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Lessons and the Unspoken Toll of Military Life

Sometimes as we traverse military life it can feel as though we live separately from the outside world. We have our own lingo, we take pride in things others take for granted and our day to day challenges are very different from our civilian counterparts. Because of this we need to build stronger coping skills and hone our self care strategies so that we are prepared – especially for the stuff we never see coming.

I didn’t realize how much I’d been slacking on both my self-care and coping strategies until recently when we were blindsided by a family crisis that none of us saw coming. 5 weeks ago I went to Florida to take care of my mother-in-law for what we thought was a case of pneumonia. What we didn’t know was that we only had a few weeks before she would lose her brief battle with cancer.

Like many of you, I’m good when my world gets turned upside down. Military life has given me lots of practice (see my journey and strategies in Right Side Up).  I can sort through the logistics, deal with changing circumstances and efficiently blow through a to do list like nobody’s business.  I can be strong for my family in a way I’ve never been.

Military life taught me that – and I’m grateful.

But if you look closer, you will see the cracks and the toll military life is taking. Maybe the sudden death of my mother in law has left me raw, but the reality is that the events over the last few weeks have highlighted a few habits or lessons I’ve learned since becoming a military spouse. And they aren’t pretty, healthy or productive.

Military life has shown me how

  • To hide the cracks
  • To put on a strong face even when I’m breaking
  • To suck it up and roll on
  • To put my feelings and needs aside for the greater good
  • To dismiss tragedy because it’s part of our life

But more importantly than the lessons, it took losing her to reveal

The unspoken toll that military life is having on me.

  • I long to put down roots again
  • I resent being far from family and being present in their daily lives
  • I miss the support of lifelong friends
  • I fear that I’m losing a piece of myself with every PCS, Deployment an TDY assignment
  • I worry about my soldier and the impact military life has on our children
  • I hate that I now have intimate knowledge of all things PTS, TBI, Depression, Addiction & Suicide
  • And most of all I long for routine and a simpler life where I’m not waiting for the next set of orders that will turn our lives upside down once again.

As I write this I fight everything in me screaming to hit the delete button. I mean how can someone who shows people how to embrace military life and see it as an opportunity have feelings of resentment and anger toward it. But I believe in transparency – and right now in this moment this is how I feel.

And that’s ok.

It’s ok to be frustrated with your life. It’s ok to have feelings. It’s ok to want something different. And it’s not only ok but it’s important to acknowledge these thoughts and allow yourself to experience the feelings that come with them. It’s healthy and it’s real.

The tricky part comes when you try to determine what to do with all those thoughts and feelings once you have them. For me I have to get them out of my head (writing helps 🙂 ) and them accept that I HAVE A CHOICE…I can stay in this place and focus on what I hate about this life or I can use my skills and coping strategies to get to where I want to be – a place where I find happiness and peace.

I choose to move forward.

As I struggle to find a new normal moving forward means that I’ll be digging deep into my tool box and figuring out how to accept what’s going on and grow through the sadness, challenges and struggles. I’ll uncover where and how these feelings originated and commit to taking action so I can find the balance I so desperately need in my life.

But for today I’m content that I took that first step in acknowledging how I really feel. I’m grateful to have the ability to put it out there because I know that I can’t be the only one struggling with their feelings about the toll that their military journey is having on their lives.  Trust me when I say there is a price to this life and at times that toll is a big one.


~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and lifestyle blogger 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

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