Good advice can sometimes come from the most unexpected places. Some of the best advice I was ever given, came from a horoscope that I sent away for when I was twelve. “Learn how to be alone without being lonely.” At the time I didn’t think much about that sentence. I certainly didn’t realize how it would foretell my future. Over my 20 plus years as a military wife, I have spent a lot of time alone.
Two days after I married my best friend, he was flown to Germany, where he would prepare to go to war in the Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Provide Comfort campaigns. Our first year of marriage we spent a total of two months together. My husband has “traveled”, as we call it, ever since. Learn how to be alone, without being lonely has been my unspoken mantra.
Every military wife has different ways to cope with the loneliness, passing of time, and added responsibilities. Here are some things that have helped me over the years.
Recognize you are not alone. Other women are going through the same emotions as you. It is almost like you are going through the grieving processes. At first you have disbelief, he can’t be going or gone. This is the denial stage. You are sure he will walk through that door saying, “Hey babe, they didn’t need me after all.” Or you will wake up and he will be lying beside you.
Then you move into the anger stage. Usually during this stage the car blows a tire, the washing machine leaks all over the floor and you didn’t realize the freezer hasn’t worked for two days. Having a friend, mom or sister to call is one of the best ways I have found to cope with this stage. In the beginning, I had another military wife and we would support each other. We would call each other and vent. We had an agreement that neither one of us could be mad at our situation at the same time. I remember answering the phone once and thinking crud, why didn’t I call her first, now it’s my turn to be supportive and tell her everything is going to be o.k.
The third stage is the bargaining stage. “God if you just help me through today, I will be stronger tomorrow. God if you bring him home before the baby is born, I will give up chocolate for a year!”
The forth stage and most treacherous is the depression stage. This is a dangerous stage. One in which you need to monitor yourself and be honest. Am I handling this well? Or do I need help? Sometimes that help is a quick call to a friend, going for a run, watching a movie or just having a good cry. Sometimes you need extra help. Don’t be ashamed to speak with a pastor or even a doctor. Militaryonesource.com has people you can talk with. Sometimes you just have to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and say, “I can do this! I am a powerful, smart, resilient woman. All things are possible through God who strengthens me!”
The final stage is acceptance. I cannot tell you how many times my mother told me, “Think how the women in World War II handled it? They didn’t see or speak to their husbands for four years!” At the time I thought, thanks mom, that doesn’t help. But it did. My mind rolled that thought around and I stopped feeling sorry for myself. Other women have handled their husbands being deployed. So can I.
You can go through the different stages many times over the deployment period. The trick is to get through the passage of time without letting life pass you by. I have a few things I always do if my husband is traveling for three or more months at a time.
I like to break the months into 3 chunks. I tell myself “Just get through the first part”. At the end of the first part, I tell myself, “Just two more.” Then it’s, “Your two-thirds of the way there. Almost finished!” And I start planning what we will do when he returns.
I set goals. How much money can I save while he is away? How much weight can I lose? Can I take classes, or learn something new? What house projects can I accomplish? Having goals and a game plan give me something to track other than the days he is away. It keeps me busy!
Sometimes getting through the deployments is sheer gut determination not to let a situation I can’t control beat me. Mostly I make my way through the deployments because I love my husband and want to support him in what he loves. He loves his country. I guess you could say my husbands’ mistress is his country and when she whispers his name, he feels her call and cannot help but come to her aid. Since I love my husband, I stand aside and wait for him return to me.