We are a rare breed. Military spouses and families silently serve their country so that others can enjoy the freedoms we have in America. We go months without contact, thousands of miles separate our family, holidays and celebrations are shadowed by the absence of our husband. Its not easy, but its not without purpose either. We do it because we have to, because we are able, and so our friends and families can have their husbands home. It is a sacrifice that often goes un-noticed, but without missing a beat military wives graciously serve their country every day.
Deployment is hard on everyone. I can not wait for the day when my family will be all together again! But what I have learned so far during this journey is that keeping strong through a deployment is possible. Every wife and every family is different, but I have made a little ‘game plan’ for myself to stay military wife strong! Hopefully, more good can come out of it and others, military and civilian, will be inspired! Stand strong among the silent ranks! Here is my pep talk to myself and anyone else that needs it:
- Know who you are. Hold tight to what you know you are capable of. Think back to all of the difficult times in your life that you have gotten through. This deployment will be no different. One day it will be a past challenge that you have conquered.
- Focus on the family. Keep in mind that your husband is the one deployed. Show respect and support him. Sending care packages and encouraging messages are his life line. Keep encouraging and loving him. He needs it more than we know. If you have kids, keeping your focus on helping them transition during this time is a great way to keep your mind off missing your husband. I have placed Daddy pictures everywhere for my son to see, we talk about Daddy every day, and we read his audio book every night. All mamas know how to be strong for their children. My son is also getting spoiled by his grandparents all summer!
- Fill your days. Staying busy is key for me. When I stop, I start to look at this huge mountain in front of me and self-pity takes over. Taking each day and making the most of it helps me to look down at my feet climbing the mountain one step at a time. Go to the beach/lake, movies, zoo, museum, concerts, baseball games, take friends and family on a trip, finish a project you’ve been meaning to for years! Paint the kitchen, make a photo album, take a class, blog!
- Allow yourself to be sad. Let’s face it, deployment sucks. There will be tears. So let yourself be sad, just in limited amounts. I have ‘allowed’ myself 7 days to use during this deployment as I need to. I can be depressed and eat chocolate and hide away and cry, but I only get 7 days total. This helps me get my female emotional crisis out of my system while preventing me from getting trapped there. Im happy to say I’ve only used 1 day so far! It could have carried onto 2 days, but I knew that I may need another one later and its too early in the game to use them all up, haha! So the next morning I woke up and forced myself to have a positive attitude and had a great day. Its ok to be sad, allow yourself how ever many days you need, but set the number and then thats it. Make the best of all other days! Maybe you will still have some “cry days” left over at the end! ;)
- Stay healthy. Women handle stress differently. Some eat a lot, some have no appitite. Some want to lay in bed all day, some would give anything to fall asleep for more than an hour. Your body needs sleep and nutrition to run. I alternate coffee and melatonin to wake up and sleep when my body needs it. Eating well is just as important. Now would be a great time to try some new healthy recipes! Even if I am not hungry, I try to make myself eat and I always feel better after if it was something healthy. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a yummy buttery, fried, succulent meal every now and then- guilt free! I plan on celebrating ice cream later today!
- Tango. The “Tango app” has been a wonderful way for me and my husband to communicate. When he has wifi access we can text, send videos, send pictures, send voice notes, and we’ve even been able to video call a few times! I keep my husband updated with videos of our son and some mornings we wake up to a video message from him! Remember to keep the time you talk positive. Communication is limited so it shouldn’t be used for arguing. Encourage each other.
- Lower expectations. This is a hard one, but will save you from hurt. Don’t expect others to really understand what you are going through, especially if they do not have military background. Before my husband joined the military I had no idea what families went through, so I should not expect others to understand now. Don’t be upset when you feel like no one has checked up on you. Everyone is dealing with their own lives, and it doesn’t mean they don’t recognize or care for you. Appreciate those that do show you support and love, and save the venting for other military wives who are going through the same thing as you.
- Serve others. Another way to stay busy and combat sadness is to serve other people. Volunteering your time with the homeless or poor is a great way to put things into perspective. I am so blessed to live the life I do. Nursing homes, Goodwill, hospitals and churches are always looking for volunteers. Also serve those you know! Celebrate with your friends and family with their accomplishments! Help friends move, take someone out to dinner for their birthday, pray with your friends and family on their struggles.
- Expect the unexpected. We are all familiar with “Murphy’s Law”; if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. So just expect it. Be ready. Have documents needed for the house and car, bills organized, phone numbers ready, people in mind who could help you.. so when (not if) the dishwasher breaks, you get a flat tire, and your baby has a fever all in one day, you’re at least prepared. Then be thankful that nothing tragic has happened while your partner is overseas. Pray against it, but if something devastating does happen, know how to get in touch with the American Red Cross who will find and contact your husband, its usually through your ombudsmen. I have both of my ombudsmen’s cards in my purse and have access to them via email and Facebook. Another good person to know how to get in touch with is your husband’s Commanding Officer’s wife. Cling to friends and family for support. Don’t wait for them to call you, call them and tell them what you need.
- Keep your eyes on the prize. A good thing to meditate on is the homecoming. Think of how amazing it will be! I have the picture I took of my husband and I, after he graduated bootcamp on my dresser next to my bed. I look at it every day and I remember that feeling of running up to him after those long 9 weeks of separation with only letters to communicate. That was one of the greatest moments of my life.The anticipation will have built up much longer than only 9 weeks this time. I am so thankful to get the opportunity again to feel the way it feels to run into his arms in that moment! It’s still far away, but I’m already so excited! And yes, I have already thought about what I’m going to wear and what the sign will say that our son will hold up. Focus on how happy that moment will be! The day will come!
- Surround yourself with love. This might be one of the most important things to me. I have written out bible verses that encourage me and have them up all over my room, bathroom, closet, and car for easy access when I’m having a bad day. Bad days will happen, so be prepared! Find a good military wife book to inspire you. Right now I am reading “Safe Landings: Memoirs of an Aviator’s Wife” by Fran McGraw and working through the Bible study “Tour of Duty” by Sara Horn. Leaning on God is what hard times are for. Draw near to Him. It wont make the trials go away, but you will never have to go through anything alone.
Some of the LOVE I have posted around my room right now:
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
- 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
“For He has said: I will never leave you nor forsake you, So we can confidently say: They Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
“Trust in Him at all time, O people; Pour our your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. “
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Embrace the journey! xo