Finishing Deployment Strong

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. For more information, visit our Privacy Policy.
cyor_leaderboard

The light downstairs got left on. I didn’t notice it before, but now that I was snug in my bed with all the lights off, I could just barely see the soft glow of the kitchen lights peaking around the staircase. Ugh. 

Letting out a sigh, I swung my legs back over the side of the bed and made my way downstairs. Kitchen lights off, double-checked the locked doors, and headed back upstairs to give my little sleeping princess one last look before climbing back into bed.

I was tired. Not lonely, hysterical or even sad tonight. Just tired. One of the many unexpected side-effects to a long deployment is an emotional numbness that creeps in toward the halfway mark.

I missed my husband. I hated living alone. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. But there was nothing I could do about that, so I climbed back into bed and went to sleep.

Welcome to the second half of the deployment. The unexpected truth? It’s harder than the first.

finishing-deployment-strong-2.jpg

Most of the military spouses I’ve talked to who have endured a deployment would agree, the second half is not easier than the first. There’s a brief lull somewhere between the 1/3-1/2 mark that fools you into thinking things are finally going downhill.

You’ve gotten into a routine and you’re used to living alone. You still miss your spouse but it’s not that sharp, biting, take-my-breath-away pain that it was at first. It’s a constant dull ache that is much easier to live with and consequently, ignore.

You’ve found your new normal and have started building what you think is momentum to finish up strong. But it’s not, its a false adrenaline. The second round is coming, perhaps just as long and difficult as the first, and unfortunately most of us who live through it are not prepared for it.

So how do you brace yourself without ruining the God-given respite of taking that much-needed breath? How do you keep your chin up when the rest of the world has ‘gotten over it’ and is moving on?

What is the key to finishing your deployment strong, composed, and bravely? Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind as you gather your strength and continue the climb.

Embracing the Reprieve

If you’re at the beginning of your deployment or still staring down your D-day date, it may be incredibly hard to fathom a day when deployment is simply normal and the prospect of homecoming is getting closer by the day.

But believe it or not, that day will come and when it does, there’s an amazing respite that comes halfway through nearly to the day. Of course like anything it’s different for everyone. But most of us have experienced it.

Somewhere between 4-5 months, you stop breaking into a cold sweat every time the house creaks at night. You don’t look for his car in the driveway when you come home. You have perfected the art of looking happy in public even though you’re aching.

You hardly ever cry in front of people anymore, even your trusted inner circle. Most importantly, inside you stop feeling quite so hollow and lonely, desperate and scared. You find yourself feeling confident, optimistic, and maybe even a little excited about homecoming.

You are, after all, halfway through! You’ve done this much once, you can do it again. And you can! Enjoy this breather, even recognizing that it won’t last, don’t take any moment for granted.

Enjoy the fact that you have a spring in your step, that you’re motivated to do things and go places. That the thought of your loved one doesn’t completely monopolize every moment of every day.

Don’t feel guilty, enjoy it! Trust me, it goes both ways. Your deployed spouse needs to feel free to do the same. Humans are very adaptable. We don’t have to love our circumstances in order to adapt to them. So, if you have begun to adapt, enjoy it!

deploycycleImage Credit Below

As you can see above, there is an emotional cycle that most often accompanies deployment. The ‘reprieve’ I’m referring to is the transition between Blue and Yellow, or Yellow and Green.

Somewhere in the middle of your deployment, things even out, get easier and start to go downhill for a time. Before long you’ll find yourself going back up another little mountain, but hopefully, the momentum from the reprieve will be your fuel to help you finish strong.

Your Inner Circle

One of the most frequent pieces of advice given to military spouses on the verge of deployment is to build a support system. Whether family, friends or other military spouses, it is absolutely crucial to have a small group of friends who are aware of the situation and are actively loving and supporting your family through it.

fcs-4903-fresh25_digitalad_728x90._CB1527286124_

What we often don’t hear is that even the best of friends have their own lives, and will eventually slack off. The heightened emotion of deployment brings friends from out of the woodwork for most of us; words of support and prayers from people we haven’t heard from in ages.

Which, of course, is a wonderful blessing. However, there are very few people that will continue to see the world through our eyes for the entire deployment. In fact, there may not even be one person who was walking this closely with you at the beginning that is also with you in the end. And that’s ok.

There are seasons in your deployment and in all of them you need support, however, not the same kind of support. Find people in your life who are able to travel each leg of the journey with you. For me, this came in three very distinct stages.

The first stage, in addition to my family and many of my friends, I had my bestie. She had been through a deployment before, knew the ropes, and was the one to show up with Chinese and sit on my couch with me all day watching TV when I just couldn’t wrap my mind around real life.

She was the one that could look at me and say, ‘I know’, and I knew she really did. I didn’t have to explain or put on a brave face, we could just simply be. That was exactly what I needed for the first stage, and she was a God-send to me!

In the second stage, I was feeling a little braver, certainly more confident and less weepy. I found myself building relationships with other military wives in the Battalion whose husbands were also deployed.

We had never really known each other beforehand, and as none of us lived on base, we didn’t see each other often. But through Facebook and phone calls we created our own little sorority and helped support each other through the middle and beginning of the second half of our journey.

Our group began to break up slightly, however, when half of the Marines were sent home early, resulting in two of my closest military friend’s husband’s coming home, while mine was still away.

Although I rejoiced with them, it definitely was a bit of a blow, and I found myself withdrawing slightly to keep from the constant pain of watching their lives return to normal.

Lastly, I found myself in the final days turning to my mother. A constant presence throughout the entire deployment, her strength and love and joy helped carry me through Christmas and the weeks that followed not knowing when our return date would be {more on this later}.

Even though she had never experienced a deployment, I didn’t need expertise or advice in those last weeks. I needed stamina and support. She provided both in abundance, as well as ample distraction whenever I needed it.

All these people helped make my deployment experience success, and I couldn’t have done it without any of them.

But if I had depended on one or all of them the entire time, however, I most likely would have been disappointed. Find your inner circle, friends. Tell them they’re in your inner circle, and thank them in advance!

Staying Connected to Your Spouse

We’ve all dreaded the inevitable technological challenge of deployments, and the havoc it can wreak on any relationship. By this point, however, you’re well accustomed to the spotty Wi-Fi, abruptly ending phone calls and sparse emails.

What you may not be expecting, however, is that you will most likely run out of things to talk about. Don’t worry, this is bound to happen even between two people who love and care about each other.

When your lives are drastically different, separated by continents, and much of which you are not able to discuss for security reasons, it can be hard to come up with 8-12 months of talking material.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to make deployment goals together {more on this here}; not only does it give you something to work towards, but it gives you something to talk about!

In addition, think of a few things that you can continue discussing as the months go on. Reading the same book or watching the same TV show and talking about it can be a much-needed conversation filler and help normalize things a bit.

One thing we did during the last several weeks was to plan our post-deployment vacation to Florida. Disney, beaches, and the Everglades were all on the list, and planning together gave us both something to talk about as well as researching in our spare time.

It also helped make the time feel like it went a little bit faster, having something that we were actively planning that would take place once he was home.

When You Don’t Have an End Date

This was one of the more difficult challenges we faced: we didn’t know when deployment would end. We had been originally told a year, then 6 months, then…. nobody really knew.

When six months came and went we tried to be optimistic, but inevitably we were dreading the announcement that a full 12 months would be our lot. Fortunately, it wasn’t. However, we didn’t find out that the end was in sight until just days before it was over.

I had a vague idea by some of the more subtle hints I picked up on, but I really didn’t have a clue until a big, black trunk full of my husband’s extra gear showed up on my doorstep.

Until that day, I had to be prepared to go the full 12 months, which would have been an additional 3 1/2 months past what they actually did. So in the meantime, before the big black box showed up, we handled the open-ended date by focusing on what we DID know.

We DID know that he would be home for the NEXT birthday, the NEXT summer, the NEXT anniversary. We couldn’t make a specific countdown calendar, but I still made one for the year and greatly enjoyed throwing out the last three months when we realized we didn’t need them.

We also tried not to focus on the time, but rather the experiences. It was our firstborn’s first year and so everything was new and exciting. I faithfully documented, perhaps excessively, her first steps, trying new foods, first birthday, Thanksgiving, snow, Christmas, etc.

I sent him care packages with SD cards packed full of our daughter’s sweet smile and new tricks (because his internet was so bad he couldn’t download photos online). We would occasionally lament not knowing when it would end, but we tried not to make it the focus.

In the end, I don’t know if it made our experience harder or easier. We couldn’t obsess over a date because there was none. It certainly was hard to swallow for a planner like me, but overall I think it made for a better experience, honestly.

When All Else Fails

Remember, that even though the second half of deployment may be longer and more grueling, it won’t be as difficult as the first half for several reasons:

  1. First of all, you’ve done this before. Literally, you just did it. If you’re halfway through it means you’ve already completed what you’re setting out to accomplish. It might not be quite as smooth and it will probably feel longer, but it IS possible to do it, you just proved it to yourself.
  2. Secondly, you probably won’t be as emotional the second half, which is a huge part of the stress and exhaustion that comes from the beginning of the deployment. Just the fact that you’re not crying every day is hugely helpful to your stamina and optimism.
  3. You’re technically on the upswing! Your positivity is everything at this point. While you may have spent the first half going through all the ‘firsts’, try to concentrate your efforts on crossing off some ‘lasts’: the last time you’ll celebrate a major holiday alone, the last time you’ll go to a wedding alone, the last time you’ll have to pay this bill before he gets home… the list goes on and on! Keep your eye on the prize and try to stay optimistic and you’ll find the time flying by.
  4. Whether the days go by fast or slow, try to keep in mind that you’re on the clock. Unlike the first half, you will never have to go through 6 months, 4 months… 3 weeks again. Every day you survive is one in the preverbal bank – it can’t last forever, and now you’re closer to the end than the beginning!

cyor_leaderboard

And above all, don’t forget… you are not alone! There are so many who are currently walking this path or have gone on before you. Seek them out; embrace the opportunity to connect, and take their love and support when it is offered.

We may be spread out, but there is a strong sisterhood connecting those of us who have been left behind! You are loved, supported, and admired by us – and we are praying for you on your journey.

jmsignature


For more support, consider joining the Thrive Facebook group and checking out the other posts below. Also, make sure to save the Deployment Goals Cheat Sheet below!

Your First Deployment: How to Thrive {Not Just Survive}

Your First Reunion: How To Survive Reintegration

Connect with us! Request to join Thrive {deployment support group}
thrivehdrFINAL-2


31358_KU_associate_ads_728x90

deploysheet


Image Credit: http://adventuresofasemperfifamily.blogspot.com/2012/08/preparing-for-deployment.html

VX-2329-AUCC-ASP-MEGA-Associates-Mobile-WideBanner-320x50

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s