Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dear Military Wife Facing Your First Deployment

My TimeHop the last few days has been flooded with pictures surrounding Jamie's first deployment to Afghanistan four years ago - the "good luck" cake, the big family gathering, the packing, the tears, and that one final (for a while) kiss goodbye. I was such a wreck saying that "see ya later" to my new husband, but I can't help but smile now looking back because everything turned out a-okay.

If I could give a letter of advice and word of encouragement to that newlywed Army wife to read while her husband packed up to leave, here's what I'd tell her.

Dear Military Wife Facing Your Husband's First Deployment,

Your tears are justified. Sending your spouse off to war is terrifying, but you'll feel better in the morning knowing that this heart-wrenching goodbye is behind you.

You're making a really good decision choosing to stay at your new duty station even though you'll be figuring out a new city alone. You're going to learn how to cut the grass and pay a load of bills and really make your house your home that your spouse will love when he gets back. The first time he smiles and says "You did a great job with the house, babe!" you'll nearly explode with pride.

You have no idea yet how much support you'll feel by the community of people you'll encounter every single day who either are or have been in your shoes. The Army community is made up of people who understand what you're going through without you even having to try and explain it. You'll find so much comfort in that.

You're going to have to stick your neck out really far to make new friends, but some of the friends you make are going to be some of the truest, most loyal friends you've ever had. Those awkward "girlfriend dates" will be so worth it. You don't know it now, but you'll have a few new lifelong friends to introduce your husband to when he gets back. Just wait. They'll be counting down the days to his homecoming ceremony with you. They'll be that special.

Learning a little bit about your husband's job will be helpful, so you should probably ask him to draw you a little map of how brigades, battalions, and units work. Embarrassing yourself by not knowing enough information to sign in at your first-ever FRG meeting won't be a blast, so have an Army lingo conversation before he leaves to make sure you understand the basics of this lifestyle enough to engage in a conversation with other wives.

Make a bucket list of things you want to do and actually do it. Looking back at all of those adventures you've crossed off will be extremely gratifying. More specifically, designate one adventure per month. This'll help you always have something to look forward to and may even help the time go by faster until homecoming.

Invest in the friends that invest in you. Travel to see your high school and college girls. Invite them to come visit you. Girlfriend time is so good for the soul.

You know that little red-headed rescue dog you adopted two weeks ago? He's going to be your most special buddy while your husband is away. He'll make sure your house never feels completely empty and will make you smile every time you walk in the door. You'll look back and think that adopting him as your deployment buddy will be one of your best decisions.

You're going to totally lose it the first time you see someone post on Facebook about how much they miss their spouse during the one night they have to spend apart from each other, but you have to understand that missing someone is a relative and universal feeling understood by all humans, regardless of the length or terms of the separation. Your situation is unique and extreme, and you're doing yourself a disservice if you expect others to try and understand that. That's not fair to them or you.

You're not going to cry as much as you think, but watch out for those mood swings. Realize what makes you tick and try your best to steer clear of those situations that make you more vulnerable and upset. On the same note, let yourself get upset every once in a while.

Let's talk about your marriage and how it's not going to take a pause just because you're physically apart for a while. You're going to have to work extra hard to stay connected with your husband. Put more thought into those care packages. Send letters. You might feel for a while that you're married to someone who's invisible, but you'll pick up right where you left off when he gets home.

Your struggles aren't going to be the same as your husband's. He's removed from "normal" and has his own unique struggles that you can't relate to, just like you're going to have a set of struggles that he can't relate to. I can't promise that your marriage will be rainbows and butterflies while he's away (in fact, it may be the exact opposite at times), but I promise you'll both work through it and be stronger as individuals and as a married couple because of it. 

Seeking out a new church alone will be challenging, but you'll find one that you and your husband will love. The search will be so worth it.

You'll feel a pinch of pain at each wedding you attend alone, but you'll also dance the night away with your girlfriends at each and every event. You'll build memories with your friends that you wouldn't have gotten to experience otherwise.

With one month to go, you're going to lose it like a three year old who just dropped her ice cream cone. He'll miss your first anniversary, your birthday (again), and you'll find that those final weeks are going to drag. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and crossing days off your calendar. Take your frustration and go shopping for an outfit you feel great in to wear to homecoming. You deserve it.

People will tell you that you're strong and that they don't know how you do it, and you'll just smile and wonder what your alternative is. After a while you'll begin to realize that you really are stronger than you ever gave yourself credit for.

Soon he'll be back in your arms and you'll do everything you wished of doing while he was gone. You might even find yourself one day staring at him and blissfully wondering how you ever survived so much time apart, and you'll feel so lucky to call that brave soldier yours forever.


Let's connect!