My father, who has late stage Alzheimer's and is dependent on others to be moved in the home, grew up as a child of WWII in a death camp. Every day for much of the morning, my mom, also a displaced child in WWII, places my dad in front of CNN to watch the news, which lately is only the war in Ukraine. My father sits 3 feet from the tv and watches the bombing scenes and people fleeing. He cannot move himself away from the tv as he has had multiple strokes and engages sometimes with the people on tv as if he is present with them in the scene. Each day/hour sometimes we have to repeat to him that what he sees in not his past. That he is safe and it is not happening to him now. I tell her this makes his overall day agitated and fearful. My entire life, daily, I would hear something from my mom about her bad past in the war and the camps. And now, as I return home to help them, I am hearing the endless news, her stories, and feeling almost panic that he must endure this traumatizing news daily. There is nothing I can do. I love them dearly, but I wonder how I will feel "set free" as a second generation survivor of the war one day when I will no longer hear the reruns from my mom.
My Armenian GM only told us that her parents hid the children between large sacks of potatoes, but eventually the Turks figured that out and stuck swords into the potato sacks when they rampaged through villages. I NEVER saw my grandmother ever eat potatoes.
Do those of you who think that these kinds of memories can be dispelled , or worse yet, really believe that these kinds of experiences can be just vanquished in that the OP's parents are in abusive situations and need to dispel their memories ?
If you do, you're wrong. I see some of the regular posters fall into this trap, and think that they just might not understand how horrific the experience is. Perhaps you could benefit from reading more on the genocides. Forty Days at Musa Dagh is one, addressing the Armenian Genocide, which preceded the Jewish Genocide committed by the Nazis.
I read a few pages of Forty Days before I was too overwhelmed to continue it. But for someone who thinks that involving APS, or "counseling" survivors is an option, it would be a good learning experience.
I think you need to really read some of the histories, such as the Diary of Anne Frank, or novels based on fact but with fictional characters (protecting those who really did experience the horrors). Calling APS or criticizing survivors is perhaps one of the worse things that someone can do. Flashbacks could occur, the individuals might think they're back in WWII. Minds can play strange and horrific tricks on survivors.
And for those who have fallen into this method of response, I'm not criticizing you directly, as you apparently (and fortunately) have no experience in these horrors, but w/o knowing more, it's delicate to recommend a course of action for a life changing (or ending) experience about which you have no real experience.
Just one comment on someone else who survived the camps. There was a woman in rehab when my mother was, a very well groomed woman, pleasant, but with an overall presentation of shyness, of withdrawal. She finished rehab, but returned before Mom was discharged, with a broken foot, and the look of terror in her eyes.
I was in the rehab facility when she was brought in the second time, and saw that look when I greeted her. I went back a week or so later and went to her room to visit. One of the staff just looked at me, holding back tears and shaking her head. She said the second event was just too much for this woman, and brought back too many memories. While she didn't divulge the source, I was sure it came from her family.
The woman had been in one of the camps during WWII, and had horrible memories of being confined. Although "confinement" wasn't an appropriate term for being in rehab, it brought back memories of a more heinous confinement decades earlier.
These are NOT the kinds of experience that can be dealt with by APS.
Soldiers can be affected in similar ways; I've learned never to ask a solider what he or she did during service, especially those who served in WWII or Vietnam.
That's a simple summary; the issues as you know are much more complex.
My maternal grandmother escaped from Armenia during the Turkish massacres. She speaks only briefly of what occurred before her parents were able to employ escape routes for their children. Grandma only mentions briefly what the Turks did in their slaughter of Armenians, then she looks off in the distance and becomes very pensive. We never pursued the issue when one of those trance type moods overcame her.
I think your mother may be trying to reconcile the how, what and why of what happened, as it still is a major part of her life, and very traumatic. Sometimes speaking of those kinds of events can offer relief. Sometimes not. But it can also be torture; there's no way to reconcile the inhumanity of what some perverted people can do to others.
I honestly don't know if your mother can escape the horrors, but I think you're wise and insightful to try a different approach. Are there any support groups through synagogues or ethnic groups with whom she could interact?
As a third generation survivor, I don't think anyone knows how this WILL affect you, although I've read of how it CAN affect the second generation. I can't recall the source now, but it was very reliable. Second generations can have guilt feelings, that they are now living in relative safety, and hopefully will never have to deal with those situations again. The guilt feelings can be overwhelming though.
As the tv anchors repeatedly mouth sympathy for the Ukrainians but continue to air horrific scenes, I find myself thinking more and more of what my grandparents and great grandparents suffered in the Turkish massacres. (One was sent to Russia and never heard from again). I'm at the point of not being to tolerate much more than an update; the videos are just too horrific and upsetting. I can't imagine how horrific this could be for your father.
If I can recall the source, I'll post back, but it's way back in my memory as to when I first read of the consequences to subsequent generations. One thing I did do when I was younger though was to cultivate relationships with other Armenians, and focus more on our culture and music than on the horrors.
I think your mother may be caught up in a "loop", of trying to rationalize and get past her childhood, but I certainly share and respect your concern for how it affects your father.
And I would find something else for him to watch in the morning, something like nature shows, or of animals. The press despite its alleged sympathy is focusing on death scenes and of destruction in Ukraine; even I can't watch this on tv. Even though I'm third generation, I still can imagine how my grandparents and maternal parents must have suffered.
Perhaps the first thing to do is find something else to entertain your father in the morning. Do you have any nature videos? Does he like music? It's far more soothing than tv. I think also that a very gentle talk with your mother could help her realize that both she and your father are being harmed by watching the scenes that tv newscasts play over and over.
I would also contact any religious groups that might be able to help, such as those in a synagogue, or even Veteran groups; I get their newsletters and note that they focus a lot on PTSS, which your mother may have.
I wish I could offer something more concrete, but do know that you're not alone, and that your concerns are certainly legitimate and valid.
No book , no news, no movie can ever depict the extent to what happened. I hope though, that through all the hardships your grandparents and parents went though, they are like a beacon to show you the strength of the human spirit . I think as my dad is losing his vision, hearing, and no longer can speak, that spirit will still be there. It is a strength I'm sure you can feel in them just as I do in him. So as it comes time for us to grow old, I feel honored to hopefully carry just a spark of the strength he has on to my children. I can feel confident you want to also.
Block CNN and the other News Stations.
Is your mom aware of what she is doing to your dad? If so this is beyond cruel and borders on mental abuse.
IF she is not aware of what the effects of this I wonder about her cognitive abilities. Is she also experiencing some dementia or "mild cognitive impairment".
Can she care for him properly and safely?
Your post is more of venting than seeking advice from everyone here, so I will not offer an advice unsolicited. But I agree with those who said to switch the TV to something more helpful, such as a nature show or music.
My folks moved into an assisted living place with cable tv included. They no longer watch Fox News channel all day and night. What a change for the better! Constant Fox News was getting them all riled up in drama. They actually lost acquaintances and neighbors because of them going on and on about what was on tv. So sad but now, things are much better without them watching that constantly.
See All Answers