- Stay Busy
This might be the advice you hear most from other spouses who have been through a deployment. That’s because it’s SO very important. It’s crucial that you don’t allow yourself to become too isolated or have so much free time that you end up at home moping all alone. Fill that calendar up as much as you can. You might be a little more worn out, but time will go faster!
- Have a Project
Start a new hobby. Train for a marathon. Make a quilt. Paint a room. Redecorate the house. Learn a language. Take a class. Any of these things will help make time go faster. This is part of staying busy. If you can find something to focus on other than the fact that your spouse is gone, you’ll be a lot better off! Having a project – something to keep your mind and body occupied – will help keep you focused on better, easier things.
- Discuss Expectations Ahead of Time
Talk with your spouse about what you expect ahead of time. Accept the fact that not all your expectations will be in line with reality, so try to manage those ahead of time. Try to find out what to expect as far as communication goes. Ask what he/she wants in care packages and how frequently they would like to receive mail. Talk about whether you’ll be willing to drop everything to receive a phone or video call from your deployed spouse. Discuss the pros and cons of setting your home schedule around their deployment schedule. It might not always make sense for you to cancel or schedule plans around the deployment schedule. It might not make sense to talk every day – even if you can. Talk it all through so you each know each other’s preferences beforehand!
- Keep Important Information
There’s a lot of sense in creating a deployment notebook. Have contact information for your spouse’s chain of command and know who to call if you need help or information. Make copies of prescriptions, eye glasses or contacts, driver’s license, etc. Get a general Power of Attorney and keep it in the binder. Then, keep track of what was useful and helpful for when you do the deployment thing again next time.
- Know your Resources
Go to pre-deployment briefings with your spouse. Most branches invite spouses to attend these or have ones specifically for spouses. Attend all the informational meetings you can because different installation agencies are going to come out and tell you about programs or services available specifically for spouses and families of the deployed. There are also several other independent companies that offer services for families of the deployed. Do some research and find what all is available to you while your spouse is gone.
- Use your Resources
Now that you know your resources, use them! A lot of these programs lose funding if they’re not used. The government and private companies that offer help to families of the deployed do so because they want to serve those who serve! Check out the installation agencies that offer help. Go have a free meal and entertain the kids for a few hours to break up the hum-drum days of deployment. Put the money spent on these programs to good use to they continue to help other families of those deployed.
- Ask for Help
This is my very biggest downfall of deployments. It wasn’t until my husband’s 9th deployment and spinal surgery that I finally swallowed my pride and asked for help when I needed it. I now look back and wonder why I never admitted to needing help before. I made life so much harder on myself by insisting that I do everything myself without admitting I was struggling during previous deployments. People always offered to help and told me to “just ask” for anything. This is very tough because an offer to help that general is difficult to take someone up on. If you find, though, that you’re struggling and someone asks if there’s anything you need, ask for some help. If you have kids, tell that friend they could make you a dinner so you don’t have to cook one night. Find someone to watch the kids every once in a while so you can do grocery shopping alone or go get a haircut. Ask for help with the yard every once in a while. Don’t insist on going it alone when you do have a network of friends who want to help!
- Allow for Emotions
It’s possible to be strong while also having some struggles. You end up making it harder on yourself if you insist on bottling all your emotions up. Allow for the real emotions of sorrow, grief, frustration, and anger. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on the bad stuff too much, but don’t try to cover them up too much either. If you find yourself bottling it all up, there’s more of a chance you’ll blow your top over something insignificant. Be real, open, and honest emotionally instead.
- Remember it’s Tough for the Service Member Too
During my husband’s deployments, I often find myself very frustrated with the situation we’re in and primarily focused on my struggles. I have to remind myself that he’s going through a lot too. He might not be here changing dirty diapers or cleaning up puke or dealing with school and social issues with kids. He might not be going through exactly what I am emotionally when I am surrounded by people but still feel so alone. But goodness knows he’s got his own stressors to deal with. He doesn’t have to deal with discipline issues of the kids, but he misses precious time watching them grow up. He might not have to clean the house for the 17th time today but he wasn’t here to make the memories that disheveled the house. Military spouses (myself included) complain a lot about how tough it is to be alone without our other half helping us with the home and family, but they’re missing so much time and the comforts of home. Keep that in mind when you’re vocalizing your struggles to your deployed spouse.
- Have Guests
It might add a little more work on your part, but it’s usually worth it to have family or friends in town while your spouse is gone. When my husband is gone, we try to have visitors once a month so we have something to look forward to. Make sure you explain to any visitors that not everything will be the same around the house as it is when your spouse is home, but it would be nice to have another adult in the house for companionship (and maybe even help).
- Give Yourself Grace
Don’t forget that this is an unbelievably tough thing for a couple to go through. Allow for weakness in yourself at times. You’re not a super hero. You’re not perfect. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you struggle and don’t become overwhelmed if you have a tough time. You’re allowed some leeway. There are enough other people in life who are hard on us. There are enough outside factors that make life difficult. Give yourself the grace for occasional failure and tell yourself it’s okay!
- Plan for the Reunion
Best part of a deployment is your service member’s return home. So, when it gets closer to the end, start planning what that reunion is going to be like. Discuss whether your spouse wants family and friends in town or at the airport when you pick them up. Talk about whether they would appreciate a big “Welcome Home” banner on the house or whether they would see it as work since they have to take it down eventually. Talk it through so you can make it as seamless as possible. Keep in mind that your spouse is probably going to be jet-lagged and exhausted by the time you pick them up, though, and accept that the sexy lingerie you purchased might be better for night two instead of the first day they’re home.