The Natural Brilliance of the Soul
107 pages
English

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The Natural Brilliance of the Soul

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107 pages
English

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"Dr. Hatanaka's exhaustive research and analysis have resulted in a book that should be an essential tool for those professionals who are assisting our soldiers having difficulties adjusting to life after the stress of service in a war zone. Likewise, soldiers, their families, and their friends experiencing difficulties understanding their own feelings and frustrations would benefit from taking the time to read this practical toolbox of ideas."
--Lewis MacKenzie, CM, OOnt, MSC and Bar, CD Major-General (Ret'd)

Jan Hatanaka, PhD, is the founder of Grief Reconciliation International Inc. Her pragmatic approach to grief and reconciliation is informed by her personal experience; her extensive academic research on the universality of grief and loss; and her in-depth discussions with hundreds of individuals willing to recount their personal stories when faced with significant grief. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Ottawa, a Master's degree in Education and Counselling Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a PhD in Theology from the University of Wales.

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Date de parution 20 octobre 2013
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781927483671
Langue English

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--Lewis MacKenzie, CM, OOnt, MSC and Bar, CD Major-General (Ret'd)

Jan Hatanaka, PhD, is the founder of Grief Reconciliation International Inc. Her pragmatic approach to grief and reconciliation is informed by her personal experience; her extensive academic research on the universality of grief and loss; and her in-depth discussions with hundreds of individuals willing to recount their personal stories when faced with significant grief. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Ottawa, a Master's degree in Education and Counselling Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a PhD in Theology from the University of Wales.
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THE NATURAL BRILLIANCE OF THE SOUL
THE NATURAL BRILLIANCE OF THE SOUL
A SOLDIER’S STORY OF WAR AND RECONCILIATION
Jan Hatanaka, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2013 by Jan Hatanaka
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Published in 2013 by
BPS Books
Toronto & New York
www.bpsbooks.com
A division of Bastian Publishing Services Ltd.
ISBN 978-1-927483-66-4 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-927483-68-8 (ePDF)
ISBN 978-1-927483-67-1 (ePUB)
Cataloguing-in-Publication Data available
from Library and Archives Canada.
Cover: Angel Guerra
Cover photograph: Finnbarr O’Reilly. Used by
permission of Thomson Reuters.
Text design and typesetting: Tannice Goddard
Author photograph: Kevin Robbins
This book would not have been possible without the special contribution of Bobby Hatanaka, who devoted countless hours editing, refining, and helping to draw out the essential elements of the story .
Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction
My Hope for Soldiers Reading This Book
1 Doing What Needs to Be Done: Surviving
2 Systems Check: Assessing Physical, Psychological , Spiritual, and Social Status
3 Taking the Uniform Off: Revealing and Respecting Depression
4 The Choice: The Epiphany of Despair
5 The Battlefield Has Changed: Acceptance
6 Execution of Strategy: Acquiring Resources — Physical , Psychological, Spiritual, and Social
Epilogue
Acknowledgments
The Natural Brilliance of the Soul : A Soldier’s Story of War and Reconciliation is the result of the generous and thoughtful cooperation of key American and Canadian military personnel and their loved ones. Thank you for your input throughout the writing process, verifying just how important it is for this story to be told.
It is with deep gratitude that I also express thanks to:

My husband Bill, for your unwavering love and support, which empowers and enables me to pursue this work. Thank you for your inspiring commitment to unifying initiatives and to the powerful concept of “one world.”
Ryan-James, thank you for your thoughtful creative direction.
Abigail and Victoria, thank you for the joy you bring us every day.
My parents, for your continued guidance.
The intrepid friends and readers who helped me at various stages of this project: Tia and George Cooper, Judi Cohen, Jon Levy, Alan O’Connor, Dave Lincoln, Tyson Johnson, and Fraser Milne.
Sara Jackman and Lauri Cabral, for your professional insights and criticism, delivered with such kindness.
My editor, Don Bastian, for working alongside me all the way from concept to final book, editing draft after draft until the story became clear.
Margie McCain, for connecting my first book — The Choice: Finding Life in the Face of Adversity — with the needs of our military families.
David Thomson, for your countless, and timely, inspirations.
Angel Guerra, for your insight, creative coordination, generosity of spirit, and ongoing commitment to the greater good.
Introduction
In the early years of my career, I trained as a nurse in a large hospital for the armed forces. That is where I was introduced to the reality of the gap experienced by those who have served their country — the gap between the battlefield and the society they come back to. The stories I heard tested me deeply and spurred my conviction to engage in this issue. My interactions with veterans became a major plank in the foundation of my career and my life.
After my early training, I spent years conducting extensive academic and practical research on the universality of grief and loss. This research included discussions with hundreds of individuals, both inside and outside the military, who were willing to recount their personal experiences when faced with significant grief.
The most important thing I have learned, personally and professionally, is that grief and grief reconciliation are two very different things. We grieve in response to the loss of someone or something we hold dear. While the topic of grief is more commonly discussed these days, the reconciliation of that grief has received much less attention. The challenge that our veterans face includes not just the grief they’re experiencing but also the necessity of reconciling their grief as large and dangerous gaps have formed in their lives: between their life on the battlefield and their life at home; between the person they were when they left for war and the person they are now.
By collaborating with individuals who have suffered and been transformed by their grief, as well as with front-line practitioners and academic researchers, I have developed an innovative, accessible, holistic approach to help individuals identify and work through the complex challenges of the grieving process. I call this the Grief Reconciliation Process.
The stages in the process are broad, interfaith, cross-cultural, and interdisciplinary in nature. Sequentially, they are:

• Surviving
• Assessing — physical, psychological, spiritual, and social status
• Depression
• Epiphany of Despair
• Acceptance
• Acquiring Resources — physical, psychological, spiritual, social

THE GRIEF RECONCILIATION PROCESS I Surviving II Assessing — Physical, Psychological, Spiritual, Social III Depression IV Epiphany of Despair V Acceptance VI Acquiring Resources — Physical, Psychological, Spiritual, Social

• The dotted black circle reveals what can happen if one does not learn to reconcile grief.
• The solid path reveals how one can learn to reconcile grief.

Copyright © 2011, 2008 by Jan Hatanaka
The purpose of this book is to help guide individuals through the Grief Reconciliation Process so they can formulate a grief reconciliation strategy that fits their experience and situation.
The Grief Reconciliation Process introduces a common language and process through which previously disparate groups can come together to share the knowledge and wisdom they have acquired.
The book is intended for four main communities of readers:

• Soldiers home from the battlefield . I believe this story will help soldiers begin to understand their suffering in a way that enables them to build a productive strategy for moving forward
• Soldiers’ loved ones . Matt’s story can equip soldiers’ spouses, children, parents, siblings, and friends with the tools they need to examine and understand their own grief as they support military personnel
• Members of the helping professions . Matt’s story provides a field guide for medical, psychological, spiritual, and social workers — a guide for interacting not only with the soldiers themselves and their families but also with one another so they can provide soldiers with the benefits of team care
• Those who care about the men and women who serve our country , and are asking, “What can I do?”
My Hope for Soldiers Reading This Book
I have heard dozens of soldiers say, “I am more concerned about the transition back home than I was about going over. I hope things will be okay.”
But hope is not a strategy. In the words of a senior member of the military team, “If you don’t have a vision, you can’t create a strategy.” The military sequence for success in battle – vision, mission, strategy, and tactics – is precisely what’s required to reconcile grief.
I am telling Matt’s story to provide you with a field guide to sort through the challenges of life back home – to help you develop a personal coming home strategy.
The story you’re about to read is based on some tough, troubling, and truthful conversations that I was privileged to have with a young soldier back from his second tour in Afghanistan. To protect his privacy, I have not used his real name. Furthermore, his story is a composite of the stories of many soldiers who have shared their experiences with me. The person you will meet had the courage to face his grief over seeing some of the worst things that human beings do to one another; his grief over the broken connection he experienced with his spouse and family; and his grief over returning to a society seeded with some land mines of its own.
Matt and I met over the course of several months. Sometimes he spoke without stopping; sometimes he halted mid-sentence and stared beyond me at a scene that had come back to him. He spoke about the compassionate yet violent nature of man. He tried to describe the indescribable things he had seen; the unimaginable things he had felt; the unforgettable things he had done. He wondered aloud how all this could have been the outcome of simply wanting to help.
While the story is told from the perspective of a twenty-eight-year-old infantry soldier, the grief reconciliation process outlined in this book can help you whether you serve or have served on land, on a ship, in the cockpit of an aircraft, or here at home, and whether in active battle or a support role. The details of Matt’s story may be different from yours, but the essence of his story may be similar.
This field guide is based on the Grief Reconciliation Process ( GRP ), which I have developed with the help of my sessions with soldiers. (See the GRP model, page 3 .) This model introduces you to a language and a process that I hope will help you in your journey back at home.
I hope that, through Matt’s story, you will learn to:

• Live with the challenging and often conflicting emotions brought on by grief
• Make the choice to search for your truth, even if that truth is one you find difficult to accept
• Work through the challenges of learning new skills
• Live, and continue to pursue, a life of meaning
Each chapter shows Matt’s progress through one of the six stages of the Grief Reconciliation Process. I hope you will use the GRP model to make the transition from grieving to reconciling your grief. So many people don’t get past the grief itself. Having words to articulate what you’re going through is a very important first step in learning how to reconcile the realities of your life. Once you’re able to describe some of what you know, it will be easier for you to find the resources you need as part of your own grief reconciliation strategy. In so doing, you may be able to help your loved ones learn to reconcile their grief. I also hope that, as a result of your own successful transition, you will be better equipped to help others, both inside and outside the military, to benefit from your service and life experience.
If you are so inclined, please take a moment to jot down your reflections on the blank pages at the back of the book.
You have wisdom. The Natural Brilliance of the Soul is meant to help you uncover, frame, articulate, and ultimately share the wisdom you have come to know.
1
Doing What Needs to Be Done
Surviving
 

I t was a Wednesday morning late in May. I got to the coffee shop a few minutes early. Experience with the military has taught me that 0800 really means 0750.
Matt had been given my name and contact information by his friend, a fellow soldier, John, who had found our time together helpful. All I knew about Matt was that he was twenty-eight years old, had been home for six months from his second tour in Afghanistan, and, as John put it, “was struggling quite a bit.”
I got myself some coffee, found a booth at the back, and sat facing the wall. I knew I didn’t have to look for Matt; he would find me. I also knew he would want to sit with his back to the wall.
I had just nicely settled in when he approached the table, coffee in hand. Clearly, he had arrived before I did.
After brief formalities — Matt told me he was on leave, taking care of problems with his back; I told him a little about the work I do in the community — the conversation dropped off, and we sat without saying a word.
I have come to appreciate these moments of silence with a soldier. The question on the table: Was I going to lead him? Or was he going to lead me?
Matt broke the silence.
“So, here we are.”
We sat for several long minutes before he continued.
“John said I should talk to you.” Then after another pause: “I’m not really sure what it is you and John worked on together, but John is a good friend of mine … and he said you helped him out since he got back.”
Matt was looking at me but he was also scanning the room. This exercise created a stop-start rhythm in his speech common to people who are burdened, like a computer trying to process information with dozens of files open in the background.
“What is it that you do?” he asked.
“I work in the area of grief and reconciliation.”
“Grief and what …?”
He was asking a question, but it seemed he didn’t want the answer — that he didn’t want to be there at all. That wasn’t surprising. Who wants to be in the position of needing to talk to a total stranger about something as intimate as grief?
I couldn’t tell whether he was going to stay. He hadn’t opened his jacket. His coffee was in a to-go cup. He sat with his chair pushed back from the table.
We sat for a few more moments. I could see that, if we worked together, we would need to be okay with silence.
Eventually he gave me a nod to proceed. Since John had referred him, I thought maybe that would be as good a place as any to start.
“John has told me very little about your situation.”
That didn’t get us very far. All he said was, “Same.”
I tried another approach.
“I help people find ways to manage grief in their lives.”
“What does that have to do with John? John is one of the few guys I know that has his life together.”
John had given me permission to speak in general terms of our work together, so I simply said, “John has worked hard at being fine. He has worked through a process of learning to come to terms with the realities of his life.”
Matt folded his arms across his chest like someone getting ready to endure a lecture.
That was a no go for me.
“Matt, I’m not someone who’s going to feed you a bunch of psychobabble. I’m prepared to help you think strategically about your situation.”
Perhaps to conserve energy, or to buy himself some time, Matt pushed his elbows off the back of his chair and sat upright.
“I’m not sure what John has told you about my situation,” he said, leaning in a bit. “John’s my buddy. I’m not sure we share all that much when it comes to our actual job descriptions. There are lots of different jobs in the military.”
I understood this as code for “he hasn’t lived what I have lived.”
“Acknowledged. I’ve worked with many soldiers.”
“John hasn’t been where I’ve been. He’s one of the good guys … I’ve …”
I wanted to reassure him that I had been at this a long time and was not sitting in judgment.
“I don’t know what you’re going to tell me, but you’re not going to shock me.”
Matt stared into my eyes, then covered for himself.
“I know a lot of guys who come back screwed up, but I’m not one of those guys. I don’t think I’m grieving anything. I’m just dealing with a few things since I came home.”
We spent the next several minutes talking about the disconnect soldiers feel between themselves and the society they come home to. I could tell by how articulate he was that he had reflected on some of the problems he was up against.
Taking a deep breath, he said, “I’m okay with talking to you. I just don’t know where to start. I’m used to people saying they want to hear what I have to say, but they don’t really want to know that much. What do you want from me?”
He seemed to be spitting out a series of words rather than committing to a full conversation.
I asked him to tell me how long he had been home. I thought that might get him to tell me more about why he wanted to meet.
“Six months,” he said. Then he came right out with it. “Why? Why are you doing this?”
I knew I needed to give him a personal answer, but I also knew that no matter what answer I gave him, my own struggles paled in comparison with what he had lived through. I caught myself. Even after all this time working in the community the way I do, I still have to fight the temptation to measure: Who has suffered more? Whose story is more dramatic, more devastating, more deserving? I call it the grief-pissing contest .
I backed off and tried to tell him the truth as plainly as I could.
“Anytime anyone experiences a major loss, they grieve that loss. My personal experience with grief and my experience with the military have shown me something — that many soldiers try to deal with grief by compartmentalizing it, you know, into my life in theater and my life at home.”
That got his attention, but he wasn’t in the mood to give anything away.
“I don’t feel particularly upset or anything,” he said.
“The gap between a soldier and the society back home is real,” I said. “But there are many gaps that contribute to making the transition home difficult. My guess is that you’re in the middle of finding out the hard way that you have changed; that your family has changed, your friends have changed … that things are different. You may have two or three … or fifty … moving parts that you’re trying to fit together.”
His distant look told me there were a million other places he would rather be. It also told me he wasn’t here to socialize.
“One way we can start,” I said, “is by helping you to assess some of what you have been through.”
He swore under his breath, then looked at me and said, “Like I don’t know what I’ve been through?”
“Knowing what you have lived through is different from being able to articulate what you’ve learned. My mission would be to help you develop a grief reconciliation strategy.”
Matt picked up on the word “strategy” and smirked. “Oh, so you’re an expert in using military language?” He leaned back in his chair and pitched his chin forward. “What’s in this for you?”
It was a great question, but one with a complicated answer. I tried anyway.
“You’ve got something that’s very valuable. As a soldier, what you’ve gone through, what you’ve seen, gives you the potential to understand the world as it really is. Your experience gives you street cred. A lot of lives could be changed as a result of what you know. I believe that what you know could help me help others who are grieving.”
When he didn’t respond, I offered to get us some more coffee, but he went instead.
While I waited for him to return, I decided to push through by telling him how I first came to understand the important role of the military in our understanding of grief and the need for reconciliation.
 

I told Matt how I got my start, training as a nurse at the National Defence Medical Centre in Ottawa. It was the largest hospital serving the Canadian Forces at the time, I said, adding that this was where I was first introduced to the divide between those who have served our country and the society they come back to.
During the day, I said, many stories were told. Some were funny, some were heroic, others were sad.
“But, Matt, I found out that it was the stories that were not told in daylight hours that begged the most to be attended to.”
Matt leaned in. He put his hands on the table, then methodically pushed up one sleeve of his jacket, then the other. That small motion seemed to take all of his energy; he rested back in his chair.
I went on. “These untold stories haunted the halls long after the therapists had closed up shop and the soldiers’ loved ones had gone home. It took me some time to understand what these stories were really all about: the fact that we humans can be terrifying creatures.”
Matt heaved a heavy sigh.
“I learned during these nighttime sessions never to ask soldiers whether they had a story to tell. I learned to ask whether they could and would share what they had come to know.”
Matt’s eyes narrowed. His breathing slowed.
“I was forced to ask myself: Do I really want to hear what they have to say? Do I really want to know what goes on in our world? Do I have the conviction to stay with these men and women as they struggle to come to terms with their suffering?”
I asked Matt if I could tell him more. He gave the slightest of nods.
“There was a dimly lit room at the end of the long hall,” I said. “That’s where small groups of soldiers formed up. The stories they told there were part chronological accounts, part confessions. They poured out slowly in the form of question after question. I learned to identify two groups: some were clearly in need of help; others were able to give their attention to those who were suffering — they were able to guide them through the tortures of their grief. To help them uncover the suffering they had buried down deep.”
I paused to see if Matt wanted to respond, but he seemed content to listen.
“The rawness of these sessions introduced me to the fact that soldiers know more about the state of the world than civilians do; they also know more about the topic of grief.”
Matt held my gaze for a fraction of a second, then he shifted back into his solitude. I wasn’t sure whether he was able to hear what I was saying. It was a lot to absorb in a first meeting, but if this proved to be our only meeting, I wanted to leave him with as much as I could.
“The direct approach taken by certain men, and sometimes women, who led these late-evening sessions had a big impact on my practice. It was different from the approach I’d been taught to this point. Their goal in listening to each other’s stories wasn’t to help them forget or to dispute the uniqueness of their experience. It was to help them to uncover, frame, and articulate their grief.”
I told Matt how I had once heard a veteran warn a soldier, “You cannot indulge your grief.”
He looked at me with complete indifference.
“Those veterans taught me that unreconciled grief has the power to destroy. That’s why I’ve focused on helping soldiers develop a framework for understanding grief and developing a grief reconciliation strategy.”
Matt looked away, then at me, then went stone cold. I knew this meeting would be difficult for him to understand. Most people come to me expecting me to take on the role of a professor, or a psychotherapist who will prescribe a standard treatment. If he was like so many others, he was hoping for a magic pill, not what I was offering: I was prescribing hard work — the hard work of formulating a strategy for home.
Sometimes soldiers think that the veterans who get through, get through on their own. They don’t realize how much work these men and women have done to get healthy again — and that many who look healthy are far from it.
I tried to communicate the importance of this hard work by mentioning the soldiers I had worked with more recently. I told him some of what they had told me, that the skills that had helped them survive during battle often ended up getting in their way once they were back home; that the treatment resources the military made available to them just felt like extra weight when they were exhausted from having just returned from theater.
Matt’s affect remained completely flat; there was not a twitch in his body. I couldn’t tell if he was listening intently or completely disengaged.
I stopped talking.
 

S everal minutes went by before he finally spoke. “I don’t know about this strategy you’re talking about, but my buddy John said you helped him — and his wife.”
As he said the word “wife,” he cupped his left hand over his mouth and pulled down on his lips. His voice cracked. Then he quickly closed the small fissure of vulnerability he had exposed. He pulled his body up straight, glared deep into my eyes, and dared me to look away.
Finally, he asked, “Are you sure you’re ready for this shit?”
I nodded yes, but I had to focus in order not to flinch.
Sometimes a soldier and I ease into the first meeting. We exchange views on why civilians don’t know how to listen to the military. We go back and forth on why so many servicemen and servicewomen make a conscious decision not to tell their story.
I have always respected the self-determination and self-reliance of soldiers. But there I was, just into my conversation with this soldier and already in danger of getting locked up. He responded to his duty to go over there; I felt an obligation to respond to my duty to help him come home. I, like many others, am also deeply saddened by the significant incidence of post-deployment suicide.
I took a long sip of coffee and tried to quiet the voice in my head that was cautioning me. While Matt was saying, “Just tell me what to do,” he was showing a firm resistance. I understood the resistance to anyone or anything that would crack him open. It was taking all his energy for him to hold himself together.
I took a moment to remind myself that I was up for the challenge; that I appreciate linking up with people who know things about what’s really going on — people who have proven that they’re committed. They’re often intense, complex, and difficult, but they’re the very ones who teach me the most. Bottom line: our soldiers come back to a society that is ill equipped to help them, and they know it.
“Why …”
Before I could get the rest of the words out of my mouth, he shot back with, “In order to protect people like you from knowing what we know.”
I could have been asking any number of questions that started with “why”: Why did you go over? Why did you come here?
“The average person here at home knows almost nothing about what’s really going on in the world,” he said. “In fact, I’m not sure they’re thinking that much about anything. You come back and the gap between where you are and where everyone else is — it’s way too big.”
There was the word “gap” again.
He told me life back home was like talking to people who spoke a foreign language.
“If someone died in a car accident, they can understand that. Sure, some may want to mythologize the soldiers. They will have them stand up at a hockey game; they will raise the poppies and read the names. And say they care. They might say, ‘I knew this soldier,’ but generally that’s as far as it goes.”
I agreed with him that we in the West do not understand the complexity of the challenges he and other soldiers come home to. But I told him that many soldiers also may not have developed a language to effectively communicate what they knew.
“It’s another gap,” I said. “A gap between what you know and what you’re able to say about what you know.”
I proposed that if we could work together, we might be able to come up with words to articulate what he was going through. That would be an important first step for him in learning how to reconcile his grief.
Matt trained his sights back on me.
“Why do you say ‘we’? Everything about you is we.”
It was too early to drive home the fact that his suffering affects all of us. That the gap between what he wished were true and what was true was causing him to grieve. The chances were that grief was affecting him in many ways. My experience has taught me that grief manifests itself physically, psychologically, spiritually, and socially.
If he was like other soldiers I knew, he was in conflict, with one part of him believing it was useless trying to explain what he knew to anyone who hadn’t been there and the other part hoping that someone, somehow, could help him make sense of it all.
The skills he had developed to survive — following complex orders, maintaining a state of hypervigilance — had helped keep him safe in battle, but now he faced a different kind of battle that would require a different set of skills. He needed to make some changes, but that was risky. He didn’t know where he was trying to go. He didn’t understand how to use the resources that were being made available to him.
I was struggling, too. I knew he was facing many challenges. When soldiers come home, they need to reconcile themselves to the grief of the difficult things they have seen, felt, and done. I knew he needed autonomy but also needed to be directed. Our work together would have to allow for both. My immediate challenge was to focus on his notion of isolation.
I pulled my chair in closer to the table.
“Why not say ‘we’? You don’t go over there for yourself. You don’t have to manage your transition back home alone either. Over there it’s all about we. Why can’t the transition home be all about we, too?”
That prompted a slight shrug.

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