Fifty Years of Grief: Accounts and Reported Psychological Reactions of Normandy Invasion Veterans
Abstract From Normandy combat veterans, we obtained narrative evidence on the experiences of loss and grief associated with their involvement in the invasion in France, June 6, 1944. Twelve veterans were interviewed in person in Nor-mandy at the time of the 1994 reunion, and 31 were subsequently interviewed by telephone. We present veterans' reports of battle experiences on D-Day and how they believe those experiences were manifest in psychological reactions over the last 50 years. Our analysis of these reports is framed by a theoretical conception that emphasizes the value of developing and communicating story-like constructions, which we refer to as accounts, as a constructive way of psychologically coping with severe stressors and loss over time. Most of the veterans reported lifelong grieving associated with their losses at Normandy. This grief recurred for most on anniversary dates and when thinking of war and death in general. For some, it was manifest in compelling, regular thoughts about the loss of their friends and their firsthand experiences of loss during the D-Day fighting. Many veterans also reported years of depression associated with their war experience. Some indicated that they kept their stories and feelings mostly private over the half century, and only now, around the time of the commemoration, did they open up. Veterans who indicated that they coped best with their trauma over time emphasized the healing power of working on and telling their stories to close others. (Grief Work, Social and Clinical Psy-chology) "These are the fathers we never knew, the uncles we never met, the friends who never returned, the heroes we can never repay."-President Bill Clinton speak-ing at the American cemetery near Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, June 6, 1994. "I don't think there's a day that goes by that I don't think and grieve about it. When you think about it, you think it was just yesterday. It's so clear in my mind. I'll never forget."-Normandy combat veteran, age 74, reflecting on his experience during the D-Day invasion.
Published online: 04 August 2015
Harvey, J. H.
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