How military families can get the support and help they need while their loved one is away
Posted in , Mar 3, 2015
Deployments are often the toughest part of loving someone in the military. And while subsequent tours are hard, it’s the first one that carries a different level of stress, just because we don’t know what to expect.
Today I’d like to share some of the things that I wish I’d done before our son’s first deployment:
1) Share with family.
I should have let my friends and family know sooner when I was struggling with fear, stress and loneliness. When we have someone in the military, that warrior image sometimes rubs off, and we feel like we have to be tough and strong. But trying to cope alone isn’t a sign of strength. We all need help, and burdens shared are burdens divided.
2) Enjoy myself.
I shouldn’t have let the guilt about having fun keep me from doing the things I loved. While our son was away I felt guilty about doing things I enjoyed.
It’s almost like I had to suffer because he was suffering. He definitely wouldn’t have wanted that, and neither would your loved one. Don’t make their stress greater because they’re worried you’re not going on with life.
3) Write letters often.
I should have written more letters. It was only after our son got back that I realized how much physical letters from home meant. We’re blessed to live in the digital age, when we can actually talk (and sometimes video chat) to those serving in a war zone.
The face-to-face time is a wonderful gift, but so are those letters that can be carried around and reread when phone calls and video messaging isn’t available.
4) Ask more questions.
I should have asked those who’d been through deployments more questions. I thought I was ready for the separation and the worry that would dog my steps during our son’s deployments. I wasn’t. Because I didn’t ask more questions, I was constantly ambushed by unexpected feelings.
5) Exercise more.
I should have stayed on top of my physical routine. When I get stressed and depressed, I tend to withdraw. I eat more of what I shouldn’t and spend less time working out. But times of stress are when a healthy diet and regular exercise are more important than ever.
6) Be honest about the reality of deployment.
I should have known it would get harder–not easier–the closer we got to our son’s homecoming. It is totally counterintuitive, but it happens to so many who have someone they care about serving in a combat zone. The closer we get to our loved returning, the more frightened we get that something will happen to them.
7) Don't watch the news.
I should have turned off the evening news in the early days of the deployment. The military does a good job of letting families know about injuries and worse. The news outlets will not get the information first. So the frightening stories that bombard us through the media are not something we need to worry about.
8) Keep a journal.
I should have kept a journal from the very beginning. I did eventually discover how helpful this was, but I wished I’d known it sooner. I especially loved writing down my prayers and the Bible verses that brought me peace. When the words wouldn’t come, those journal entries reminded me of the comfort that only God can provide.
What tips can you share with those facing deployment for the first time?