We lived through a year-long deployment. Yes, it was 3 1/2 years ago, but the memories are still fresh.
It was a difficult, growing, stretching, bittersweet time for us as a family. However, one of the most stressful aspects of deployment came, not in the “during” but in the “after”–the back-together phase. Here’s what I wrote about that time:
By the time we got to CA to pack our things up, we were somewhat frazzled. We realized reintegrating our lives would be a process. After being apart for so long, you get used to doing things a certain way. The girls struggled with processing some emotions, and Ron and I struggled with figuring out how to be together again. It sounds strange that that would have to be done, but it did.
It actually took us the whole next year to work through residual issues from the deployment. I had become somewhat independent, the girls had to get used to Dad being around again, Ron had some emotional issues surrounding what he experienced while deployed, and we dealt with a lot of anger. I think what made it harder was that all this kind of took us by surprise. Nobody told us to expect this kind of stuff or that it would take so long to work through things.
There were times during that year when I wondered if we would survive. It’s sad, but it is no longer a surprise to me that marriages don’t survive deployments.
Like I said then, what made it harder was that it took us so much by surprise. (Side note: if there’s one thing I could share with all military couples, it would be that even in the strongest marriages, there will most likely be post-deployment struggles.)
Flash forward to now.
Even though not deployed overseas, my husband just returned home from an assignment he had been away for since June. Once again we find ourselves in adjustment mode, though not nearly on the same scale as post-deployment.
So, I want to put into practice the lessons we learned during that time! I also want to share a few of those lessons here, because I believe they can be applicable anytime you might find yourself in a period of adjustment and change.
- Lesson #1: Acknowledge that adjusting to change is a PROCESS. Don’t expect too much too soon. Celebrate the small, along-the-way victories. Pray through the process.
- Lesson #2: Talk about everything! The trap I got caught in was one of false guilt. I would tell myself I “shouldn’t” be feeling a certain way, and would therefore keep what was going on in my heart and head to myself. Bad idea, trust me. And truthfully, this is not a lesson learned–it’s a lesson still being learned!
- Lesson #3: Be aware of expectations you may have. Don’t assume things. I assumed that after deployment we would be so happy to be together again (and we were!) there would be no problems (which there were!).
- Lesson #4: Give grace, grace, and more grace. Give it to yourself, your spouse, your kids, your friends. In whatever changing circumstance you find yourself, remember that change means new. New means nobody really knows what they’re doing.
(I also know that my Chaplain husband would want me to mention that during times of uncertainty, unsettledness, and readjustment, serious issues can show up. Please, please do not be afraid to seek help from a Chaplain or counselor!)
What lessons have you learned during times of change or uncertainty?