I think the hardest part of military life is being apart. Whether it’s apart from your family, your spouse or your friends it doesn’t matter there is a sting of separation that is all to real. I can’t help it, but on the days when I’m really missing my daughter or just want to hang out with my sisters I tend to blame the military. A few weeks ago I was having one of those days and my battle buddy was busy and I found myself falling down the slippery slope of how horrible my current duty station is. And then I immediately dismissed my feelings, because my soldier isn’t deployed right now – so I have nothing to complain about. However it’s not just about deployment. There is a sting of separation that occurs whenever you are alone – which happens often as a military spouse. Sure deployments are the worst, and I won’t begin to claim to be an expert on providing deployment advice (there are many books and resources out there that can do a better job than I can) but deployments aren’t the only times we are apart from the people we care about.
So what do you do? You adopt a positive outlook and use these 6 simple strategies that helped me not only cope but find peace and happiness while my military spouse is away or I am missing my family.
6 Strategies to Take Away The Sting of Separation
Let yourself cry. Sometimes all you need is a good cry. When we get overwhelmed and there is no way to coast through one more day of deployment, letting it all loose is often the only thing you can do. A good cry releases all of our pent-up stress and frustration and allows us to release the buildup of so many feelings.
Did you know that crying is actually a natural response and when you cry you are actually helping yourself by allowing your emotions to come out! Some scientists have even hypothesized that a function of crying is to rid the body of stress hormones. And sometimes crying even helps to clear the mind, and allow you think through things a little more clearly than you would if you held those stressful emotions inside. So do yourself a favor and let yourself cry, you’re worth it and it will help take the sting out of the day!
Create a Bucket List. When our spouses leave it often feels like we should be putting our lives on hold while they are gone. It’s hard to imagine how to live our lives when such a significant part of us is so far away. But what I have come to know is that the busier you are and the less time you spend alone in front of the computer waiting for a message, the harder the deployment will be. Our spouses don’t want us miserable, in fact they want us to be happy, healthy and well taken care of, and the best way to do that is to create what I call a Deployment Bucket List!
I usually sit down to write my bucket list right around day 3 or 4 of deployment. I’m still a bit emotional and lost, but I am no longer cuddled in his favorite shirt/sweatpants watching the Notebook one more time. I make it a production away from kids and all distractions, and I spend the afternoon putting down all the things that I want to do while my husband is away.
It usually starts off slowly, because it’s hard for me to think about having fun doing things without my Soldier man, but eventually I wind up with a list of about 30 things that I can look forward to doing. I mix it up with some big stuff, like visiting family or going to see a battle buddy on a different post and some little stuff like taking that Zumba class that starts at 5:30 because it won’t mess with dinner time like it used to.
No matter what I put on my list, I make sure it’s fun and is something that I can look forward to, and then one by one I check them off and before you know it it’s time to plan the homecoming.
Keep Busy. Boredom and too much time on your hands is the kiss of death when it comes to coasting through a deployment. I mean how many times can you clean the closets and scrub the baseboard?
The secret to a physical separation that doesn’t drag on day after day is to keep busy. Have regular things on your calendar that you do to keep your mind off of the fact that your spouse is away. Weekly coffee with friends, book club, bible study; all of these activities will give you something to look forward to and a reason to get out of the house and have some time with other adults with similar interests.
Get Out Of The House. Like keeping busy, it’s important to get yourself out of the house a few times a week especially when our spouses are gone. I know that for many military spouses, when our significant other deploys, we feel safer and in more control if we stay home. But when you don’t get out you isolate yourself from the support that you need and you deprive yourself of so many things. Human beings need social interaction to stay healthy, and when we stay cooped up in the house we invite depression and anxiety into our lives. Get out, take a walk and get some fresh air. The sunshine will make you feel better and help you distress and be better able to handle the changes that come your way.
Utilize your Battle Buddies. A good battle is a rare find, and to this day they are the people I go to even though we are miles apart. We are always there for each other, never take advantage of one another and have a relationship that is give and take. I can’t say enough about the value of finding another spouse that has your back and will be with you through it all.
If it Becomes Too Much. Sometimes this lifestyle can bring us to our knees and become so overwhelming that even when we use the coping strategies outlined in this book it’s not enough.
It may be your service member dealing with the real issues of TBI, PTSD or Depression and you don’t know how to help. It may be that your children or yourself are overcome with anxiety or are unable to leave the house. Or you may have a fellow spouse that isn’t handling a deployment or challenge in a healthy way and you are really worried about them.
As we have discussed over and over, this life is hard and sometimes seeking out professional help is the best option. Thankfully there are many different organizations and services that are available to military families that were designed to help us through these difficult times. There is no shame in seeking professional help; in fact it takes a courage that you should be proud of.
Getting help when military life becomes too much is the best thing you can do for your family and your service member.
~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and entrepreneur as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Riskare go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at TheDirectionDiva.com