If we are going to be kind, let it be out of simple generosity, not because we fear guilt or retribution.
- J.M. Coetzee
True confession time: When it comes to words better left unsaid, I’m at the head of the class.
Frequently this alarming tendency shows itself most strongly when trying to help. But I keep plowing ahead because I’d rather be guilty of misspeaking than not trying at all.
That’s a dilemma many people share when they find themselves trying to reach out to a military family facing deployment. The fear that they’ll say or do something wrong keeps them from doing anything at all.
Really the list of what not to say is pretty short. Beyond that, military families are a forgiving group. We’ve all said things we wish we hadn’t. But to help you avoid some possible pitfalls, I’ve come up with the top three things to avoid.
1. "Did you see that news story about..."
This is a big no-no during deployments. Military families avoid the news at all costs. Watching adds to our stress and gives us more to worry about. If something happens with our loved one’s unit, the military will communicate with us before they release anything to the news media. Beyond that, we’ve found the news reports are incomplete at best, and out-and-out wrong more often than not.
2. "I hope your soldier makes it back."
You may wonder if anyone would actually say this, but people do. We know what our soldiers are facing. Truthfully, we’re all scared that something awful might happen and we really don’t need to be reminded about it.
3. "You must be so sorry your (husband, wife, son, daughter) is in the military."
Sorry... really? No, we’re proud–button-bustin’ proud–and we don’t appreciate those who think it’s something to be ashamed of.
The best way to reach out is to be honest. Admit you don’t have the words to take away the worry. Let them know you’re there and how much you care.
Now it's your turn. What helped you while your loved one was serving our country?
Edie Melson is a leading professional in the publishing industry. She also knows what it’s like to send a loved one off to war. Her oldest son went from high school graduation, to Marine Corp boot camp, to Iraq; where he served two tours fighting on the front lines as an infantry Marine. Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle, is Edie’s heart project. Look for her two newest books for military families debuting in 2014: While My Son Serves and While My Husband Serves. You can also connect with Edie on Twitter and Facebook.