Ask any military spouse what is the hardest part of the job and one of the first things to come to mind will likely be deployment. Deployment requires separation from a spouse for months on end, and this is hard no matter how you look at it. If you are a spouse facing deployment, here are some tips to help you get through the days ahead.
1. Embrace Technology
Technology is going to be your friend, so learn all types of communication via technology to ensure you can talk when the chance is available. Whether you talk through Instant Messenger, email or a video chat service, embrace the technology.
2. Don’t Over Analyze
When you have the chance to communicate, don’t over analyze everything your spouse says, the way he or she says it or what seems to be going on in the background. Remember, the amount of stress of combat is something you can’t really understand unless you’ve been there, so know that your soldier is probably just overwhelmed, overworked and over stimulated if he or she seems a little distant.
3. Find Community
What makes deployment hardest for a spouse is the feelings of loneliness and isolation that it brings. You must find your community during this time. Whether it’s other spouses of military service members who are deployed, a local church or community service group or a military spouse support organization, find people you can connect with, talk with and cry with when you need to.
4. Focus on Bettering Yourself
Use this time to take up a new hobby, take up an exercise class or go to school. Take time to better yourself so that when your spouse returns, you are the best version of “you” you can be.
5. Focus on Your Health
Don’t “let yourself go” while your spouse is overseas. Take care of your body by getting enough sleep, exercise and nutritious food. You will not help your relationship if you become unhealthy while your spouse is gone. Create health goals that you reach for during deployment.
6. Allow Room for Sadness
It’s ok to feel sad when your loved one is serving overseas and you are left behind. This does not make you selfish. This is normal! Find ways to express your sadness or a safe shoulder to cry on, then pick yourself up and face the days ahead. Focus on the good things that happen throughout your day so the sad times do not overwhelm you.
7. Get Help When Needed
Sometimes, you’re going to need help. It may be help to snow plow the driveway when your husband is serving, or cook that gourmet dinner when your wife is gone. It may be emotional help when the aloneness is overwhelming. It may just be a listening ear. Be honest with those who care about you, and ask for support when you need it.
8. Know That Change is Part of the Game
Military life is full of change. Be prepared emotionally for this. From a changing date of return to changing communication frequency, prepare mentally for the fact that you are going to have to be flexible in the days and months ahead.
9. Don’t Give in to Worry
You’re going to worry. This is normal. When the worries come, force your mind away from them. Mindfully think about one of your goals, rather than giving into worry. Take the mantra that you won’t worry about the “what ifs” but instead tackle each reality as it hits.
10. Stay Busy
Finally, fill your time while your loved one is gone. Too much time is a difficult thing when you’re lonely and feeling sad. If you have kids at home and are filling the role of single parent, this should not be difficult, but if you aren’t yet a parent, find something to fill your time. Busyness is a great distraction, and it will make the time go faster.
Being the spouse left behind during deployment is not easy, and the challenges ahead of you are something that only others in your shoes can really understand. If you are able to give yourself room to grow during this time, stay busy and understand the emotional trauma of what you are facing, you will get through this deployment and come out stronger and better for it.