My son was just about 22 months old when my husband first went off to war.
I was pregnant with our 2nd child and had no clue what to expect. Deployments were a whole new world for me. Luckily I had a group of other wives whose husbands were in the same Company as mine. This made saying goodbye a little easier.
I remember after the men got on the buses. Sitting with a few other wives. Waiting to see them drive by so we could wave one more time.
As we sat there, we really didn’t know what we were really dealing with. We didn’t know then how hard the time apart would be, how long the deployment would last, and what the next 15 months would look like.
We had no idea how lonely we would feel.
I went home to my house with my little boy and we started the deployment. At first, the deployment felt manageable. My mom was going to come and stay with us for two months when the baby was supposed to come. I knew I would be busy with a newborn and a two-year-old.
My son was born, my husband came home for R&R, then he left again. My mom went home. My son got sick. He got better. Spring came.
As the months went on, the deployment got harder and harder.
The feeling of loneliness took over me. I remember sitting in my bathroom, after my son went to sleep, wondering how I was going to get through that time without my husband.
He is the one person I could talk to about anything. Even the silly things. The everyday things. The things spouses talk about with only one another.
By this point in the deployment, I wasn’t even able to talk to him that much. I think the longest we went was 30 days. 30 days without anything from my husband.
I felt like I was in a weird place. I knew I was married, but I didn’t feel like I was. I knew I had a husband out there that loved me, but it seemed like it was something from another time. Your mind can really play tricks on you.
Having a community to depend on is the #1 thing you can do when you reach this point of the deployment.
When you feel so lonely and you would give anything to have a real conversation with another adult. When you crave your spouse’s touch, but you know you have to wait for a while for that. Having a community of other spouses to talk about this with is what got me through those months.
When they told us that our husbands would be extended during the surge in Iraq in 2007, that they would not come home after a year, we all met at McDonald’s to let the kids play. We cried together and tried to figure out how we were going to get through this deployment extension. We knew we could not handle this alone. We knew we needed each other.
So while I still struggled with that loneliness, especially at night, when the house was quiet, I was glad to have a circle of friends around me who got what I was going through. That I could vent with, cry with, and get through the deployment with.
They made all of the difference and going into future deployments I learned that having that circle was a must.
Loneliness during a deployment can hit us hard.
We might assume we can avoid feeling lonely, especially if we have so many other things to focus on. But sometimes loneliness can hit when we least expect it.
Sometimes loneliness hits during a trip to a grocery store, or when grabbing a cup of coffee. Sometimes it hits when watching a movie, or talking about something unrelated to military life. Sometimes that loneliness hits and we can’t get rid of it on our own.
When that loneliness hits, find ways to stay busy and get up and get moving. Write in a journal, take a long walk with your kids, or call a good friend. Find things you know you can do when the emotion hits you hard. Doing so is your best defense against loneliness.