Deployments: Working through the Seven Stages of Grief
The rhythm of life as you know it takes on a very different tune the day your spouse comes home with those words, the words that can instantly change everything about your reality….”I have orders”. If you ask any military spouse, it is quite normal to experience the seven stages of grief when it comes to learning that your spouse is set to deploy.
The news can hit like a ton of bricks; it wasn’t expected or the timeline for departure is approaching quickly. The life events that you had planned out for the next 6, 9 or even 12 months are suddenly are in jeopardy. Feeling lost, or having difficulty figuring out just how you will make it through is totally normal!
Denial may appear in a few different ways. You hold out hope that orders may change, but it may not actually happen. Denial can also explain some of the emotional “weirdness” that couples experience in the days preceding the goodbye. You may begin to withdraw into yourself and feel that there is a bit of distance between you and your spouse. I call this “putting my game face on”. It took several deployments for me to finally understand that I needed to pull back just a bit in order to decrease my pain of saying goodbye.
Once the service member is out of the house, you have time to replay thoughts and events. It may trigger guilt at something that you wish you had said or did prior to the departure. Looking at the calendar can bring feelings of guilt at missed birthdays, holidays or big life events especially if there are children involved.
This is a tough emotion and one that civilians may have a hard time recognizing! I love my husband beyond words, but there are days into the deployment where I wake up steaming! The emotional roller coaster may look like missing them one day, feeling sad another, but then transition to anger. I may not have even talked to him in the past week, he certainly did not do anything to incite my fury. Anger can manifest from loneliness, feeling overwhelmed and from exhaustion. How can you be mad at someone who is sacrificing for our country? Don’t let guilt bring you down, this emotion will pass. It is ok to feel this way!
Patriotic holidays are hard for me. Scrolling social media will provide more than enough photos of families together, and being happy. Those are hard days. Knowing that you are into a deployment but have so many days to go can bring you down. Attending a school function, or childrens’ birthday parties alone may trigger loneliness and it always seems to creep in at night.
Now this is where it gets exciting! You are finding your groove, a new normal! Head clear and ready to take on challenges, feelings of empowerment flow in. You discover how to thrive, and not just survive. Strategies for success are set in place. New standards and routines are established. This is great! You start to realize that not only CAN you do this, you ARE doing it!
You got this, and you are rocking the deployment! The end may be in sight, and the countdown on. During this separation you have grown as a person, and developed resilience. YOU MADE IT. The responsibility now falls on you to extend that hand of friendship to a spouse who may be just at the beginning of their deployment journey. Be that beacon of hope, the one who understands the journey without a spoken word. The greatest gifts can come from the most difficult journeys. Share that warrior spirit.