When your military spouse struggles to adjust to civilian life

By December 15, 2016

United States (MNN) — We’re becoming more aware of the trials and challenges our service members face when re-entering civilian life. Many soldiers struggle to adjust under the weight of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other transitional difficulties. As awareness grows, so hopefully will the resources offered to help. But what about the spouses or significant others of these service members? Shouldn’t something be done to support them through these difficult times?

Sarah Rice is the wife of an army veteran. Her answer?

“Oh yes, absolutely. [Without] a doubt there has to be care — care for the spouse, self-care, understanding the process, understanding the process of what their significant other is going through.

“If there are not resources for the spouse, in my vision, how can full healing begin? Because we all know, especially with adjustments, [with] PTSD, especially if you’re married, it’s going to affect your spouse and it’s going to affect your children.”

dad-383207_640Rice is currently in a graduate program for biblical counseling, and she wants to help spouses work through some of the trials they will face while their spouse adjusts.

“I never thought I’d be in this line of work. Originally I was going to be an art historian. It started out just being the wife of an army man. Kind of of started to think maybe I could have a hand in helping others, especially in terms of military life.”

Earlier this year, a friend of Rice’s sent her a news story about Warriors Set Free, a military-focused counseling ministry of Set Free Ministries. She contacted Set Free and now they are working together — Set Free to better equip her with some of the experience they have, and Rice to hopefully widen the set of resources offered by Warriors Set Free.

God has led Rice down a very clear path — first to her degree, and now to Set Free. But it all started because her own husband had difficulty adjusting to civilian life.

“My husband had a lot of issues with regards to adjustment, so thankfully he didn’t end up with PTSD, but his adjustment issues were significant enough. I mean, it was alcoholism, massive disconnect from the family. So even though it wasn’t PTSD, a lot of the transition and side-effects from that are still quite significant.”

Rice said it was hard on their marriage for a while. She describes her own thought struggle: “What can I do, what should I not be doing, where is my fault in this, does he still love me, am I still significant? [It’s] like you’re in a dark room and you’re trying to find your footing. It’s, you know, unfamiliar space, completely unfamiliar territory.”

Today, she and her family are doing well, and she wants to help other families. Her experience and her desire to help pairs well with Set Free Ministries. Set Free delves into the spiritual warfare that is the root of many deep emotional troubles. They help counselees see the Gospel truly has the power to set them free — even from the grip of PTSD.

The importance of biblical counseling

Secular counseling leaves out a vital ingredient for recovery: the Gospel. We know the Gospel can bring healing to the lost, but it also continues to heal the believer as well.


(Logo courtesy of Warriors Set Free)

Rice says, “I know from things my husband’s told me that a lot of soldiers are, you know, they question these spiritual aspects of what they experienced. So I believe, again, going back to having a roundabout treatment process, you have to have some place that can address the spiritual issues because, like it or not, they are pertinent to recovery.”

She also recognizes it’s common to struggle with anger or resentment when your husband or wife seems distant.

The Gospel was foundational to Rice’s own recovery during this time. In order to be there as a supportive spouse, she needed grounding.

“We have to, especially as spouses, take care of ourselves. And for me, it was renewing my relationship with Jesus Christ. That is basically what’s brought me to this point, has brought me through my husband’s issues and adjustment disorder is, you know, guard your heart and find your relationship with Jesus Christ because it’s going to make a difference.”

What she’s learned

On the other side of things, Rice knows how important it is to be ready to listen and learn each other’s points of views. She recognizes if a veteran isn’t willing to talk about what he’s struggling with, you can’t make them. You can’t change them. It’s important to accept it might take some time.

Because Rice’s plate is full with school and family, her integration with Set Free will be a slow process. But if you are interested in learning more, the best place to start is to call Set Free at 616-726-5400 and ask to talk to Steve Prince. You can find more info here.

If you’d like to help, the best place to start is in prayer. Ask God to bring more information to light and to make it clear how Rice and Set Free can work together. Ask God to provide the people, the contacts, and the resources so they can help more families struggling with the scars of war.

And please pray for Rice herself, that she would have continued strength through her studies and work.

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