Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 131

Expand the Meaning of Memorial Day This Year, For There is So Much to Mourn

Mourning this Memorial Day extends beyond just veterans…

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

Memorial Day, which we just celebrated on Monday, is a federal holiday for mourning our military who have died in the service of our armed forces. Usually, some visit their cemeteries and memorials. Some participate in, or watch, parades. Some picnic. Some go on long weekend trips, even with the rising gas price.

Having served in the United States Army from 1975-1977, I become tearful at every public recognition of the armed forces that I see.

Unfortunately, some have died recently and over the calendar year in disservice to our country and its people. They died while killing or injuring others in mass shootings, 213 of them so far. Yet, they were also the victims of birth vulnerabilities, development obstacles, and traumatic circumstances. More than likely, they needed mental health care, not guns, as it is becoming clearer and clearer with the Uvalde, Texas perpetrator, who either did not receive it or it did not help enough. Consequently, the country must also take some responsibility for these perpetrators. We need to understand and act, but not scapegoat.

Then there are the victims of these perpetrators. How can all of us not grieve the horrific deaths of the latest tragedy, 19 of them young children, killed in their schoolroom? How can we not think of the horror of a grandmother being shot in the face by a grandchild? How can we not feel anguish for the family and loved ones of those suddenly killed by fellow citizens? On Thursday, the husband of one of the teachers who was killed had a heart attack, a broken heart, and died. The repercussions of this trauma ripples out widely.

A sixth stage of grief was added to the original 5 stages by the psychiatrist Kubler-Ross.1 It is to find meaning in the loss.

At least for this year, I would expand the mourning associated with Memorial Day to all who have died from violence similar to that which has killed those in the military. It is as if we are at war with ourselves, with our own human nature. The hope is that human nature can improve, even though so far that was been very slow and sporadic.

The only real way to honor those who have passed away in such violent ways is to work to reduce its prevalence by both improving ourselves and improving our worlds.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

Reference

1. Kessler D. Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. Scribner; 2019.