It really just sucks. It sucks so much. This is such bull crap. And it’s borderline nuts. This is so stupid. I hate being alone! I hate this! I can’t do this. I hate that he left. Why did he have to go? The military is stupid. I hate the military for taking him away from me like this. Why does he have to be gone for so long?! I’m not the one who signed up for this! How am I going to get through this?! I feel like I can’t breathe. I feel abandoned. My heart’s never hurt like this before… I hate this. How am I going to do this?!
I can’t be the only one who has thought these things… Numerous times.
Your man in uniform was just home, and you could kiss him and hug him and you were watching movies together and making dinner and laughing. And now he isn’t. He’s gone. He’s far away. And you can’t see him. You can’t talk to him. Playing his voicemails over and over only goes so far. And it just hurts so incredibly bad. Do you want to know why? Besides the fact that you love him, do you want to know why? Here’s why:
Because it’s like a break-up without the breaking-up. It’s like a death without the dying.
You are shouldering a complete paradox right now. You are dealing with a major loss using one side of your brain, while the other side tries to keep reminding you that you’ll get it back. You are used to going places, doing things, and loving someone who was right there. All the time. And now they suddenly aren’t. Do you know how mentally challenging this is??! I mean, they have Grief & Loss Counselors who serve people dealing with death, and these same counselors also serve spouses left behind during trainings and deployments. Because it’s all loss. It’s hard. It hurts. It’s heart-breaking. It’s AWFUL.
Did you know there are actual Mental Phases of Military Separation? Yup, five of them. Leave it to the psychologists, right? In boot camp, they trained us greatly in handling Mental Stressors because mental stress provenly takes a greater toll on you than physical stress. What you are dealing with right now is a double-whammy. It’s both.
I learned these during Ombudsman Training. And, you know, they did kind of blow my mind, because they validate every feeling, but also give knowledge of what comes next for you. Learning about the ‘Separation Cycle’ reminded me that it was just that: a cycle. Things get hard, then they get harder, but the good does come again. You do mentally adjust.
1–The first stage is the Pre-Deployment Stage. This one encompasses the dread, anticipation, and the denial felt once orders are received, whether it be for training or deployment. You begin to try and handle the inevitable, while getting affairs in order. During this stage, arguments happen easily. Why is this? It’s easier for our brains to be angry than to accept that a loss is coming.
2–The second stage is the first month of the absence. During this time, you usually feel, well, disoriented. Your life just majorly shifted out of no where. You feel lonely, sleepless, and numb.
3–The third stage is called the Sustainment Stage, and they say it lasts from month 2 to approximately month 5. During this time, you naturally get into a groove. You find a new routine, support systems, and feel a little more in control. Having made it through actual months, at this point, gives you a renewed confidence and an “OK, I can do this” attitude.
4–They named the fourth stage the “Redeployment” Stage, and it starts the month before your loved one is due back. There is intense anticipation. Innnnntense. (It’s the same high-level intense anticipation you feel the last month before you have a baby.) There is a lot of ‘getting ready’ going on, a lot of anticipation, but also a lot of apprehension. Will he like the way I look now? What will he be like now? These kinds of questions. And you’ll naturally put a lot of expectations on yourself for the homecoming.
5–The final stage is the Post-Deployment Stage, and begins when the soldier returns home through about 3-6 months after. This is dubbed a Honeymoon Period, but it’s a weird one. Another paradox. You are happy he’s back, but you both have to readjust to being together again. To functioning together again. There’s now a loss of independence you both became used to because, well, you had to. Reintegrating takes a lot of patience and sensitivity from everyone involved.
When my husband was in his 3-year period of back-to-back-to-back deployments, he would be gone up to 6 months at a time, then home for one week to 2 months at the most, then back out again. We did this for 3 long years, and looking back, I can’t believe how we handled the mental and emotional effects of this. How every couple and family on the ship did. We just did. But I’m a logical person, so when I learned about the Separation Cycle, it helped me see the pattern and the normalcy to what all I had felt, and to also realize that we hadn’t been getting full Post-Deployment stages before we were already having to enter into another Pre-Deployment stage and anticipating him leaving again. No wonder it felt completely crazy, because it was! It is! Seeing actual scientific stages and information about what you have gone through and endured actually makes you feel stronger. It’s the same as looking back over a mountain after you’ve climbed it and being able to say I just did that. Remember, mental stress is tougher on you than physical stress.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Whatever that looks like for you: phone calls, emails, letters, texts… (hire an airplane writer in the sky if you have to.) Through every stage. Be honest, be loving. It goes without saying that separation is hard on both the one staying and the one going, and that it’s such a true sacrifice to serve in the military– but it’s especially a sacrifice by the ones “left behind.” You didn’t directly sign up for this, but you fell in love with someone who did, and by default, are left to face, over and over again, what comes with that. The good news? Couples who get through these times report feeling stronger and more united, because hey, you just went through a freaking insane challenge together. You did it! You made it! Together.
Right now, though? It sucks. It really just sucks. It sucks so incredibly much. And this is such bull crap. And it’s borderline nuts. It’s stupid. You hate being alone. I know you hate it, and hate that he left, and hate the military for taking him away from you. You feel abandoned. Your heart’s never hurt like this before and you wonder how you’re going to do this?! How do people do this?!
You can do this. You’re already doing what would completely shatter some people.
And it’s hard. But you’re not alone.
Feel all of what you’re feeling. You’re going through the cycle.
Hang on through the first month; it gets a little easier– I promise.