“I don’t know how I’m supposed to make it through this 8 month deployment. How am I supposed to live alone? How will I cope each day? How do I do this?!”
I repeated the phrase before he left many, MANY, times, usually with tears in my eyes. But now that we are on the other side of it, I’m here to say it really wasn’t that bad.
My husband recently finished his first deployment (yay!). As a military spouse deployments are almost inevitable. And if it’s not a deployment then it’ll be a detachment for one to two months away, or simply just training at a different station. Time apart WILL happen when you’re married to the military. Truthfully, I’m glad that this first deployment is done with because now that impending doom of waiting for it to happen and wondering what it will be like no longer exists.
On February 18th of 2021 my husband left for his first deployment. He spent a little over seven months with the 24th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit). A MEU is made up of many different departments, from the Navy and Marine Corps, that are on a ship and ready to deploy at a moments notice to different parts of the world.
This deployment was quite a doozy. You prepare for the worst, hope for the best, but when the worst actually happens… it feels like like a giant curve ball that came from a tornado 12 states away.
This won’t be the only post written about deployment. I will write on going through a deployment with generalized anxiety and ways I kept myself mentally healthy during that time. But for now, we’ll just start with the basics of what helped.
I am not claiming to be a military spouse who is seasoned with deployments (nor do I want to be), but there were a lot of things I learned and realized over the 7+ months he was gone. So, I do what I do best and write about it.
I would also like to mention the lives of 13 US service members who lost their lives during this deployment while in Afghanistan. Yes, my husband was in Kabul at the airfield during the Taliban takeover and the bombing on August 26th. My heart hurts for the families that lost a loved one, but I am ever more grateful my Marine was able to come home. May they Rest In Peace.
Let me start by saying that military deployments are not for the faint of heart. Even though they feel impossible, they are NOT impossible to get through. The two or so weeks leading up to him leaving were a lot tougher than a lot of the deployment. There is definitely a sense of relief when they leave.
SO, here are some of the things that helped me!
- SUPPORT SYSTEM
- This was probably the number one thing. I have an incredibly supportive and awesome group of military spouse friends who were literally there for me when I needed them. I cried with them, laughed, ate and drank, had them spend the night, and was able to vent when I needed it.
- My family was awesome too, on both sides. But we don’t have the luxury of living close to them, so lots of facetimes and phone calls happened while he was gone.
- Having An Established Routine
- This was really important for me to continue with normal, daily things right after he left. It helped the days flow and ease into living life by myself.
- I’ve been going to therapy for almost two years now and my therapist did an awesome job of helping me be successful throughout the deployment. I can’t recommend therapy/counseling ENOUGH!
- If you are a military spouse there are resources and free counselors to see on base that should be more than happy to help!
- Our Dogs
- Besides my awesome support system, this might be the number one thing that helped me. Abby, our youngest golden, was only five months old when he left so I had a lot of puppy energy to focus on getting out of her each day.
- I swear they knew when I was having harder days or felt off. Best cuddle buddies ever. Whenever I was away from them (which wasn’t often) I felt like I had a harder time functioning.
- I was fortunate to be able to travel with my dogs around the country for a few weeks. It really gave me a big thing to do and I was able to see some old friends!
- Let There Be Bad Days
- I learned early on that sometimes you just have bad deployment days. Guess what, LET THEM BE BAD. I give you full permission to veg out on the couch and watch 8 hours of TV and get take out. Trust me, there will be better days.
- Once I accepted that it would just not be a great day, it automatically changed my attitude, for the better, and I was able to have less anxiety and more peace.
- Plan Specific Things To Do That You Look Forward To
- My good Friend Noelle, who also has a blog, has been through two deployments and was a great person to ask any and all things deployment related. She told me to make a calendar and have specific things to look forward to each week or month. This really helped to keep my focus on shorter time frames and smaller goals!
- For me that included monthly facials to celebrate the fact I made it through an entire month.
- Going to the beach on a certain day of the week.
- Making a fun meal or maybe grabbing a meal out on the weekend.
- Planning fun friend dates
- Actually Enjoying Parts Of The Deployment!
- Yes, I know this may be hard to understand. But there were parts of my husband being gone that I enjoyed! I had time and freedom to really work on things I wanted to, have complete control over my schedule, and truly enjoyed being really independent for a good bit.
- It’s a time that you really get to explore YOU! What are some hobbies you enjoy? What do you like? It was great to fully explore that!
- Have Specific Goals Or Projects To Work On
- For me this was house projects.
- I painted our master bathroom as well as our guest bathroom. I fully furnished our front entry way and enjoyed decorating other parts of the house.
- I also had a daily goal of walking 10k steps!
- I am not a reader. BUT during this deployment I had a bunch of books on my Kindle and read like a maniac. I think I read something like 22 books while he was gone? I found a series that I liked and would read for hours at a time. It made the time go by fast and really gave me something to do and look forward too!
- I also found out that reading really helps me with anxiety so this was like a bonus discovery!
That’s it! Well, that I can think of anyways. I will talk more in depth about other phases of the deployment and what it was like to have my husband in Afghanistan, and being fully aware of the danger he was in. And the 5 stages of deployment (yes that’s a real thing), and what it was like mentally throughout the entire time.
If you’re a military spouse what are some things that have helped you throughout past deployments?
ALSO, want to watch the some of the homecoming videos? Click HERE!
Let us know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading,
~Erin, The Short Wife
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