The day the 13 colonies became ONE nation.
The day we celebrate our independence.
The day we have BBQs, festivities and fireworks.
This is also a day many veterans, especially combat-veterans, may have a hard time getting through.
Over the last 8+ years of our marriage, I have found different things that tend to trigger my husband’s PTSD. It has been extremely important to try and find ways to help him manage when those triggers do appear and affect him. One of the most important things I’ve learned over the last few years is that I am here to help him manage whatever it is he’s going through, without making it seem like I am treating him like a child.
There are a few days throughout the year that seem to make my husband’s PTSD symptoms worse. One of the those days is July 4th.
I remember celebrating July 4th by doing things like going out with friends, going to parties and BBQs and watching the big community fireworks. Nowadays, my July 4th celebrations look a lot different. Granted, we have a young son now; but many families still participate in different festivities throughout the weekend. However, our July 4th celebrations are far different than they used to be; and I am OK with that. We have found different ways of managing all the excitement surrounding this day.
So, I would like to share with y’all how we’ve been managing this day. Hopefully, these small tips may help some of you. It is not easy and will probably never be easy, but as caregivers we can be supportive and strive to make certain situations more manageable.
Here are 7 Tips to help you manage July 4th with a combat-veteran
Understand the differences in your loved one’s behavior
- I’ve noticed that the days leading up to this date (and a few other days throughout the year), my husband becomes a lot more anxious and irritable. He doesn’t seem to be able to concentrate and focus on tasks. He paces throughout the house, he tries to sleep a lot more than he normally would (being successful is an entirely different story though) and he tends to stay up far later than usual. Have you notice any differences, as subtle as they may be?
Understand what may trigger or increase symptoms of your combat-vet’s PTSD/Anxiety/Panic/etc.
- For my husband, smell and sound seem to really contribute to the increase in PTSD symptoms. Particularly, the smell of the fireworks can greatly contribute to his anxiety and irritability. Unexpected sounds and smells can trigger a flashback and nightmares. The nightmares, anxiety, loss of focus, lack of concentration and irritability might even last for a few days after everything has calmed down. Are you aware of what may trigger or increase symptoms in your combat-vet?
Talk to your vet
- One of the simplest and easiest things you can do, is to talk to your vet. Ask them what they would like to do for July 4th. Have a conversation about whether they want to watch the community fireworks show, have some low key fireworks at home with the kids or just watch a movie and eat pizza. Talk to your vet about any weapons in the house and all safety rules of the house. Have you talked to your vet about July 4th?
Listen to you vet
- It’s one thing to talk to your vet about their wishes for any July 4th celebrations and another to actually hear and understand what they are saying. If they are telling you, in a very subtle way, that they would much rather prefer to stay home, do you believe that making them go to the community fireworks show is going to be productive? If your veteran gives you subtle hints that they are aware of an increase in PTSD symptoms, would you know it?
Prepare for this day
- It sounds super redundant and can get quite annoying and frustrating, but preparation is KEY! Doesn’t it seem like you’re always preparing for something? However, preparation seems to be key! For us, it means that we talk about what we will be doing, discuss whether we will have our own fireworks or not, keeping things as low key as possible, and find relaxing things to do.
Get the kids involved
- Have a conversation with the kids and make sure they understand that this day may be a bit difficult for their parent or guardian. Go out on a special trip with the kids or start a new and different tradition that is special to your family; even if your veteran won’t be participating. This may also be a good opportunity to talk to your children about PTSD and how it can affect a person. Check out my review on these Children’s books that explain PTSD.
Accept that July 4th may never be the same for you and your family
- Your vet may learn more coping skills over the years and your family may adjust and manage quite well with your vet’s PTSD, but days like these will most likely never be the same. Understand and accept that it’s OK to be frustrated, angry and upset, but also take into consideration that not many families could do what we do on a regular basis without giving up. Are YOU OK?
I have noticed that my husband does a lot better when HE is the doing the fireworks. Two years ago, we had a (very) small fireworks show at home for our little one. But Elijah loved every minute of it, because he was able to do it with Daddy; so he didn’t really care much about size. Last year, we managed to even attend a community fireworks show that our local VFW sponsored. Granted, we lived in a very small community; so the attendance was minimal and there was plenty of room for everyone.
It looks like this year, we will be spendin
g July 4th at home. We will probably try to watch a movie and have a few fireworks here at home, nothing too big; just enough for our little one to enjoy.
Another way to prepare for July 4th, or New Year’s, is to create awareness within your own community or neighborhood. Military with PTSD has launched a campaign a few years ago in which they create signs for combat-veterans to place in their front yards for these occasions. It is meant to create awareness and open discussions about how fireworks and unexpected loud sounds can trigger things such as panic attacks and otherwise affect veterans.
These signs are FREE and are sent out throughout the year, but you do have to sign up to be placed on a waiting list. It is my understanding that demand has increased dramatically! Regardless, Military with PTSD is one of my favorite and go-to organizations for all things military/veteran related. I highly encourage you to check them out, if haven’t done so yet.
How will you be spending this Independence Day?
Disclaimer: Everything I share is solely based on my personal experience and is for informational purposes only. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please view my disclosure policy.