In the spring of 1982, I stood near a casket that contained my brother's body. At 25-years of age, I thought I was resilient and strong, though I had no idea what to do with the intense emotions of grief and loss. So I ignored them, like my Vietnam veteran friend advised me. My brother's death started a series of losses that ended with my wife's death 9 years later. My wife's death, following a six-year struggle with disease, became the most disruptive experience of my life so far.
In many ways I felt alone; I didn't know any other 35-year-old widowers. I really don't remember much about the first year after her death other than I survived, somehow. Slowly, a new purpose emerged in me. I wanted to be the guy that could listen for more than two minutes to someone else's trauma without changing the subject or hijacking the story. I wanted to be the kind of friend I felt like I never had--a comrade in the valley, a trauma buddy, if you will.
Slowly, I finished enough education to get a counseling license, I began seeing clients, and I began teaching psychology at a nearby University. Slowly, another new purpose emerged: to complete a doctorate while studying human suffering using the lens of the psychology of trauma to "see" the path, the journey, the valley of trauma, at least as most people travel it. No sooner had I finished my research and dissertation then I received a text from Jesse Johnson-Brower. Would I meet him for lunch; he had a question for me.
That lunch marked the convergence of two dreams: Jesse's dream of starting a foundation to serve veterans. The conversation became for me the landing zone of a dream of applying my ideas in a specific population--combat veterans.
What has happened since then has been something of a whirlwind and an overwhelmingly positive response to the idea of focusing on the narrative story-arc of trauma, all while spotlighting growth and reconstruction instead of the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. This sets us apart.
Currently, we are VetGR. Our launch location is Suite #504 at 77 Monroe Center NW in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. And we are excited for the future for combat veterans and their families through a growing number of stories of growth and reconstruction. Will you join us?
Written by Dr. David Beach D.Min