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What About Traumatized Military Spouses & Kids?

09 Jan


Hi Bellaruth,
I was married to the military for over 20 yrs and have some first hand knowledge of the severe trauma suffered by so many (too many) of our brave and dedicated service people. I also know what their families go thru. I have deep gratitude for all our military and their families. I am also very grateful to you for doing so much for the military and for continuing to push the govt toward better healing methods.

Are there guided imagery programs for spouses, children & other family members of active duty &/or retired who suffer the affects of war, like PTSD?  Kids get scared & spouses expend inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to help & deal with the affected service member, so that it can and does create, among other things, high anxiety and even PTSD in the non-military family member(s).

It can also inhibit the spouse from taking care of themselves. I know, because I'm one. I never got to experience my own reactions to 9/11 because it affected my spouse so severely (PTSD & survivors' guilt). I didn't have time because I was so busy dealing w/his reactions.

One of my children grew up always fearing for her father's safety and unfortunately, there was nothing like your guided imagery to help her. I suspect this happens more than anyone realizes. I'm currently using your PTSD guided imagery & just downloaded your new Heartbreak meditation.

Besides those two, what would you recommend for spouses and the children?

Again, thank you for ALL you do.


Dear Cathy,

Your description of the quandary a military spouse faces gives the rest of us civilians some badly needed insight, awareness and empathy. Thank you for that!  It’s not something most of us think of first when we hear about combat stress, but you are so right to call attention to the families, who are impacted so profoundly.
Just this past week, I heard about anguished Service members, devastated by the suicide deaths of their children.  I fear there’s a far higher incidence of this than we want to know, and that’s just one devastating statistic. We simply must figure out a range of practical, effective ways to alleviate the suffering  running rampant in our military bases, hospitals and installations.
Just yesterday, some of us from Health Journeys were talking with the Playaway people about how we should probably load several imagery titles onto one Playaway for returning warriors - maybe call it Coming Home - and maybe have one version for the troops and one for the family members.
We would encourage the couple to listen together (it’s apparently easier for some of the more adrenergized, hypervigilant, transitioning warriors to let down and relax if they’ve got an arm around their honey and they’re resting and listening together - and the partner derives benefit too, of course - from the imagery and the relaxed closeness, which can be hard to come by.)
For this, we’d choose imagery from the Three Stages of Healing Trauma: Nine Meditations for Posttraumatic Stress, which includes imagery for Stage 1, Re-establishing Safety & Control: Imagery for Protection & Support, a Walking Meditation and Imagery for Restful Sleep; Imagery for Stage 2, which is the actual Healing & Integration: imagery for Depression,  Grief and Healing Trauma; And Stage 3, Clean-up & Renewal: Imagery for Confidence, Imagery for Anger & Forgiveness and Affirmations for PTSD.

Other titles that could fit in there, which we hadn’t created at the time Three Stages was published, would be our imagery for Panic Attacks, and the imagery for Heartbreak, Abandonment & Betrayal.  Another great one that would work here: the couples’ exercise on Successful Relationships.
For the spouse or partner’s version, I’d be inclined to include our imagery to Relieve Stress; Caregiver Stress; Successful Relationships; Heartbreak, Abandonment & Betrayal; and Anger & Forgiveness.

For very young kids, Roxanne Daleo’s Mindworks for Children is terrific, and her From a Grain of Sand and Wanka the Caring Elephant work well for kids a bit older, in early elementary school.
For general elementary school ages, my personal favorites for family stress are Sleep Fairy, Magic Island and Discovering Your Special Place, along with the Sing Song Yoga DVD.  Older kids (later elementary school or middle school) enjoy Fern Fujimoto’s 2 E-motion CDs, and teenagers can use the adult materials.

I hope this gives you something of a clue.  Clearly this is a work in progress. We’re still in the process of figuring out what resources work best and for whom, under what circumstances.  All I can say is, we’re getting there, we honestly are!
And thank YOU for your service.  It’s not just the warfighters who sacrifice, that’s for sure.

All best to you,


Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award