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The Emotional Cycle of Deployment (Part One)

Join Blogger Lavaughn Ricci as she chronicles the emotional cycles of deployment. This is Part One.

 

Part 1, Pre-Deployment: Anticipation of Departure, Detachment and Withdrawal

 

My husband came home from work one night frustrated and impatient. I could easily read on his face that he was bothered by something, but this happened periodically when his workload was heavy.

I didn’t think too much of it, and knew that once we finished dinner and the kids were in bed, my husband would tell me about his day.

 As we were completing the nighttime routine, I asked what was wrong.

He replied with a very serious, direct tone, “We need to talk.” And somehow, in that instant, I knew exactly what he was going to tell me

Six months before this, my husband was preparing to deploy overseas.

 

The children and I were in a great place, with our family already having been stationed near this installation for three years.

deployment We had a wonderful church, a fantastic homeschool community, the sweetest neighbors, and the best babysitters established.

We were ready.

We knew we had things set up in the best way possible to gain all the support we needed while my husband was away. 

 

Three weeks before he was set to deploy, my husband received a phone call that changed everything.

 

Within a week we had orders to all move to another installation states away. That deployment was off, and my husband was urgently needed to fill a two-to-three-year non-deployable position.

Though we were so very grateful my husband didn’t have to leave us, the children and I had planned for an entire extra year with those special people around us.

Three months later, we were pulled away from them and on our way to find our new home. 

……

So, after a temporary living situation and finally moved into our new home for roughly six weeks, I sat down with my husband that night.

He was slow getting the words out, so I did it for him. “You’re deploying.” And he just nodded. 

Some of the first feelings of the emotional cycle of deployment are denial and anticipation of departure/loss.

 

My denial was in the form of complete shock. I was so very angry.

 

My husband was too. We went through all this a few months ago and made ourselves ready. So why would the Army uproot us, tell us my husband wasn’t deploying out of this new installation and then change its mind again?! I

t didn’t help that this news came ten days before Christmas. 

We wanted the children to fully enjoy the holidays and not carry this sad, heavy weight on them just yet. So, after the new year, we finally held our little family meeting.

deployment Though a few tears were shed upon our announcement, the children took the news well.

Afterall, they had been prepped months ago.

We were merely going through it all over again, so now they were all practiced up.

I felt terrible we had to play with their emotional stability like this. 

 

The anticipation of departure set in fast, much different than the very first stage of receiving the news.

 

This new house was mostly unpacked and was functional for living, but all the extras were paused while we focused on spending time with my husband and enjoying the holidays.

Rather than unpacking the last of the odds and ends, hanging any kind of home décor on the walls, or clearing out the junk in the garage to restore a parking space, we were helping my husband gather his gear, shopping for overseas necessities, and getting important paperwork in order.

We hadn’t yet registered the children for extra-curricular activities; instead, we fit in as many local family excursions as we could. This included daddy dates with each child individually to enjoy a fun activity together with Daddy and a meal out.

As we sadly counted down the days, we squeezed in every moment we could for “Daddy time.” We could think of nothing else. 

Soon, I found myself struggling –  torn between wanting my husband to help me with daily responsibilities, and subconsciously pushing him away so I could learn how to balance everything on my own.

I wanted to get every ounce of help I could out of my husband before he left; and, yet, I felt I needed to become fiercely independent, proving to my husband and myself that we’d be okay when he left.

I put up emotional walls, and I was easily frustrated with my husband. The stage of detachment and withdrawal were creeping in, and I wasn’t sure which of my strategies was best.

 

This stage of anticipation of departure was emotionally exhausting.

 

Though I didn’t want my husband to leave, I was finding myself ready to simply rip off the band-aid. To let him go and complete this terribly unsettling preparation period. 

We all awoke in the wee hours of the morning. It was cold and dark, so I allowed the kids to stay in their pajamas.

They clung to their Daddy Dolls as they tearfully whispered, “see ya later.” I tried not to cry so I could be strong for the children, but several tears escaped anyway. This was a unique deployment, so there wasn’t a unit send-off ceremony.

There were no other military spouses or military kids in attendance who understood and could offer encouragement.

So, there we were, left alone in the airport, instantly feeling deserted and lost.

 

The traveling strangers around us offered sympathetic looks that I was unwilling to receive. It was now time I regroup; take control.

The kids and I found a bench around the corner. I looked each of them in the eyes and told them how much Daddy and I loved them and that we were going to be okay. I squeezed them tight, and they clung to me as we made our way out. 

We brought home donuts, watched videos for several hours and napped in between. It all began to set in.  My mind and body were wary from weeks of preparation, I was exhausted, sad, and already feeling lonely. I think we were all depressed that day.

None of us found the energy to do much. All of the emotions of the next phase of deployment found us instantly…

*Keep your eye out next month for my continuation on this series, as I cover the emotions during deployment.  

*For more posts from Lavaughn, visit her M:M Author Page. 

 

Author Note: Dear Reader, if this is you, don’t lose hope! I want you to know these are perfectly normal stages and feelings of deployment – and they are temporary! You are not alone, and you will overcome these challenges.

Please seek help if needed. Talk to a friend, a chaplain or pastor, and try these websites to discover a plethora of information on deployment resources, help for military children, freebies for children of deployed parents, special events near you, and more!

Military OneSource.  

Military and Family Life Counseling (MFLC)

Blue Star Families  

United Service Organizations (USO)

 

 

 

Author

  • LaVaughn Ricci

    LaVaughn Ricci is originally from Michigan and met her husband while they were both students at Cedarville University in Ohio. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts, and she also studied bible, theatre, and American Sign Language. She is certified in Teaching English as a Second Language. LaVaughn’s husband commissioned in the U.S. Army in 2004, and the two of them overcame a long-distance relationship through five different duty stations and two deployments before they finally married in 2011. Since then, they have been stationed at seven different installations together, have had four incredible children (two born overseas), and have travelled a decent fraction of the world. LaVaughn loves Jesus Christ, being an Army wife, adventuring with her family, musicals, chocolate, chai lattés, and a quality cup of decaf. She is a homeschooling mom who volunteers in SFRGs, PWOCs, and enjoys helping service members and their families whenever and however possible. She would enjoy connecting with you on Facebook.

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