Study: Military ceremonies offer emotional benefit to troops

U. of Haifa research shows events enable soldiers whose friends were killed in action to face the pain.

April 19, 2010 04:06
1 minute read.
Soldiers observe a minute of silence during a serv

Troops Kotel Remembrance Day 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Soldiers whose friends were killed in action try to avoid thinking about them in their daily life, but Remembrance Day and other ceremonial events serve an important function by enabling them face the pain and mourn, according to new University of Haifa research.

Prof. Shimshon Rubin, head of the university’s center for research into loss, said that such soldiers can suffer from shock for years from such a loss, though it usually does not come in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with its long-term, highly noticeable symptoms that can make their lives difficult.

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But like PTSD, detrimental effects of the loss of buddies in war should also be treated, he said.

This is the first finding of the university study on loss, mourning and emotional strength. It was conducted by psychologists Shahar Mor-Yosef and Yoav Laron, under the supervision of Rubin and Prof. Danny Klein, with help from Prof. Ehud Klein of Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

The team examined 60 IDF combat soldiers, half of whom lost a comrade in battle. It showed that the effects of the loss were not full-fledged PTSD, but a situation in which they faced emotional sorrow for several years.

But compared to the death of a close relative, after which the mourner usually thinks about his loss all the time, the sorrow over the death of a comrade is triggered mostly by IDF memorial events, reserve duty or encounters with members of one’s military unit.

Although these events can be painful, said Rubin, they have a beneficial effect by enabling the bereft soldiers to mourn and face their pain, the authors found.

Those who lost buddies may also suffer some harm to their self-identity. Coping levels are strongly connected to the survivor’s ability to find meaning in the loss and the fallen soldier’s contribution to the country, they said.

Even though more than 22,000 Israelis have fallen before and since the establishment of the state, Rubin said there is surprisingly little research in the field of loss of military comrades, which generates feelings similar to those after the deaths of loved ones, but additional, different effects as well.

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