Grieving is a personal process. However, one’s profession significantly impacts how an individual perceives this process. The military, just like any other profession, has its unique culture. It comprises behaviors that guide how its members act. It is crucial to evaluate and gain insight into the impact of this unique culture on its members regarding grieving.
Cole (2021) and Westphal and Convoy (2015) identify various virtues that make the military culture. Cole (2021) identifies teamwork, discipline, never giving up, courage, honor, and self-sacrifice. Westphal and Convoy (2015) refer to these virtues as military ethos and outline them as the commitment to excellence, defending the social order, stoicism, loyalty, courage, and selflessness. The authors argue that these virtues are essential in enabling the military to execute its roles.
Unfortunately, some of these virtues are problematic since they increase the probability of complicated grief and hinder mental wellness. The key ones are selflessness or self-sacrifice, stoicism, and loyalty. According to Westphal and Convoy (2015), selflessness leads to military professionals disregarding their well-being. They prioritize the wellness of others at their expense. This means that they will not grieve effectively, increasing the risk of complicated grief and other mental illnesses. For instance, they may not take a break from work even when emotionally overwhelmed because of the need to serve others. Stoicism among the military leads to the denial of strong emotions. Generally, one suppresses their emotional vulnerabilities (Westphal & Convoy,2015). This virtue, in particular, is a significant hindrance to grieving because it is an emotional process. Suppressing what one feels complicates the process. Additionally, it puts one at risk of chronic mental illnesses. Westphal and Convoy (2015) state that loyalty leads to survivor guilt. They argue that this persistent feeling, especially when a colleague has died, puts one at the risk of complicated grief.
Cole (2021) outlines other aspects of the military culture that hinder the grieving process and mental wellness. The author states that military members tend to use denial and suppression of emotions to deal with emotional and physical pain. They also tend to possess dark humor or a pessimistic outlook on life. The author states that this pessimism or dark humor is a way of masking grief or vulnerabilities so as not to appear weak. These two aspects of military culture will lead to complicated grief. The individual is denying and suppressing what they feel. Part of effective grieving is accepting the reality and finding a way to live productively with the loss. When one denies or suppresses their emotions, they will never get past their loss.
Unfortunately, I haven’t encountered a military cultural aspect that comprehensively supports military members to bereave effectively. The closest that I got is brotherhood. Military members are there to support each other in difficult times. Additionally, the military ethos collectively provides the resilience needed to deal with difficult times, such as losing a loved one. However, considering the complicated grieving process, these two cultural aspects are not enough.
In conclusion, grieving must be a challenging time for military members. This is because their professional culture inhibits their ability to grieve effectively like ordinary people. It is crucial to put in place strategies for addressing this inadequacy while considering the military culture and its implications on grieving and mental wellness in general.
Cole, R. (2021). Understanding veteran culture to provide effective treatment. Retrieved June 23, 2023 from https://www.hopeway.org
Westphal, R.& Convoy, S. (2015). Military culture implications for mental health and nursing care. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Retrieved June 23, 2023 from https://www.ojin.nursingworld.org