Everyone seeing the chaos and suffering of the people in Ukraine right now is experiencing a gut-wrenching reaction. All of us are reeling at the sight of women and children racing for trains, evacuating hospitals, sheltering in subways. For those with ties to the region, it is even more visceral.
Disbelief and shock, petrification and the urge to flee, these are well-known trauma responses of fight, flight and freeze, sometimes they may appear all mixed together.
RCF Co-Founder Kristina Schellinski notes,
“I have observed this in my practice and in particular in my work with replacement children, and to quite an astonishing extent in myself, as my body and soul resonate in response with the horrifying violence in Ukraine.”
Judy Mandel adds,
“Seeing people jammed into trains, racing for their lives is reminiscent of World War II. As a Jew, the echoes of the Holocaust are deafening.”
Rita Battat, RCF Co-Founder says,
“I can hardly go an hour without thinking about what is happening in the Ukraine – how the situation is so out of control! I feel so helpless not being able to stop it or provide some real hands-on help to these people who are totally innocent and enduring unbelievable suffering. Such destruction will cause a domino effect for generations to come.”
A very poignant truth is found in Mark Twain’s simple, and wonderful book, The War Prayer. Twain uses satire to express what he thinks about war, and irony that the prayer takes place in a church. Twain tells the story of a community about to go to war. With a huge passion for the fight/fighting for the cause, a community of people are in church praying for success and victory – praying in “the spirit of love”. While the people pray for victory, a “stranger“ makes his way to the pulpit and tries to make them understand that their prayer has two parts, the spoken and the unspoken prayer. The spoken prayer is that their side will be victorious. The unspoken prayer, that no one is thinking about, is to punish someone else. Give misery to their enemies; soldiers, civilians… break their spirit and cause grief to all the citizens, including women and children. The minister focuses on the glory of war, and only prays for his own country‘s victory; not how the war will affect the country and the people that they are fighting. They ignore violence and they ignore the realities of what will happen. The Stranger says, “people should think twice about their blessings of war, at least without intent, you invoke a curse upon your neighbors at the same time”.
Are those of us with some form of the replacement child condition affected differently? Are there more extenuating versions of triggered emotion and trauma during these kinds of world events that enter into our very living rooms and through all our media devices? Are we more susceptible to internalizing the images, or empathizing to the extreme when we realize that children are killed in the war, that mothers and fathers will leave orphans. The suffering of women, children, the elderly and those fighting in Ukraine is overwhelming and makes us feel powerless. In fact, both sides will be traumatized for generations to come.
Viewing the images and reports from the frontlines can be vicariously traumatizing to those who watch from afar. The intense fighting, the ubiquitous sights of death and destruction may have left many of you who consult the replacement child forum with a sense of powerlessness, and waves of grief and loss. It is deeply affecting us, too.
We wish to extend our empathy and support to all those who are directly affected, to the hurt and the injured and to those who are experiencing the loss of loved ones, and to all those fleeing Ukraine to safety.
And we wish to reach out to you who may feel stirred in their bones, battle with rising anxiety or paralyzing depression, and perhaps with memories returning of times in their lives where they felt exposed and having the feeling that all sense of security is gone, feeling utterly alone and powerless.
Allow yourself to grieve.
Grieving is important, shedding tears brings relief. Victor Frankl related how crying at night relieved even the oedemas in his frost-bitten feet, so that he could wear his boots the next day which other prisoners in the concentration camps, who were unable to cry, could no longer…
Grieving is important for replacement children, today, and even for generations after a child was lost.
For our community of adult replacement children, we want to offer you connection and help during this very stressful time. Write to us at Letters@replacementchildforum.com. We will be happy to answer individually or on the site, as you prefer.
Sending you our understanding, support and empathy.
You are not alone.
Judy, Rita, Kristina
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