Tips for Getting Through the Pre-Deployment Period
I had only been a military spouse for about 10 months when my husband left on his first deployment. 4.5 of those months were spent in the US while he waited for me and my son in Germany. I wasn’t surprised about him deploying, he was in the Army, deployments happen. I just didn’t totally know what to expect. It was one thing to be apart from your husband when he was on a military post in Germany, quite another when he would be in a war zone in Iraq.
We did have a few months to prepare for the deployment. I arrived in Germany at the end of March and already we knew one was going to happen. At that time we didn’t know the exact dates but that yes, a deployment was coming. By the summer we had a much better idea of when they would be leaving and us wives started to band together knowing we would need one another to get through the long months ahead.
I remember the day clearly. My friend had come to visit from Austria and we were sitting around talking with my husband. The phone rang, which usually meant my parents were calling but not this time. It was someone from the Unit. They were letting me know that orders had been cut and that my husband would be officially deploying in exactly a month.
I got off the phone, sat down on the couch and let my friend know that my husband was going to Iraq. The deployment was for sure now. The deployment was happening.
Even if you know that your spouse is going to deploy, accepting the reality of them leaving can be difficult.
There is so much to think about. Will they be safe? What will they be doing? What will I do when they are gone? What about the children?
The time leading up to your deployment might be very stressful and that is normal. There is a lot that needs to happen and a lot that you want to happen. For some, this means one more trip home, a family photo or one more trip to the zoo, your family’s favorite place to go together.
As a spouse, you are aware that every minute you have together is precious and that once they leave, you will no longer get to have them.
What can do you during those weeks and days before the deployment? Here are some ideas:
Your spouse is going to need your help. They might need you to not make so many plans on the weekends leading up to their deployment date. They might need you to scale back on certain things or they might need help getting all their gear together. Make sure to ask and let your spouse know that you are there for what they might need. In return, make sure you are open and honest about what you need from them. Maybe you need more daily kisses, maybe you need to have more movie nights. Talk things out so that you both know what each other need in the time before the deployment begins.
Patience is going to help you during the pre-deployment period. A lot of military couples fight during this time because of the stress level. Try not to worry too much when you see them packing their bags. Enjoy the time you still have together and try not to rush those days away. Be patient about work schedules before the deployment.
Sometimes they do have to work late, even just a few days before they have to go. Other times they will get off early and even have days off. Just know that you may or may not have a lot of time together before the deployment and that can be up to the Command, not your spouse.
Getting ready to leave your family to go do something you trained for isn’t easy. Even though your spouse has a job to do, they are going to miss you and everything about the life you had created together. The pre-deployment period can be hard for them and they might not know how to act. The closer they are to you before they leave, the harder it can be for them to go. Service members and even military spouses pull away a bit before a deployment because of that. They don’t want to make the goodbye more painful than it already is. Be understanding of this and try not to take certain things personally. Sometimes the behavior is just the deployment talking.
Spend the weeks before the deployment making a lot of memories. Plan a trip, go on a lot of day trips, take a lot of photos and spend a lot of family time together. If you have small kids and you know finding a babysitter once he is gone will be difficult, plan some time out with your friends when your husband is still home to watch them. You will be glad you did when you are months into solo parenting after the deployment has started.
Prepare the Children
If you have kids and they are old enough to understand what your spouse will be doing, have some talks about what will be happening beforehand. With smaller children, you don’t have to tell them what is going to happen but make sure you are there for them when they do start to ask for the other parent. You can get Daddy Dolls and put up photos of your spouse in their bedroom. You can make a book of photos that are safe for babies and older children might appreciate something similar as well.
Some of the hardest parts of a deployment can be when your children miss their mom or dad. That can break your heart but luckily there are a lot of resources out there to help you. Sesame Street has a great program for deployed children and there are many children’s books about deployment that you can buy to have on hand.
Have a few date nights
If you are able to, plan a few date nights before they have to leave. Go out and spend time together as a couple. Enjoy one another. Talk about your expectations during the time you are going to be apart. Talk about what you will do if you hit a hard period during the deployment. Have fun on your dates too. See a movie, take a walk, go bowling. Do fun things you know you might miss when they are away.
Any military spouse who has gone through a deployment can tell you, the pre-deployment period is not going to be easy. There is a lot to be stressed and anxious about during this time. Do your best to get through those days and weeks and know that once the deployment starts, the countdown can begin.