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War, trauma and the elderly

Lydia Manuylova, an eighty-six-year-old woman in Ukraine, expressed her fear for the current situation.

Lydia Manuylova, 86, Ukraine

"I'm afraid that it will be like in the war [World War 2]. I was five years old when the war started and remember how military vehicles were driving down the street. There was nothing to eat. We had to eat grass."

For many of us lucky enough to live safe and peaceful lives, war on the scale of what is currently happening in Ukraine seemed so 20th century - something that used to occur before humanity evolved past it. But for those who have personally lived through the trauma of war, the current war might be bringing up long-forgotten, painful, or traumatic memories from their pasts.

Even though most of us have not personally experienced living through war, our older relatives most likely have. We encourage you to consider asking them to tell you about what it was like to have lived through those tumultuous times. You might be surprised by what you learn. Many of our clients have shared their experiences of living through wars as part of creating their Life Story books. We've often heard that through telling their stories, our clients were able to come to terms with the past and make meaning out of pain.

It's also important to be extra-sensitive to the impact that watching the war play out on our television screens might be having on our loved ones' mental health. One of the best ways to support them is to encourage them to share their stories, including the traumatic and painful ones, and remind them that they are loved and not alone.


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