, LLC. Join Welby and thousands of others on Facebook: Love Our Vets – PTSD Family Support, LLC on Facebook.

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