Who am I?
A listener. A shoulder. A friend. I focus on helping veterans find understanding for what life after war is like, and support each veteran’s personal journey to find healing, re-find meaning and re-establish life after war. I also help families and concerned citizens learn more about how to support and relate to veterans who have returned from war.
I am open, accepting, and embrace you as the unique individual you are. I see you as strong, resilient, intelligent, normal. You may feel broken, your body may be broken, but you are not beyond hope. I believe in your innate power. I believe in the power of being understood, heard, allowed to express oneself. Sometimes, having someone there who cares and “gets it” means more than anything else.
Who am I not?
I am not a psychologist or licensed therapist.* I am not affiliated with any government organization. I am not someone who thinks there are “text book” answers for what you’re going through. I am not one to talk in “mental health” speak. I am not going to charge you money. I am not going to give up on you. I am not going to judge you.
I am not afraid to hear what you’re having trouble saying.
I am not an activist. I do not publicly discuss politics. I am not looking to change policy.
I am here to meet you where you are.
I am also not a combat veteran.
My experience of war comes from having lived in post-war Sarajevo for several years – where every single person left alive had survived a 3.5 year siege, with snipers, mortars, no electricity or water. Military killing civilians. Civilians killing military. Neighbors killing neighbors. Snipers killing children and grandparents. Landmines and IEDs planted everywhere. (They’re still in various places throughout the city – and in farmer’s fields.)
I was 24 when I moved there. I’d felt a strong calling and heart for Bosnia since I’d been 17.
(Only explanation I have is it must be a past-life connection.)
Bosnia felt like home to my soul. I met the father of my children there, a Sarajevan and Associated Press journalist, and together we wrote about the war every day for three years.
We had our first child, Gregor, in a bullet-pocked hospital too poor to provide their own toilet paper.
I went there whole, confident in goodness, God, my ability to make a difference to the hurting.
I left broken, dead inside, without a god or trust in goodness.
Full of pent-up rage. Hollow. Uncertain if I’d ever find “solid ground” beneath me again.
I quite literally felt as if I’d lost my soul. The me I had always been.
In 2004, we moved back to Minnesota – where I am from, and had two beautiful daughters, Sara and Katarina. Iraq happened and Afghanistan, and I couldn’t bring myself to care about another war. I’d poured my heart and soul into Bosnia’s war. I’d been saturated in the horror, the grief, the anger – by living and caring for survivors who were not “a world away” – but people who were friends, who loved me, who helped me in so many ways as a young wife and the only American in our circle.
Writing about war crimes and landmine explosions and mass graves and secondary mass graves as our daily material – took it’s toll. It became all I could see.
Know that I am NOT comparing my tame, civilian experience in Bosnia with your combat experience.
It can’t compare. Where it can compare is in how we each got run over by this massive force called WAR – and it’s toxic effects on the human spirit.
I remember writing in my diary, “I feel as if my soul is bleeding out, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.”
So, Iraq happened… and I was in a very dark place.
Happy on the outside, a beautiful life as a mother, safe here in America.
Crying, desperate on the inside.
I didn’t know if I’d ever find a sense of wholeness again. If this fragmented, empty shell of my heart would ever have something to stand firm on.
I started to read articles about how our thoughts form our experiences and the way we interpret our lives.
I started to see some hope by letting go of pain and realizing it was okay – that I wasn’t dishonoring those who had suffered – that it was okay to let myself feel happy.
That holding on to the pain didn’t help anyone.
But I still couldn’t look at Iraq and Afghanistan. I knew what my generation was going to go through. What they were facing.
Then, in 2007, a childhood friend of mine came back from 22 months of combat in Iraq – so haunted, so devoid of the boy I knew him to be – and that’s when I knew.
I couldn’t stay silent anymore.
As long as I had walked this path I had been on, and found some measure of hope, I had to reach out.
So I poured my heart into a book. Close to Home.
And wrote it as much to my own spirit as to others.
It was the most healing process I could have taken.
And it brought everything full-circle – I had been broken ahead of the others by the forces of war and I was just a little further ahead in the game.
Vets tell me that what I say resonates – that I “get it”, that it helps.
But I have to admit, I let myself cave to the fear: “who am I to do this?”
People think you need a Ph.D. behind your name to have what you say be relevant.
And I’m sad to say, I let that mentality keep me from sharing the book or reaching out.
Not anymore. I’ve grown. I know what I know in my soul.
If I can help just one veteran find his or her way, it’s worth it.
We don’t have time to waste.
We need healing. We need hope. We need someone to walk beside us.
And that’s what I’m doing.
Walking beside you. Because I know there’s light after the darkness.
The information on this site and provided in private conversations is my personal opinion and is not intended to replace the care/consultation of a medical, mental health, financial or legal provider. If you are in crisis, please dial 911 or contact your local healthcare provider. Any decisions or actions you make based on information I provide are your sole responsibility. I urge you to seek professional consultation and I am happy to assist you in locating a provider.
Britta Reque-Dragicevic is a full-time writer. She has written for The Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times and other media. She works with leading brands to write marketing communications. For several years, she lived and reported from post-war Sarajevo, Bosnia, and, through her experiences living with war survivors and her own spiritual venture with war, has found healing, hope, and a renewed sense of wholeness for life after war.
With a background in nursing and spirituality, Britta focuses on writing about spiritual healing and wholeness. Her corporate profile can be found at brittarequedragicevic.com.