Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Delayed new year’s post…

February 10, 2017

In this time of New Year’s resolutions and personal industry, I am taking advantage of the first snowstorm of 2017 to take things down a notch.

A perfectly timed storm, leaving space on the Saturday morning for exercise and last minute grocery shopping before the bulk of the light snow came drifting down, and we were able to move our dinner plans to next Saturday. This opened space for an afternoon of projects (the kind that take four years and a half hour to complete) and the leisure and joy of preparing food for our friends’ annual Epiphany party.

People are asking about intentions for the New Year, what changes and shifts have risen to the surface to establish priority on the grand To Do list of the year. I support this notion, despite Mark Twain’s declaration that this week’s New Year’s Resolutions will be used next week to pave the path to hell. It is important to live with intention; without a sense and description of what that means to someone personally, it is easy for life to ooze by without ticking off even the top items on the bucket list.

However, in order to establish even a preliminary idea of what is most important to achieve in life, there has to be some quiet time, some space to allow in the scope of possibility, let alone which of those possibilities are fitting for a particular person at a specific time in the continuum of the lifespan. And the ideal time for reflection is now, in this time when light is shortest, and it takes the most effort to be out in the elements. So have we set ourselves up by choosing the most inwardly spacious time to set immediate outward goals?

I’ve realized how much courage it takes to be still. I enjoy being busy, as many people do. I’m fairly organized, so generally feel like I can make good use of my time, but it is more challenging to let time drift. It is only in the leaning into the mystery that true answers emerge. They are there within, but we must open the window to beckon them forth. They cannot be forced, but slip out when we are looking the other way, and take shape only when we return our gaze upon them.

Our current rescue dogs are also a lesson in patience combined with diligent and intentional setting of messages. There is no rushing them. When they are fearful, we cannot demand that they stop being afraid and simply come and be scratched behind the ears.The rapport must come as we make the time to spend together, and keep the promise of walking regularly, and keeping their food bowls filled.

So, too, our psyches are willing to part with what often lies dormant while we work, watch TV or check our Facebook feed. I know this to be true, and yet I still find it challenging to ensure that my day involves time for the avenue to be swept clean so that my deepest utterances may make an appearance.

What am I afraid of? Surely there is nothing there that cannot be spoken. It is alway my choice to act upon what I see or believe.

In this year of 2017, I am asking myself to do less, so that when the important and surprising newness comes a calling, I am ready to let it in and act upon it should I so desire.

A new way to view Pinktober

October 7, 2016

I recently commented on an online status of an artist friend who stated that she had been accepted to participate on Top Chef. I was startled and surprised, but given her immense talent as an artist thought it completely plausible that she might have hidden talents as well, and commented this.

Hours later she sent me a private message that since I remarked on her status, she was obliged to tell me that she was not, in fact, accepted to Top Chef, nor did she have a squirrel in her car (something I missed in my excitement about Top Chef participation). Her posting was part of a Breast Cancer Awareness “game.” Anyone who comments is invited/encouraged to continue the hoax and post one of ten untruths including the above two, plus others as provocative as #6 “I’ve decided to stop wearing underwear,” or #10 “I’m getting a pet monkey.” They are all unlikely but to varying degrees in the realm of possibility.

I was puzzled and a little miffed at what I perceived to be a lack of connection to breast cancer. The ten semi-outrageous declarations range from delightful to mildly jolting and none carry the weight or depth of a cancer diagnosis. Certainly it would be cruel and in very poor taste to post untruthfully that someone was diagnosed with any disease, so I suppose this game was one way to evoke the element of surprise. It catches our attention, and we are willing to engage in discourse with someone who asks “#3 How do you get rid of foot fungus?” What then are we willing to discuss when we learn that someone we hold dear has been diagnosed with a serious disease?

Having been on the receiving end of the real thing, I know that there is no complete preparation for such news. No matter the process with ultrasounds or biopsies, there is not a way to stop the stomach dropping news to hear the word cancer in connection with your health. Although life goes into a surreal time warp, protracting and distorting the experience while waiting for next steps, it does in fact march on resolutely, leaving a bevy of feelings in its wake.

Now also learning about people’s responses to breast cancer through my psychotherapy practice, I know that people work through the shock and make decisions about treatment which are often not straight forward or simple. There can be similarities in diagnosis, but not in personal circumstances, or people can be of similar age and proximity to health care, but have radically different severity or type of disease. In addition, when someone has a lumpectomy and radiation, typically the least amount of treatment, she is still dealing with the psychological impact of working through an otherwise deadly disease and a near miss can provoke thoughts about one’s mortality, wishes for life, order of priorities.

A potential gain of the game is the community that Facebook can generate. In the face of upsetting news, the power of the group cannot be underestimated, but one must be ready, and in a position to receive the focus and attention.

If the Facebook “game” helps people to have more compassion for receiving unanticipated news, then the net result is positive, offsetting the confusion and clarification that inevitably ensue.Without knowledge of where the game was initiated or by whom, it is impossible to completely understand the intent. I will assume the head scratching that results is meant to help us all to expect the unexpected. At least they are not doing it in the omnipresent pink that also characterizes this month.

The Importance of tears

August 31, 2016

A client once told me that his mother intentionally kept him from attending his grandfather’s funeral because she didn’t want him to see her cry. At eleven years of age, he felt old enough to be a part of this ritual, and certainly had feelings about it himself. The message of shame around the tears further complicated the expression of grief for the child. Was it okay for him to cry? What would his mother think? Did he need to protect her from his own sadness? When are tears okay?

Another client mentioned that in her very large family that she was the only one who shed tears upon learning of her very young niece’s death. In over thirty years of psychotherapeutic practice, I have had the privilege to bear witness to many types of reactions to numerous events. I understand the person who is numb and does not cry, or for whom an injury was so sustained and delivered by someone who s/he had thought was trustworthy, that the best defense was to create a sturdy (albeit brittle) crust. But I see it as my responsibility to encourage conversation when someone says, “I wanted to tell ___ about my illness, or that a relative had died etc, but I was afraid s/he would cry.”

In these types of instances, tears are not a conversation stopper but merely an expression of emotion. They are part of a dialogue. I have yet to see someone fill a room with tears, run out of tissues, or fell another human with excess salt. People do not crumble because of tears, so the need for protection around them is (unwittingly) fabricated, a fear but not a reality of what will happen. Yes, someone delivering difficult news may then have a response to how the receiver reacts. That is part of our lives that are laced with sadness, however frequent or infrequent. Avoiding it all together means that it rumbles around unexpressed, seeking outlet at often unexpected and inopportune times.

In the wake of the atrocities of the past weeks in our country tears are an appropriate response. Even when not our child or close relative, it is not a far stretch to feel the force of violent unexpected death so close at hand. The intense secondary trauma needs voice lest it be stifled and turn rancid inside.

It was not until I learned about the death of my friend’s beloved Golden Retriever that my own tears were unleashed, also bringing forth the anguish about the loss of human life. The protests are evidence that people feel strongly enough to speak out for those who cannot. So, too, tears demonstrate our very human connection to what we have experienced. It is one way that we show the depth of importance, the truth of meaning. At a time when people are hurting, seeking the comfort of contact with another, we don’t want to let a little bit of water to get in the way.

Tears do not need to manipulate, detour, influence, hijack or otherwise derail any discourse between people. They are merely a punctuation, evidence of the power of vulnerability and a marker of human interaction. They can act as a bridge between us; everyone understands the pain of tragedy. Let us be willing to accept the message of tears without adding the judgement about them which serves only to separate those in need from those who can learn from and be present with them.

The Complexities of Healing

January 1, 2016

When I asked my physical therapist what she feels are the most important elements in healing, she responded first that getting the swelling down was key in allowing a person’s body to heal and feel less pain. I had been wrestling with factors like age, level of physical fitness prior to diagnosis or surgery, amount of support, expertise and connection with the person’s medical team, attitude toward healing and experience with and toward pain.

Another physical therapist mentioned nutrition, age and shape of the tissue prior to surgery (how long from time of injury to date of repair). I wonder about sleep, and its healing power as well. And of course though neither of them mentioned it directly, how much a person follows up on the exercises prescribed by her therapist will also make a difference, as will attending the therapy sessions. Neither can replace the other.

My massage therapist answered immediately that it is a person’s mental attitude that most affects outcome. That and how fit someone is prior to surgery. If a person is expecting to do well, she finds that they do. If someone goes into surgery expecting it to be terrible, then they often experience it that way.

It is a complex matrix of all of these factors and I’m fascinated by the interplay and balance of them, as well as how to stack the deck toward greater healing.

I asked my regular PT whether the protocol following the repair of the massive tear in my rotator cuff was based on the injury itself, or some other factor. She confirmed that it is indeed based on the injury itself, so a 20 year old woman would take the same steps as a 70 year old man. The older person might need more time, but the 20 year old would not be allowed to move more quickly than protocol dictates.

I understand the necessity of standards of care and that the team has experience with many many people in treating this injury and how the safest, most efficient recovery can happen. My therapist is not willing to risk further injury or compromise the repair just because I am eager to move ahead and I feel ready. My subjective experience of readiness must be weighed and balanced with my therapist’s knowledge. It is a challenge for someone who is active and impatient. Who wouldn’t want to feel better NOW?

As I gradually use my arm more, I must be mindful of not pushing too far. Because I have no reference point other than my own, I must be content with moving along as I have. What facilitated my positive outcome, and how can people benefit from this?

The way someone experiences pain, and level of fear is also relevant. Fear can get in the way of willingness to try something new or push a threshold. This can be helped with information. The clearer I am about what to expect, the easier it is to try something and push myself. Knowing the difference between discomfort that is in the service of stretching and healing and pain that indicates something one shouldn’t be doing is important to distinguish. Muscles getting used to doing new things can feel good, even if a bit uncomfortable at first.

The more we know, though, the better position we are in to partner with our health care providers in moving through surgery and recovery as quickly as possible. It requires paying attention, being aware of our bodies, and noticing the differences day to day, the incremental gains as well as the warning signs to back off. The dynamic, ever changing miracle that is the human body has never benefitted more from the interventions that medicine and the multiple therapies have to offer.

What’s in a Lash?

October 24, 2015

Eyelashes are not the most important piece of equipment that we carry, but their featherweight carries more import than initially meets the eye. Ask the beauty business who has created ways to enhance, elongate, thicken and now grow them.

I had always been fond of my eyelashes. When I was a kid, people would comment on how long and thick they were. I thought little of it; I had done nothing to make them that way and cared little for make-up of any kind, but liked them none-the-less. I took them for granted, assuming they would always be there, blinking back at me as I brushed my teeth every day.

It was not surprising when they became more scarce as a result of chemotherapy several years ago. My hair had exited; why not eyebrows and lashes? My hair has grown back, and looks much like it did prior to breast cancer treatment, but my eyebrows and eyelashes remain woefully scant. One sound piece of advice took care of the eyebrow problem. A woman whose son had undergone treatment recommended eyebrow color applied with a brush as the most natural looking fix. She was right, and this simple addition to my morning routine has added only the briefest amount of time. Well worth it, as there is something severe about the look without eyebrows; it’s alien, or skinhead, or something which does not feel like me. It calls attention in an uncomfortable way, which is reason enough for me to do something about it. Their absence makes much more of a statement than their customary presence.

I realized that I have been bothered by the lack of eyelashes, too. They make a difference. I used enjoy using mascara to bring back that full lash look. They actually do frame the eyes in a way that enhances them, makes them seem larger, stand out. I have been using eyeliner to help with this and avoid looking washed out, and that, too, adds a little to my morning rush. But recently a friend who had also undergone chemotherapy, and whose parents used to own a beauty supply business, said that she has used a product that is helping her eyelashes to grow back.

Now this was intriguing. The idea of tattooing liner had crossed my mind briefly, but seems a painful and not very creative way to venture into the world of tattoos. (Maybe not as painful as 20 lashes with a wet noodle, but still…)Fake eyelashes look unnatural. But the possibility of growing them back….now that sounds appealing.

No one is unchanged by breast cancer treatment. The physical alterations are an outer representation of inner shifts. I have been able to return to my former level of energy and activity and made peace with non symmetrical breasts. I embrace life as I always have, appreciate my loved ones and my ability to be present with others. But I have missed my eyelashes. Quirky as it is, irrational perhaps, it is a daily activity to glance in the mirror and know they are missing. If a few applications with a little lotion can be safe and without backlash, I am all for it. I am willing to pay a few hundred dollars for their passage here. Details matter, and if I can reclaim this connection to myself, I am thrilled to try.

A Young Life Lost to Drugs

August 20, 2015

We had last seen Garrett about ten years ago. He was a big, strong boy of 12 with lots of energy. My husband remembers that he swam across Long Lake, our local swimming hole around 2/3 the size of Walden Pond. The four kids in his family were members of the swim team which seemed a good fit for them. I remember thinking how these were the right parents to have four children. Organized, structured and loving, they channeled the kids’ excess zest into positive places. It took a lot of focus, and they were up to the task. Both of them came from big families, and their constellation of four was welcome.

Although we hadn’t seen the whole family recently, Bret, my husband’s close high school buddy, came to visit a few times. He told us that Garrett had had some trouble with drugs. We knew he had done some jail time, and had also taken the fall for a friend. He had been clean for 2 1/2 years when he evidently felt a pull for the drug, and took too much. Which killed him. We are stunned to think about a world without him in it.

We didn’t learn about his death until recently, and I’m not sure, even, exactly when it occurred. Bret had not had the space to make the call, and so we found out when my husband happened to pick up the phone to check in with his buddy. There are no words to adequately express the depth of sadness of a loss of this magnitude. Nothing can bring a child back, or a brother. Nothing can rewind the clock, or create another chance. The pain of losing such a young person runs deep; there is not a way to short cut the process of grief, or move through the dense brush of unreality and surrealism.

The family must rearrange themselves, reorient to a new way of living, of including their absent family member in ways that feel possible, doable, without feeling cloying, distantly unreal or false. They bore witness to his difficulties, and on some level may have known that with the way he behaved in the world, his largeness could lead to dramatic events, including the loss of his life. He was not a person of moderation by nature, so anything done on a big scale could tip events in unintended ways. But the searing truth of his loss must also stop them short, bring them to their knees at unexpected times. I feel the jolt.

Our hearts reach out to them. I know that their large families enfolded them, and held them close. We wish to do the same, sending them the wind to lift their wings as they navigate this unknown and frightening territory, whose landscape is so unfamiliar and without softness. The unpredictability of negotiating grief is always surprising, tipping our stable carts when we least expect it, upending the calmest of days and catapulting us into a whirlpool of transition. It takes time to resettle into a new rhythm, to reach a new equilibrium, and to recognize it when it happens. I wish for them to stay connected with each other, to allow their grief to join and not separate them, which sometimes happens. And I hope that they are not blaming themselves, or each other, as there is no winning from this. If love alone could give them solace, they would be consoled. If support could transform their sadness, they would no longer be sad. They must each make their own journey through the mire and choose what helps them. We can listen for the call, and be there with hearts and arms open.

Pinktober revisited

October 26, 2014

Usually around this time in October I have started my rant about the excess of pink in my world. It has often started even before the month begins, anticipating pink on the Patriots, pink on my gel pens, pink in every window and advertisement. My lip begins to curl in anticipation, ready to snap at any random pink loop that enters my peripheral vision.

This year, however, I’m finding that not only am I not feeling inundated, I’m wondering where all the pink has gone. I’m not sure whether this is because of a drop in pinkdom, a desensitization of my pink observation skills, or whether I’m simply not bothered as much.

At the end of September I had my semi annual chat with my oncologist about the medication I still pop each morning. We agreed that I’m coming down the home stretch with it—my last six months. Wisdom had changed when I approached the prior five year total medication landmark to stretch to a total of seven in my case since I switched from Tamoxafin to Aromasin after two years. I remember being disappointed at the time because I thought I would be free of this daily homage to my breast cancer treatment.

When I mentioned to one woman whose daughter has had cancer treatment that I’m coming into the last few months for real, she answered, “Oh, that’s too bad. No more insurance policy.” Hmm. I hadn’t been looking at it that way. I suppose in some ways this tiny pill has been providing an invisible shield, warding off future entanglements with the breast cancer demons. It is still remarkable that the greatest protection from recurrence is contained within this small white circle.

But I am ready to fly without this net. Along with protection has come a few side effects: some sweats and waves of nausea that my oncologist has encouraged me to endure if they’re not too severe. I have ben regarding the medication as a link to that year and half of treatment: five months of chemotherapy followed by surgery, six weeks of radiation and two subsequent more minor surgeries around the reconstruction. My shift to be free of it is inviting. It feels like the opening of possibilities, a recognizing of distance between Then and Now.

So perhaps it is this same distance which affords me the space to see the pink invasion with new eyes. It serves not so much as an annoying reflection of my own difficult times as a reminder that I am no longer in that place. I want so very much for the attention on this research to continue, for more and more people to receive better treatment, or less treatment, if that can be more effective. And I want people to know that regardless of diagnosis, there is help, there is information and there is living to be done before, during and after treatment. None of it has to be done alone.

So bring on the pink— before the month fades to black. And orange.

Meg Stafford, author of Topic of Cancer: Riding the Waves of the Big C can be reached at Her book comes out in audio version soon.

Slow or Fast: Which is Better?

January 5, 2014

“You’re not late! You don’t need to run…or is that just a burst of energy?” my acupuncturist asks as he heads from his home to his connected office and I trot down the driveway. I smile and am actually not quite sure of the answer. Promptness is important to me; I don’t like to be even a few minutes late, as I see promptness as a simple way to show respect, and I want to grab every opportunity to do this. Also his driveway is a hill and it’s fun to trot down it. So which motivation drives my jog? Not clear.


It is the same when I am the practitioner. “You do’t have to run for us!” the couple exclaims as I pace quickly down the hall to my office where they are waiting. “Oh yes, I do!” I answer. Again, they are there on time; I want to return the courtesy, and also because a lot of my work day involves sitting, I like to move, and move quickly, in between.


On days off, it is a must to move a lot: Zumba, biking, swimming, anything that enables me to return to the focus of sitting that I so enjoy during my work time.


But would I trot to appointments if I allowed myself more time and wasn’t feeling pressed? That is the question.


We New Englanders have chosen to live in a part of the world where we are sometimes afforded the odd day to chill due to the kindness of our weather systems. With the first storm of the New Year, and the accompanying Big Chill, like many others, I screeched into low gear. For me this meant baking banana bread, making squash apple soup, and making a fire in the wood stove. How freaking cozy is that? I was granted the extra gift of my nineteen year old daughter with two best buddies being home so there was also the treat of their presence, laughter and the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies they were inspired to create in the kitchen.


I breathed deeply, relaxing and appreciating the complete lack of pressure the day granted. With so many cancellations and the imperative to keep off the roads, there was strong endorsement to completely downshift and remove all expectations. Our friends in southern states are rarely, if ever, given this opportunity to so thoroughly enjoy the delights of a snow day. There is even the promise of some shoveling exertion or snow shoeing to enjoy outdoors the next day.


I reflected back on the comments of my clients and acupuncturist, and wondered how to bottle some of this pure essence of fleeting down time into the rest of my life. There is no replacement for this kind of unplanned mini vacation, but there is every reason to create this level of contentment and space. I realize that it involves some discipline. I am awake early enough. That is not the issue. Although my internal clock does seem to reset to a later start time in winter, it is the rare day that I sleep later than 6 am. That should really be plenty of time to tend to the critters, my breakfast, my email, and something reasonably clean to wear. I need to resist the other  chores that call, or to really delve too deeply into the email vortex. Perhaps I need to just sit and recall the feeling that a true snow day evokes. If I can picture the snow quietly blanketing the roads, the bushes and world around, I can also smell the bread baking, the fire burning, and hear the burst of laughter in response to an SNL rerun or the creaking of the heating system as it brings warmth to the den. Let us leave for the moment the hairball I witnessed being produced, or the freezing of nostril hair when taking the dog out for a spin.


If I can pocket just a piece of the Snow Day I am in a position to choose when I trot down the driveway because I want to be on time, or because it is just fun to run.


Usually early riser Meg Stafford, LICSW has a private psychotherapy practice and can be reached at

Fifty Shades of Pink

September 29, 2013

It’s that time of year again. It has nothing to do with leaves, and nothing to do with Halloween, however much the stores would have you believe otherwise. October has been chosen to spotlight breast cancer awareness, and those of us who have ridden that wave need to be prepared for the reprise of attention to it.


Back a few years ago when I was a newly minted post treatment person this focus would raise my ire to uncharted heights. When only a few months past my year and half of treatment, the last thing I wanted was a reminder of days watching red liquid drip into my veins, or trying to remember which of my new arsenal of medications was the one that would combat the waves of nausea that threatened to overtake me.


As my locks were gradually regaining their curly bounce I did not want to look at Pink Patriots, Pink lines on the road or pink soup cans. Shocking pink took on new meaning.


And yet, faced with the awareness that all this fuss is in the name of helping, I am not ungrateful. Maturing three or four years in my post wave riding state,  my irritation did abate a bit. Each year I still need to take a breath and prepare for the commercials and media onslaught but this year I am trying a new strategy. Just as it can be irritating when someone hammers near you, but it is not bothersome if you are the one making the noise, I have decided that I will take advantage of this time to try to help my sisters and brothers who are still suffering as they navigate the waves. This year I will post daily from my perspective of being in treatment.


It is not just medical advances which make a difference. They are vital, critical, and I bow not only to my team who buoyed me, teased me, assured me, listened to me and treated me like a human first, but to the researchers behind the scenes who we don’t have occasion to thank in person. They are like the technical people in a stage production who work the magic and tread lightly across the stage dressed in black so that they continue to go unnoticed.


For our part as Riders of the Wave, we can remember to take each day as it comes, not making assumptions about what will come, whether it is a treatment day, a surgery day, a day at work or at the opera. If we are paying attention to our lives, really enjoying when our cat purrs in his sleep or that the vegetables on the grill are cooked to perfection, we are paying tribute to those who helped us to get here. If revenge is living well, so too is it an expression of gratitude, a kick in the teeth to a disease that tried to bring us down.


Our celebrations, our victories are contagious and our responsibility.


If I can see each pink ribbon as a smile, each pink colander, tee shirt, helmet or road stripe as a wink, perhaps I can retract my claws around my response. At least I can try.

Understanding Moral Injury

August 6, 2013

Suicide among veterans now outpaces combat death. This stunning fact is something to be taken seriously and understood if we are to arrest the trend. Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist who has studied and written extensively about this attributes the deep unrest to a condition he calls Moral Injury. He states that this type of injury (not illness) is sustained when “there has been a betrayal of what’s right by someone who holds legitimate authority in a high stakes situation.”


The distinction between Moral Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, another recognized result of time spent around combat, is that PTSD happens to a soldier. It is not a stretch to imagine witnessing death or dismemberment of comrades being traumatizing. Human beings cannot simply switch off the emotions that arise from this, nor can they shut down the responses that have developed over a period of months as an absolute survival mechanism in an extraordinarily taxing environment.


Moral injury is about the inner conflict that surfaces as veterans examine the role they play in the killing that occurs, whether it is giving the order, relaying communication about where and when to drop bombs, or direct assault of another. This cannot be new. For as long as there have been wars, there must be some individuals who question their responsibility and grapple with what is right and who defines that.


Even with clear orders, what we are learning is that soldiers and officers still have feelings about the result of their own actions. This should not be a surprise. As a country, we prize our individuality highly, and nurture the ability to think for ourselves and even to learn how to think. How many movies and books celebrate the rogue officer or PI who refuses to accept the status quo and insists on justice that he or she can live with? It would naturally follow, then, that even in a situation where there has been months of training to conform, to be uniform, that there would be at least a residue of self driven thought.


We must always balance what we are taught by the reigning authority with our own sense of what is right. I am not advocating for us all to make our own rules. If we are able to truly hear our own voices, this could shift what happens in groups, in mobs, even in war. The extreme example and research following World War II and the questions around how people could execute mass murders demonstrated how the power of expectation and critical conditions moved people to suspend their own judgment.


It is this demand to relinquish judgment that opens the crack in the wall of belief. There is a built in challenge to the whole system. As it should be. This is not animation; it is not inconsequential: it is not about deciding to pick up wheat bread instead of rye, or meeting at 6 instead of 7. We are talking about people’s lives. If personnel in the medical field must struggle with proper treatment, even when that mandate is at the forefront of their stated values, how could the question around decision be absent from the equation for  military personnel?


People like Jonathan Shay are working to develop treatments for this deep seated strain.


This essential work brings to light the most fundamental questions about the impact of war and our place in it. Each of us must ask the questions, knowing that soldiers cannot anticipate all that will arise, usually until they are long out of the situation itself. The more we are able to flesh out and articulate these struggles, the better we can help them and others to prepare.


As long as we are sending young men and women into situations that require them to question the heart of who they are, we must be ready to hear what they have to say at each step of the way. I don’t know where that will lead but it is no longer acceptable to demand that people submerge their moral compasses. They are paying for this with their lives. The price is too great for us all.