I’m not one to sugar coat anything besides baked goods so I’m not going to try to make people feel better by saying the time before a deployment is all happy bliss. Pre-deployment isn’t the calm before the storm but rather kind of the sucky cloudy days of life that happen before a hurricane like whirlwind of emotion, at least for me. It’s not the same for everyone but I think a majority of spouses will agree it’s not a party.
Pre-deployment is a super busy time for a military spouse; maybe putting in long hours or on a different schedule that keeps them at working longer, doing more things for work or just being overall tired. It’s not just the military members who schedule changes. Weekends that used to be spent walking beaches or going to the movies might end up being spent shopping for things they’ll need, making a lot of arrangements for when they’re gone and preparing everything they’ll be taking.
This is not fun. I hate getting stuff ready for my husband to leave, whether a long deployment or a short trip out, I almost always end up crying a lot (okay.. I’m slightly over emotional sometime). He usually doesn’t end up packing his bag till the night before he leaves otherwise it’s like a constant reminder staring us in the face. Going out with a list of stuff to last for 6 months of them being gone can be even harder. It’s like a huge elephant, (or in our case, maybe a huge boat?) in the room. It’s something we have to talk and deal with but want to avoid at all costs .
A lot of times this can lead to some unhappy emotions, arguments, a feeling of “why don’t you just go already?” or my personal favorite, “It’s not fair, why does this have to happen to us?” Don’t let frustration or anger destroy the few weeks or days you have before they have to leave. In my personal experience, I could not for the life of me understand why, being so happy together in our little routine and newly married we drew the short straw of having to be separated for 6 months. So when D-day (Deployment Day) came along all I could ask him was “Why? Why us?” To which my loving sweet husband answered, “…because we are lucky enough to get to fall in love with each other all over again when I come home.”
I know, so sappy but also true.
Here are some helpful tips for before deployment.
// Remember where you started, why you got married and what makes you love each other so much.
Make sure to spend time with your spouse before they leave. Don’t send them off with a fight or being distant because you’re upset. It won’t make you feel better. A spouse leaving for something important like a deployment is not something to hold against them, it’s a duty they’ve volunteered to do for not only your freedom, but millions. Also send your husband or spouse off with tons of reminders of why you love them, what’s waiting for them when they come home, and the memories you hold the dearest to your heart. If you have kids have them make something they can keep on them while gone.
I love to send cards with my husband almost every time he leaves. I buy them up like it’s going out of style and fill them up with tons of lovely messages for him to reread and carry with him. If you have a FRG (Family Readiness Group is what we call it) or some other group for your boat or on base that gets together to do deployment crafts, GO! They do fundraisers and crafts that get handed out to your loved ones throughout the deployment as little pick me ups and the sailors (or soldiers) love them. Trust me, anything to remind them of home or being happy will make their days.
// Preparation, it’s more than packing.
Another important thing to prepare before a deployment is all the thing you don’t realize you may need your spouse for. I’m not just talking opening pickle jars here people, it’s more than that. We moved into a house right before my husband’s first deployment and that meant a yard to manage, stuff around the house needing fixing, car maintenance I had no clue about. Even something as simple as needing paperwork related to your husband can be a hassle when they aren’t around.
A lot of time there will be a checklist you can go off. Make sure your ID’s not going to expire, you have any papers you might (or even might not) need that they won’t give to anyone but your spouse, make sure you know what to do to your car if you don’t have anyone to ask. Preparing your house and life for the deployment is almost as important a packing them enough socks.
// Emotional education.
From personal experience, education before deployment, especially the first one, is really important. Don’t assume because you feel like you can, that you totally have a handle on everything you’ll feel or do. I know myself pretty well after 20 some odd years of being me but my lovely husband laid out for me in his weird ‘read every emotion on your face’ way a lot of the bottled up emotions I was feeling before he left. Then once he was gone I felt almost the lowest I’ve ever felt in my life. I’ve never been a overly sad or depressed person. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and let them out but the empty side of the bed felt like a hole in my heart I couldn’t fill and honestly I didn’t leave my house much for the first month or two.
Unfortunately, when it comes to turning away after that last goodbye you can’t truly know how you’ll feel till it happens so do some research, find support from other military wives who may have or or going through it, or if you follow a specific religion, use your church for support. I was surprised the research done on the emotional stages of deployment.
I think if there was one important tip I hope you take from this post, it would be to take as much time readying yourself for deployment as you do your significant other. Not only does every couple cope with the situation differently but each person does as well. While your spouse might be the one leaving you’re both going through this experience together in different ways so make sure you’re as prepared as they are to deal with it.
I hope this helps.