I attended a meeting of real estate investors yesterday at a beautiful venue in Newport Beach California. The keynote speaker was a well known figure in his segment of the industry and talked about his experiences developing his company and leading it through a merger with another major player. In the day’s discussions, the keynote speaker and other panelists were asked how long the economic uncertainties would last that our nation was now going through. I was listening and paying attention, looking for some insight. I am sometimes the person who is the keynote speaker and I was looking for tie-ins to the topics I am interested in. But I was distracted by grief.
My wife’s best friend died early last week. I will not attempt to eulogize her at this point. That was done beautifully by her family and friends at the visitation and at the celebration of her life last weekend.
My wife’s best friend was young, only in her mid thirties. She had been dealing with cancer for two years and it looked like she was going to get through it. But complications after surgery took her life. She left behind a loving husband and two wonderful young children. And she left behind many, many grieving people. She was one of those rare people who had a positive impact on everyone she met. If you met her even once, you were glad to know her. There must have been 600 or 700 people who stopped to pay their respects. I know everyone one of them are still grieving.
As a keynote speaker I looked for a way to process this and find some inspiration and insight. On the one hand I am reminded of the overwhelming power of kindness. The kindness that my wife’s best friend showed to people while she was with us truly helped people in their lives. The kindness shown by family and friends to those grieving her loss made a big difference in helping them through such a difficult time.
As you watch grief move through a circle of family and friends you can see how it causes symptoms of Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don’t mind so much when old people pass away, especially if they had lived a good life with family and friends. Everyone has to go sometime and although we all miss any older people who pass, there is comfort in knowing they lived fully. It is certainly sad and infuriating when young people pass. You find yourself acting like someone with PTSD.
Feeling grief of that level makes you think of all the other people who are grieving. I think of the thousands of service men and women who have been killed in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each one of them left behind a group of people who are struggling with grief and struggling with the anger of seeing the good die young. They are struggling with the sacrifices that have been made both personally and nationally in a war that should never have happened and that happened for no good reason. If 4,000 have been killed, there must be at least 400,000 struggling to cope. Is it fair to think that 100 people are grieving and suffering for those who have been taken from them? That may be a significant undercounting of the impact of grief.
Grief over lives lost for no good reason is one cause of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Then there are those who were wounded and disabled from their wounds. There is much grief and PTSD caused to the survivors and their families and friends. How many have been seriously injured in our recent wars. I think I saw a figure of 40,000. Does that mean there are another 4,000,000 family and friends suffering with the injured?
Thinking as a keynote speaker I can continue with this line of reasoning to make my point that the whole nation is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. How many of the family members of deployed service people are suffering because of their loved one being gone. How many spouses, children and parents live in the constant suffering from the fear of getting the dreaded “knock on the door”? If 300,000 have served, then there could be easily another 3,000,000 suffering from the deployments. I am confident to project that half of those who served will show signs of PTSD and have lasting effects. Does that add another 150,000 to my number?
I heard another keynote speaker talk not too long ago about the after effects of the Katrina hurricane on the people who lost loved ones and who were displaced because of the storm. Even thought the storm hit years ago, the trauma of losing loved ones, losing homes, losing livelihoods and being separated form the places people called home has many people living with post Traumatic Stress Disorder. How many were directly affected, 1,000,000? How many indirectly, another 10,000,000?
The recent flooding in the Midwest has caused trauma to many whose lives were disrupted and homes flooded or destroyed. If I am still thinking as a keynote speaker developing my theme, then you have to add all the people still struggling to deal with the recent Midwest floods to my list. I suppose you could easily add the people from the Western States who have been suffering through an early fire season. What are the number of people directly impacted by these events? A million? More?
If I continue on this keynote speaker theme, I find a huge number of people to add to the list. We are used to talking about internally displaced people when talking about people fleeing war, natural disasters, famine or ethnic cleansing. I think someone estimated there were 4,000,000 internally displaced Iraqis who had to leave their homes under duress and flee. (This is in addition to the 4,000,000 or so who fled the country completely.) If you want to add to my keynote speaker theme other countries suffering with post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Iraq could make it onto the poster. The PTSD suffered there is too much for me to process at this point and in this article, but it does bring up the question of internally displaced people.
How many people have had to leave their homes in our nation because they could no longer make the payments? How many more are going to have to walk away from their homes? How many people are losing jobs because the economy is suffering and companies are struggling to regain profitability or struggling to prepare for what might be an extended economic downturn? These people could easily be classified as internally displaced. Each of them has family and friends and coworkers who are affected. How many of those displaced and their immediate circle of family and friends are suffering form PTSD? The number must tally up into the tens of millions.
I realize the tendency of a keynote speaker is to continue to carry the reference as far as one can, so please bear with me. Our country has a large number of people who are cash strapped to an extent most of us cannot fathom. These people are suffering in poverty. Poverty is a condition. It causes its own versions of stress disorders. Add to that increasing fuel, energy and food prices and you have people who are in real crisis. Their trauma is current and present, so I am not sure you can call their condition PTSD, but the symptoms and effects are nonetheless more obvious every day. How many people suffer from poverty in our nation? Surely the number is in the tens of millions.