The deployment of a family member or spouse/significant other can be a very emotional and difficult time for many families. But by doing everything you can to get yourself and your family ready, you may find that you are better able to cope throughout this challenging time. Families who know when a loved one is scheduled to be deployed should prepare as soon as possible by talking to children and extended family members about what will happen during deployment, adjusting their routines, and reviewing financial and legal details.
Separation from a spouse or partner is hard, whether it's for six weeks or six months. If you know what to expect and come up with a plan for taking care of your household and yourself, you can be better prepared to handle the strong emotions that often come with a deployment.
Everyone reacts to the news of a deployment differently. You may feel:
- a strong sense of denial
Some people may also start to withdraw from their spouse or partner to try and make the transition easier. All of these are normal reactions to a deployment. But there are things you can do to feel better and get ready. You can:
Find out as much as you can about the deployment. Where will your spouse be? How long will the deployment last? By learning as much as you can about where your partner will be and what he or she will be doing, you may be able cope better with feelings of uncertainty. Try to remember that in some cases, you may not be able to get as much information as you'd like because of security issues.
Agree on a plan for communicating. Find out how you'll be able to communicate. Talk about whether you'll stay in touch by telephone, e-mail, or letters, and how often or at what times you'll communicate. Will you be able to send a letter or e-mail each day, or will it be once a week? How soon can you expect to get a response?
Make a plan for being alone. Family members who are at home while a loved one is serving in the military may be able to deal with anxiety and fear if they make plans to take classes, pick up new hobbies, or spend time doing things they wouldn't normally do. Set some personal goals to work toward during the deployment.
Talk about your feelings with your partner and encourage him or her to do the same. Share your fears and concerns about the deployment and work together to come up with a plan for handling them.
Find support for yourself. Many branches of the service offer support in the form of social groups, counseling, or advice. Look into what's available for you as a military family member.
Reach out to other people who are going through or have already gone through a deployment. Participate in any predeployment activities offered by your unit. Military families who have already experienced a deployment may have valuable tips and advice about handling the separation. By reaching out to other people who are preparing for a deployment, you may be able to build a support system for the coming weeks or months.
Spend special time together as a couple and as a family. Take the time to be alone with your spouse or partner before they leave. It's also important for children to have individual time with a parent in the days leading up to a deployment. Make time to be together as a family even if it's just for an ordinary activity like taking a bike ride or playing a game.