Category: Lady in Waiting: Military Spouse Series


There is a saying “Home is where the heart is” and if that’s the case, mine is floating in the middle of a body of water somewhere aboard the USS ‘we’re going to kick your ass’*.

*(some names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved…**snicker**)

Many of you who follow this blog know the whole story.  Scott left in March, tragedy after tragedy has struck our home as only it would while he was gone.  I’m determined to believe that the military invented Murphy’s Law.   When you get married that should be the class they offer you in preparation for your lives together….

Recently I was asked to write a short article about my husband and why he is an American Hero.  I couldn’t say no…it was an opportunity to share with the world what life is really like, for both of us.  To take those in the line at Starbucks and make them understand exactly why they are able to be in that line.  We are so shrouded in blindfolds that when that day happens that the blindfolds are removed we all stand there and stare at each other saying “Wow…how come I never saw this before”.  We see what we want to see, we hear what we want to hear (this is very true in the case of men) and we will accept and acknowledge only that which fits into our perfect bubbles at the time.

I received a letter from my husband yesterday, yes, a hand written letter, written on printer paper because that was all he had…it’s the prettiest paper ever!  He mailed the letter on Aug. 2, 2011 and it arrived Oct. 16, 2011.  Good thing his postage was free.  He also mailed a postcard from his last port to each of our sons.  I emailed him that they finally arrived and his response was  “sure does shed some light on the GIs of the old day, and the whole ‘wait for me’ phrase from a GI to his girl”.  He was also glad that that wasn’t our only means of communication.   The military spouses that came before us truly were ladies in waiting.  I know I wake up everyday wondering if my husband is ok but I can at least receive an email stating so…

In the letter my husband writes “I keep listening to the Eminem & Rihanna song “Love the way you lie”.  It’s awesome music but if you listen to the words, it sounds like two people who constantly cannot get along.  Good one day, bad the next.  I only think of the Navy.  That’s sad, huh? ….he goes on to say “Every time I hear ‘you’ or ‘her’ I replace it with the word ‘Navy’.  I know when they say “If it stops being fun, it’s time to move on” we have some time before that happens”.

The art of a hand written letter is almost non existent.  However, the power it possesses is more powerful than any ammunition the world has.  A letter can fit into your pocket, you can carry it around, read it whenever you need to, hold onto those words like you were clinging to life.  Imagine what a note from home can truly do to a soldiers mind and spirit.  You can’t take a computer onto the battle field but you can carry the ink of a loved one with you where ever you go.

I don’t think the Navy understands the kind of sailor they have.  No matter how hard it is, no matter how many tragedies, stress points, deal breakers he gets, he is still dedicated to his job and defending this country.  I wish everyone had the work ethic my husband has.  What a wonderful world it would be.  Imagine integrity in every facet of life…talk about an action movie.

You wonder, how does a man at sea for months and months stay connected to their love back home?  That is a good question…this is the answer my husband offered in his letter…unprovoked by me 🙂 “I am lucky to have met you on that pier.  It was God’s hand and it is still his guidance to keeping my heart tuned in to my feelings for you.  I recognize them every day.”   That is a decision he makes everyday to honor me, to love me and to choose me over him.

That is why I wrote the article for Goddess Magazine, because it is my way of honoring the man who chose me, who chooses me every day and who will until the day he dies, love me.  It’s the least I can do.

I read this article to two friends the other day and started crying while I was reading it.  I guess I had no idea just how much I bottled up.  Other than a few grammatical errors I noticed ( writing when you are emotional is not suggested) it’s not too bad….click on the link and it will take you to a pdf version of the article.

A special Thank you to Goddess Magazine for their support of our troops,  asking me to do this and allowing me to share not only my story but the story of so many spouses around the world.

Tracie Stern’s Tear Sheet

http://www.wix.com/goddessmagazine/goddess-magazine-website

We recently just passed the 180 day mark of my husbands deployment, and looking at a possible 120 more days to go.  Last year my husband had already returned by this point, now we are looking at almost 2 deployments all wrapped into one.

Many of you who follow this blog series are currently in or have been in this same position and as perfectly supportive as we want to be, eventually carrying the life and sanity of your family solely on your shoulders starts to get to you….

For months and months I have shared our lives with my husband.  Creating a special blog solely  for him so he can access our lives and events here, see tons of photos at one time and be able to print them off at his will.  I’ve sent care packages, products that he’s requested and I have written book long emails to keep him informed of all that life has brought us or taken from us during these past 6+ months…

It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized how depleted I am.  Just  a brief run down of what is going on in my life right now:

-Just started a new position as a national career advisor

-Coach Jr. Farm Volleyball 3 nights a week

-Work full time as a model

-Wake up everyday as a Mom with 2 kids and all that that entails

-Jr. Farm baseball 3 nights a week

-Mom moving in with us for 6 months and prepping the house for that (laying down new floors, organizing rooms etc.)

Ok, so that is a very GENERAL scenario.

This past weekend was an especially busy time for me.  Saturday was occupado with a 2hr baseball game with our oldest son, then home to prep for a wedding I was attending that evening.  Needed to arrange food for the kids and babysitter, organize the bed time routine, put out pj’s, get the kids bathed etc. all before I left.

Then I was at the wedding, which was the most beautiful, ornate and lavish affair I’ve ever attended.  That says a lot considering all that I’ve accomplished and done in my life so far…I was out with 2 of my good friends and really enjoying myself.  My babysitters Mom said to relax and enjoy and that coming home a bit later was no problem.  Phew considering I’d already been at the wedding for 3 hrs and we weren’t even at the main course yet…

All during dinner I was emailing photos of the different courses to my husband so he could share in the event with me and see just how gorgeous everything was.  This is what I do, make sure he is a part of everyday here.

On Sunday morning with eyes half open I began my assault on my house to make sure everything was set up for our premier showing of the full KikaPaprika Fall Collection.  Cleaned bathrooms, living rooms, set out all the information, laid out the clothing, ran to the grocery store, made appetizers, put out beverages, etc.

The party started at 2pm and the last guest left at 930p.  The whole day I did not have time to sit down and get on the computer.

While vacuuming I missed a call from my husband who had said that email and phones were back online and that it’s very busy.  He’d catch up later that evening.

I was bummed of course but kept moving forward.  I still had things to get done.

During the last few hours of my party I started to receive messages from my husband “Hello?” and that’s all.  Or “Psst…still nothing?”

Honestly, it got to the point where I just ignored them.  Say what you will but let me explain:

Here is the difference, when I don’t hear from my husband for days, maybe even a week, I don’t stress, I don’t send emails 3 times a day to him saying “Hey, why haven’t you written?” .  I understand that he is working, and for whatever reason he is unable to communicate with me, I know when he is able he will write. He doesn’t need the added stress of me nagging him when he is trying to keep lives safe.

Last night, after not hearing from him all day, I received one email from him and all it said was “Hello?”

This just set me off!  I was so annoyed.  I decided to not write back.  Until finally I went to bed and simply wrote “Good Night, I love you.”  End of email.

He didn’t like that much.  I couldn’t take it anymore though.  Why is it my responsibility only to carry the world on my shoulders?  When do I get someone to ask me “How was your day?”  and when someone does, I’m so dumbfounded that I have no idea what to say because I’m not used to hearing it!

I know that he is at sea, with no lifeline to the our world but through me, however I am a living, breathing human being too, and I need support and communication and motivation just like he does.  I need a verbal hug.  I need a virtual pat on the back.  I need that hug and compassion and what not that comes from someone caring about my feelings too.  I am just as alone as he is.

I simply responded, and I am paraphrasing here folks “You get what you give” and then I said I would write more in the morning.

I am motivated and inspired to write when my feelings get to the point where if I don’t let them out I will internally combust, which I tend to do anyways…but I’ve learned through sharing my life challenges with you that you sometimes need to know you aren’t alone.

I appreciate you being there to read my words to let me know I am not alone either.

God Bless and stay strong.

I received an email last night from our FRG President reminding me that we are only 1/2 way through this deployment..until then I hadn’t really thought about it..well I’ve tried NOT to think about it.

1/2 way.  This can be seen as either a good thing or a very depressing thing.  Last year my husband was deployed for 6.5 months.  By that time frame he would already have been home, as it stands now we will be celebrating Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year and quite possibly Valentine’s Day before he gets home…and that is on top of already having spent the end of the school year, summer vacation, 2 birthdays and the start of a new school year without him….looking at it this way it feels almost like ground-hog day.

Everyone I talk to is shocked at how long this deployment is.  Most are on average 7 months.  Some extend to 9.  Usually the only reason a sailor is away from home longer is if they are stationed on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan serving what is known as an IA or Individual Augmentation.  As bad as a long deployment is,  going IA is far worse….All I know is that just as I start to think we are moving towards the finish line, the finish line gets further away.   AHHHHHHHHHHH!

I’ve never experienced loneliness quite like this before.  If I were single I could at least enjoy a dinner date or movie or even a mindless one night stand (not that I would…but the option would at least be there).  Being a married woman to a man in the military is not for the faint of heart or the weak.

This is a selfless position and you need to be prepared for it when it arrives, because trust me no matter how ‘flowers and candle light’ your life may be right now there will come a day when it’s all gone and you are left in a cold bed cuddling a pillow when the lights go out.

Don’t get me wrong, is it worth it, of course.  I have this great man, who when home romances me, does laundry, takes care of our kids and occasionally cooks dinner but most of all who does exist.  Somewhere.  Out there.  Does that compensate for the lack of affection I feel, some times.  Do I cry for no reason, frequently.  Do I shrug my shoulders when I’m asked when he’ll be home…all the time.

The other great thing about the military*insert sarcasm* is that even when they say they’ll be home on a specific date that date is always changing.  Very seldom does it change for the sooner.

I know he is having as hard a time as I am.  I at least have work, shopping, baseball and kids to distract me and push me forward.  He has a steel house that he can’t get off of.  He is surrounded by the same scene day in and day out, forced to deal with the same people 24/7 and if there are personality conflicts too bad, you can’t get away from them.  The weaknesses I feel sometimes, I KNOW he feels too and as bad as I could a hug I know his need is sometimes greater.

The stress our military members feel has to be unbearable at times, they have to not only protect themselves, but their fellow service members.  They need to answer to a higher authority and I’m not talking about God right now.  They shower in less than desirable circumstances, their beds would rival that of a toddler and there are days when those beds go unused.   Some comforts of home can be mailed to them but when they get it is anyone’s guess.

I love my husband and if this deployment doesn’t prove that I’ll do anything for him, I’m not sure what will..lol

What I’ve learned being a military spouse is:

Military members sacrifice themselves for their country.

Military families sacrifice their families for love of their spouse.

Military members often survive on lack of sleep, poor living conditions and often eat meals that are nothing to write home about.

Military families often survive on lack of sleep out of worry for their service members, poor living conditions as the result of Murphys law…if something is going to go wrong it will while your spouse is deployed and as far as meals, I’m less than inspired to cook full on feasts as my kids just don’t eat that much.

It’s amazing at how our lives here at home sometimes mirror, albeit relative to a fun house, the lives of our service members overseas.  Maybe Gods way of helping us both relate better to each other when we are reunited?

Stay strong and know that we all share the same moon and the same sun and we can always see each other in our dreams.

Have you read the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman?  You can find a neat little quiz on the website http://www.5lovelanguages.com.

Many years ago I picked up this book because my husband and I were having difficulties communicating.  I had thought about the Mars/Venus theory but I thought this was a better choice.  Considering it had the word ‘language’ in it.

While reading the book, I found out that my primary love language is “Acts of Service” .  This means that when I am showing my love for someone, whether it be a friend or loved one, that my actions will be what shows them how I feel.  When I am receiving love, acts of service is also how I feel loved by others.  Acts of service speak to me more then gifts, words of affirmation or even physical touch. My husband however, his primary love language is “Physical touch” with “Quality time” as a close 2nd.  Are we compatible?  Well we are more compatible now that we understand how to love one another.

Now if a person who has the love language  “Words of Affirmation”… this person would respond more to someone who flatters them and uses words to lift them up, right?  And the person with the love language “Receiving gifts” would be more receptive to that person bringing them flowers or a box of chocolates.  Something small like a classic movie rental or a present that shows thoughtfulness and preparation would put that person right over the edge.

The relationship my husband and I have is one that has been worked on for years.  It hasn’t always been easy but all in all even the bumps have been fun because it’s forced us to learn new things about one another and we feel accomplished when we work through an issue and come out on top.  My husband is always there to compliment me, he notices when I get my hair done, and I love how his hands appreciate my curves.  I’m there for him when he needs a hug and our nights cuddling on the couch re-energize him.

You know when you have those days that you look in the mirror and say “I look good today”.  Your clothes fit you the way you love them to and you get that tickle in your tummy that tells you that today you are going to initiate some lovin’.  This is huge for my husband because remember, my love language is acts of service but his is physical touch and quality time.  So by me initiating those romantic times it speaks volumes to him.

“The benefits of touch to a person’s health are phenomenal. Touch can reassure, relax and comfort. It reduces depression, anxiety, stress and physical pain; and can be healing. It increases the number of immune cells in the body, and has powerful affects on behaviour and moods. “*

Intimacy and the military is a whole other story.  Every spouse will have a different story, different ideas and every spouse will have a different outcome.  One thing that we all share though is that we are all human and all are physical beings.

So, how does a military spouse handle the fact that, for months on end, even a year or longer they are single in the physical sense but not in the mental?  How does a person survive without being hugged, loved, caressed or stimulated for such a long period of time?

While discussing the topic of sex and intimacy with a military spouse, it is not uncommon to hear stories of infidelity.   This is something that happens all to frequently in the military community.  It’s not always the service member that cheats, quite often it’s the spouse left at home that is the one who breaks the commitment.

Why?  To some the answer might seem obvious.  Long periods of time spent apart, temptation knocking at the front door, “it ‘just happened”.  No matter what you think or why you think it, the fact is that having an affair in the military has become very normal and dare I say accepted.  When someone brings it up, shock is not the first reaction in most cases.  The only time it gets addressed is if the service member gets caught fraternizing with someone in their command.

I can’t count on one hand the amount of affairs my husband has witnessed during his 13 years of service.

I recently read a blog where I found this information:

Is sex a basic human need?

Start with these premises:

  1. A (human) community is obligated to supply those of the basic needs of its members that can be met, unless perhaps these members have freely consented to not having these needs met.
  2. It is not permitted to require anybody to have sex, absent a free promise from the requiree.
  3. If a community is obligated to provide A to x, then it is permitted for the community to require one or more of its members to provide A to x.
  4. There is at least one community where there is at least one individual who (a) is capable of sex; (b) does not have sex with anyone; (c) has not consented to the state of affairs in (b); and (d) nobody has promised anything that entails having sex with this individual.
  5. Basic needs are the same for all members of all (human) communities.

Conclusion:

  1. Therefore, sex is not a basic need.**

I highlighted the sentence in #1 because I think this is the viewpoint that most military spouses take when the subject of sex and intimacy comes up during their partners deployment.  Some of us have mutually consented to not have these needs met.

If a person is single and dating, it’s their choice whether or not they want to invite intimacy between themselves and a suitor into the equation.

Knowing the love languages above, you take someone who is married.  Who has a primary love language of physical touch and put them into a situation where they are around the opposite sex in a friendly setting.  You can see where I am going with this.  Does one too many hugs prove to be too much for this spouse and they find themselves reaching out for that connection because they need it?  Is this a weakness or a sign of selfishness?

It’s very easy for someone who is in a vulnerable position to find themselves ‘taken’ by someone else is who trying really hard to create intimacy.  Sometimes before you even recognize what the other person is doing it’s too late.  And most people are motivated by their own selfish needs and desires.  So, even though the suitor recognizes that the spouse is vulnerable and is in a position of weakness, they will use that as their cue to try and get their own needs fulfilled without understanding the recourse involved.  The spouse may be so deprived of physical touch or quality time with someone that they can’t see straight and just blindly latch on to whomever is making themselves available.  This can go the same for all the 5 love languages mentioned above.

Now the service member who is deployed isn’t immune either.  Their needs are just as important as the ones left behind.  And as studies have shown, physical touch can reduce stress, infuse relaxation etc.  Is it really a surprise that many of our service members stationed in a war zone turn to affairs?  Trust me, I’m not saying it’s acceptable or excusable, I am just seeing if it makes sense when put in a different perspective.

Most times when people find themselves in an affair they assume that it’s going to be easier than what they have now.  The person is showering them with attention, the person is loving on them, flattering them etc.  things in the future are going to be better.  The popular saying “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side” comes to mind.  In most situations the ‘initial’ lust phase blinds most people to the reality of the situation.  Most military affairs lead to divorce. Divorce and the military is a very ugly situation.  There may be custody issues in which the military member almost always loses due to their deployment potential.  Financially, our military members are already hurting, now take their pay and cut it in half due to support expenses and fees.   Not looking green is it.

Now the person they are having an affair with has their own set of baggage.  This could just be a conquest for them.  They could be in a relationship too, so now you have 2 separate divorces to go through, custody battles.  What seemed fun and carefree in the beginning becomes a hard truth once the rainbow disappears.

You also have those relationships between 2 service members that occur during deployments, in the navy they are affectionately called “Boat Boos”.  These are relationships that only occur on the ship during the deployment with the understanding that once they get home, they go back to their own separate realities.  For some of you you may think this is a great arrangement.  Best of both worlds.  Until you get caught on the ship and are disciplined for it and you are demoted for it…then what?  Or what happens when one party decides they want more out of it then what you are willing to give and you have the whole ” Fatal Attraction” situation?  What happens to your spouse in that situation?

So what have we learned?  Not much actually.  No matter how many studies, how many demotions, how many divorces occur with our service members and spouses worldwide, unless we all hold each other accountable and refuse to accept the indiscretions we witness on a daily basis then the lives that are destroyed by selfish needs will just continue.

It’s been proven that numbers can change the future.  Imagine if everyone in the military community knew that someone was watching and someone was reporting what they were doing.  If a service member or spouse knew ahead of time that if they go through with it their partner will be told about it…..do you think they would continue?  Or do you think they would actually take a step back and reevaluate their choice?

Only time will tell.

*http://www.suite101.com/content/the-benefits-of-human-touch-a155979

**http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-sex-basic-human-need.html

In my last blog entry I introduced how a military spouse whose partner is deployed handles the situation.  No matter what situation brings about loss, whether divorce, death or moving, we all experience in one form or another some of the stages at one time or another.  It is a natural process.  It’s how we come out of this process that makes the real difference in our lives.

We have covered so far shock, denial, emotion, guilt, anger, frustration and fear.  So what comes next?  Let’s find out.

5. DEPRESSION & LONELINESS

Depression is not reserved for the spouse of deployed service members as this can affect women in every walk of life.  However, in the case of the military spouse depression can be a very dangerous place especially if there are children involved.  When your partner leaves for deployment and you are left alone in your house to carry on as usual that ‘usual’ may seem a little daunting.   Some of us with children carry on for the first couple of weeks as though nothing has changed.  Everything is still new and for the most part our partners have been gone for this long before and we’ve made it through okay.

Prior to most deployments the service members find themselves doing trainings, work ups or schools.  These can last from a week , month or several months depending on their branch of service and the type of ship or unit they are attached to.  Most families of military members are used to them being gone for these short periods of time.  It’s said the military does this so that we start getting used to them being gone, that is hardly their motivation.  While this may be true for the most part, taking the garbage out for 2 wks doesn’t really compare to doing it, the lawn, the cars or the house for up to and sometimes longer then a year.

Depression can set in due to many factors.  The spouse left behind is dealing with supporting the possible rants and emotional issues of their loved one with no one to vent to due to operation security. It’s sometimes not easy for a deployed service member to show weakness amongst his peers so he turns to his wife.  She is left to deal with that fall out.  Watching the news can also send a spouse into depression.

The spouse becomes lonely.  Now I don’t care who you are, loneliness can affect you no matter how social you are.  Whether it’s just curling up at night with a good book, laughing out loud and realizing there is no one there to share the joke with or the desire to cook a nice dinner and then wake up to the fact that you’ll be eating it alone.  I’ve been known to walk around my house talking to myself.  Luckily I never respond…

These little bits of life are ones that can tip the scales from outgoing to introverted.  Most of the time when a spouse goes into a depression it’s not about the big things but actually the little things that send them over the edge.  You take the extra time to look nice or are having a great hair/makeup/skin/clothing day and no one is there to appreciate it.  You can send an email or take a picture to try and share the moment but it’s one of those times that you kind of had to be there.  Today with social media being so accessible those efforts to attract the attention of your loved one often fall into the hands of others which can lead to a whole other set of problems.

I have 2 children but they don’t share my humor nor do they share my palette so for me to cook an elaborately flavored dinner is sort of wasted on them.  My husband however would devour it and shower me with compliments.  I read a book once called “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, I’m sure many of you have heard of it.  Well the way that I show love is “Acts of Kindness”.  I may not SAY how I feel about a person but my actions will hopefully convey how I feel.  My husband is the primary beneficiary of my acts however when he’s not here it’s hard to feel validated.

It’s really easy for an isolated spouse to start to feel the emotions of loneliness and depression and have no one around to notice or be concerned.  Many spouses live in areas of the country where they don’t know anyone and no one would recognize a change in behavior.  This is where it can get dangerous.  If that spouse feels isolated and alone with no one or no where to turn, their state of mind can take them to very dark places.  To the point where they could harm themselves or others.  If the family has children this is an especially dangerous place to be.  In some cases those children are the brunt of the emotional dysfunction and can be left to fend for themselves, the depression can turn to anger and the children can become victims of abuse or worse.  In other cases the spouse may be able to put up enough of a front to not draw attention or concern from friends and loved ones.  We all know when someone bottles up emotions eventually they will snap, the straw that broke the proverbial camels back as one would say.

Depression and loneliness are very serious and not to be taken lightly.  During this time of the grieving process you may also see spouses who are normally very active in their community or even the opposite very quiet and reserved to start to act unnatural to their personality.  The quiet spouse may start to get loud and act out to draw attention to themselves or the normally outgoing spouse may all of a sudden retreat and not be seen for an extended period of time.

This stage is very dangerous also to the relationship that spouse has with their deployed service member.   When the service member starts to notice a change in their spouse this becomes a very dangerous place to be.  Our service members can’t afford to have the distraction of problems at home.  When their mind is affected by things going on here then they are not paying attention to what is going on around them as clearly.  If that distraction is concern over the mental or physical state of their spouse and children it could turn deadly, not only for the service member but also every member of their unit.  Once a spouse snaps out of their funk, guilt can set in for putting this on their service member…it’s a vicious cycle.

6.  ACCEPTANCE & MOTIVATION

Many spouses eventually move forward into accepting their situation.  After a few months they find themselves in a routine.  They have made plans with family,  reached out to their church and community and are beginning to embrace their new, however temporary life.

The spouse may find a new sense of pride.  Pride in themselves for the fact that they are doing it.  When a challenge arises they moved through it and handled it with sanity.  Pride reflected in the communication with their service member.  A verbal ‘pat on the back’ from their hero.   Pride in the fact that they haven’t completely fallen apart and that their children are functioning normally.

The biggest problem encountered here though is that once the spouse accepts their situation and becomes motivated to make the best of it, on the other end of the spectrum, as the deployment comes to an end they are thrust back into anxiety and the emotional roller coaster of earlier in the deployment because now the spouse and family unit has to prepare for the return of the deployed service member and whatever that return may bring with it.

7.  ANXIETY AND ANTICIPATION

This stage is one that can appear at any time during the deployment however I am referring to these specifically as the deployment comes to an end.

During the past 7, 9 or 18 months the spouse at home has maybe dealt with deaths, car issues, house issues, behavioral issues and their own emotional ones.  They may have had a complete breakdown and moved through it to come out strong and independent on the other side.  Key word here INDEPENDENT.  This is can be a good and a bad trait as the spouse of a military member.

I am very independent and have, at certain times witnessed my own thought process going to “well, what do I need him for then, I’ve been doing this on my own and KNOW now that I can”.  Ooooh, that’s a dangerous thought to have.  That frame of mind is a place where the anxiety of homecoming can fester.

Here we have this spouse who has succeeded on their own for months and months.  Handled a variety of stressful situations some that may have crushed another person.  Now, in only a few weeks, their partner in life, their partner in home and family is returning.  Where do they fit in now?  How do we go from being totally independent of each other to learning how to depend again?  How do I help them to adapt to the new children they are going to encounter?

Our children had changed phases in life during my husbands last deployment.    Our then 2 yr old in diapers when daddy left was now a 3 yr old toilet trained little boy.  Our then 5 yr old kindergartner was now a 6yr old 1st grader who was doing everything by himself.  It’s a hard place for daddy to come home to where his children don’t ‘need’ him the way they used to.  My husband had to deal with those emotions himself and then had to accept the situations, routines and life we had built while he was gone.  This is all on top of the emotions he had to deal with while being gone and witnessing what he did on deployment.  Not only that but he also had to adapt to the constant “noise of playing, screaming and sometimes total melt down” kids again and the fact that the boys followed him EVERYWHERE he went.  That can be a lot to adjust to especially after spending months only taking care of himself.

The grieving cycle never really ends for a military spouse.  It’s more of a constant state in one form or another.  Once we recognize which state we are in is when we can move to a place where we can involve and encompass everything around us.  We are also able to learn from mistakes.  The mistakes I made on deployment one will not be in effect for deployment 2 and I will have a better idea of what to watch out for where my kids and I are involved because we have so recently been through it.

There is not one piece of advice that can be given in this situation.  We are all a lady in waiting at some point during our military spouse lives.  Every spouse is different and in different phases.  We each need to find what works best for us and then to make sure we make a note of it, because if you are like me, you will forget it just as fast as you thought of it.

I’d love to hear what you think.  Please join my blog and leave me a comment, this is as much for me as it is for you.

When I say grief as it refers to the military spouse, I’m not referring to the hundreds of spouses who have lost their hero in a war.  Their grief is obvious.

The grieving cycle I’m referring to is the one that a spouse goes through when they hear the word “Deployment”.  The process is very relative to that of actually going through a death however there are a few differences.  The information shared below may be difficult for some to read or see, I ask you to understand where it is coming from and the message that is trying to be shared.

At the first mention of the word deployment, the mind of a spouse goes through a million emotions in one split second.  If this is their first deployment their thoughts could be “No problem, I can do this” or “I don’t know how I’m going to do this”.  You can see the realization in their eyes as the next 7 months, 9 months or year flashes before their eyes.  They see birthdays, or actual birth days, holidays or school events but the one thing they never see are those blessed unexpected moments like leaky roofs or broken down cars.  I have listed the process in numerical order however  some spouses could experience #3 before they experience #1 or they could experience them both in one day every week.  Every one of these is a daily happening in the life of a spouse somewhere.  Their personal situation on that particular day will dictate which step they are in.

1: SHOCK & DENIAL

The Shock factor comes in many forms.  For me the shock was that my husband was leaving us again for 7-9 months after returning 3 months ago from a 7 month deployment.  The 2nd bit of shock was where my husband was going and the potential to be in harms way.  After my shock wore off the tears came because I remember how difficult that first deployment was and I really hadn’t recovered from it yet.

Denial for a spouse may consist of many things.  They will deny that this deployment is going to affect them.  They deny the fact that they will be stressed out or that they will be able to handle it.  After all they are a grown person and it’s not forever.  Not a big deal.  We’ll just suck it up and get through it.  This is what I went through the first time my husband deployed.  I said I could handle it, I didn’t have a choice now did I?  My husband was actually a little upset with me because I wasn’t MORE upset that he was leaving.  My thoughts were “It’s only 7 months, I’ll make a plan, we’ll get through summer, then school will start and soon it will be over”  DENIAL.

2: EMOTION & GUILT

In the traditional grieving process the loss of a loved one would create unbearable pain.  With a military spouse, I would describe this pain as more of an emotional roller coaster.  Some days it’s unbearable and others you feel empowered.  It is not uncommon for a spouse of a deploying or deployed service member to spontaneously burst into tears.  We experience everything from extreme strength  to the opposite end extreme weakness.  Emotion is something that stays constant during a deployment but returns at different levels depending on where we are at that moment in time.  Guilt comes in the form of knowing that the military member is going to be missing life events.  Guilt is also an emotion that is a constant during and after a deployment.  No matter who you are you can’t help but feel guilty when you are sharing news of a lost tooth or the 1st home run hit.  Knowing how badly the service member wants to be there but can’t.  You feel guilty for being excited, for being happy…for having fun.  Because you know your service member isn’t. Guilt pops up at the oddest times:  eating out with friends, making new friends and having experiences without your partner.

Before the deployment there are ‘arrangements’ that need to be made.  Maybe you have house projects that were started but not finished.  If it’s an urgent matter you may find yourself scheduling repairs more premature then you thought and the cost of those repairs not in your budget.  Another ‘arrangement’ that needs to be made are to make sure the Power of Attorney and wills are in order.  Not something you really want to think about but necessary.  The military spouse is left behind and will be left in charge of every aspect of life for the family.  Medical issues, mortgage issues, credit issues etc.  The deploying spouse needs to shop.  They need to stock up on toiletries, clothing, uniforms, extra this and extra that.

For us, this surprise deployment left us financially strapped because that extra $500 to get everything he needed for this deployment wasn’t a part of the budget and therefore other aspects of our life were affected.

3 days before our last deployment, we found a leak in the plumbing in the ceiling of our basement.  My husband had to rip down 1/2 of our ceiling in order find and repair the leak.  However due to time, he couldn’t close up the ceiling and therefore it was left with the rafters exposed.  Since home improvements are something that we need to budget for, a new ceiling was something we were going to tackle after he returned.  Well that didn’t get done due to this 2nd deployment and so our rafters will continue to be exposed several more months.    These types of issues lead to the emotions ANGER  & FRUSTRATION.

3: ANGER & FRUSTRATION (resentment)

Anger and frustration.  They seem almost obvious don’t they.  When dealing with the military spouse, these emotions can seem like they are on steroids on some days.  My family lives in Canada.  I don’t have Grandma or Grandpa, Aunts or Uncles to take my kids for a day should I need them to.  I have to ask favors of my friends or spend HUNDREDS of dollars on child care monthly should I need to work or go to the doctors.  Often the work of the spouse results in paying the child care bill.  Almost defeats the purpose.   The guilt a spouse  feels for having to put those requests on friends sometimes can be overwhelming and have the opposite affect on them driving them into depression and seclusion.  ” I just can’t ask that of my friends anymore, I feel like I’m putting our friendship on the line, I will just deal with it”.    Many of us have other military spouses who say they understand but when it comes down to it, those spouses have lives too, and they have their own children and situations to deal with.  As much as we can turn to each other there are times when you can’t.

I can remember a few conversations with my husband while on his last deployment that he just didn’t understand the stress I go through while he is gone.  Not only do I handle ALL of the household issues from garbage day to a broken furnace and everything in between but I also have to arrange childcare for our 2 children when I go to work or just want to have a moment to myself.  I claim he doesn’t get it.  He never has to worry about child care because I’m always here.  And even when I’m not I’m still the one arranging the child care because he doesn’t have their numbers and has never really had to deal with it.  I am the banker, I deal with all of the bills, if one doesn’t get paid or we don’t have enough money, I am the one stressing not him because he is on the ship.  The spouse spent too much money on a port visit and left the family short this month.  fFor many spouses issues like these can lead to spouts of anger and frustration.  For some,  resentment towards their deployed spouse can occur.  “He just doesn’t get it”  ” He has no idea what I go through”  “I’M SO TIRED OF THIS!”  I would like to say that the emotions of anger, frustration and resentment go away but they actually tend to stick around and in some cases escalate.  Guilt comes back to visit in some of these situations when the spouse  says “It’s not his fault he’s not here” and beat themselves up for thinking that way in the first place.

4. FEAR

Fear.  There are so many aspects to this topic.  For starters there is the fear of the location the spouse is being deployed to.  Whether it’s a war zone or a natural disaster, fear plays a huge role in the life of a military spouse.  Fear of what that spouse will encounter.  Disease, death, sacrifice.  If a soldier has to kill someone in battle, how will that affect them?  If they witness one of their own, their best friend being killed in battle.  How will that affect them?  Fear of them catching a disease while assisting with a natural disaster.  Fear of them seeing dead bodies lying in the streets of women and children.  How will that affect them?

Trying to explain to them a new friendship and easing the fears the service member has of potentially losing you.

Now take fear and apply it to just the daily life of the spouse.  Fear of their spouse cheating on them.  Fear of living in a house alone.  Being so scared some nights that they can’t sleep.  Fear of their service member not coming home or coming home and having grown apart.  Fear of them having to do it all by themselves for a long period of time.  The fear that they have to take away from their children.  Fear of the questions that might come about where their mommy or daddy is.  Fear of not being able to soothe their child.  Fear of having a melt down and for some the fear of hurting themselves or others. Don’t forget the fear that some experience when a male repairman comes into their home.

Fear for a military spouse isn’t as simple as it sounds.  And Fear is a daily emotion that comes in various forms.

The list doesn’t end here but I felt that this was enough for you to chew on for one day.  Does it really seem, after reading the above, unthinkable that a military wife would snap?  They say that God never gives you more then you can handle and I do truly believe this, however this isn’t true for everyone.   Our military members have a large support offering before, during and after their deployments.  They have a constant group of people around them watching for signs of stress or PTSD, especially in those returning from active war zones.  What about the spouses?  Those that are the sounding board for their soldier or in some very extreme cases the actual board used by their spouse to take out their frustrations on.  Who is keeping an eye on them?  We are taught as spouses by those who have come before us to 1) ask for support and help.  This is easier to do when you  know people or have the type of personality that is outgoing.  2) To suck it up and deal with it.  Spouses are never put through bootcamp, there are no mandatory training sessions for us to show us ways to cope.  We have no training on how to deal with all of the new pressures that come up.  Our service members train hard to prepare for war.  We are just expected to go with it and learn as we go.  No two women are alike and therefore no two spouses are alike, how they deal with a deployment will vary depending on their situation, background and relationship with their soldier.  I hope I have helped to bring a new light to this unique group of people.

Please join me for Part 2 of  Lady in Waiting: The Grieving Process.

Your Prince Charming.  He swims up to you and kisses you as if you have been doing it a lifetime.  Your heart flutters, your eyes grow wide and your future flashes before you.  He’s awesome, wonderful.  He gets you, he’s strong, you feel safe when in his arms.  He’s funny and isn’t intimidated by your strength or sense of self, he likes you just as you are….You call your family and exclaim “I’ve met the man of my dreams and he’s a sailor.”  A brief pause on the other end of the phone and then whispers of concern start to come your way.  “You know what they say about sailors?”  “Where are you?”  “Be careful, you are surrounded by beautiful things and it’s easy to get swept away”  If only they knew him they’d understand.
This is my story and the story of many women, who fall in love with a member of our Armed Forces.  There are hundreds of  thousands of service members stationed throughout the United States and overseas.  Many of whom have captured the heart of the “Lady in Waiting”.  I use that term as the description of the typical military spouse.
After you fall in love, you get married.  After that many begin to start a family.  You find out your pregnant!  JOY JOY JOY…then you find out your husband is deploying for 7 months.  Or 9 months.  Or 18 months.  Not only is he going to miss your pregnancy, but the birth of your first child.  Their first crawl, first walk, first word.  For some service members, they have children who have celebrated their first birthday and they’ve never even met them.  Not your childhood fairytale.
Marrying a man in the military is very different then a man who isn’t.  Once you are married your title now becomes ‘Spouse’.  You no longer have an identity of your own, everything you are becomes an extension of the service member.  Your health insurance, when you call to make an appt. you need to use their social security number in order to get anywhere.  Your children often suffer from anxiety due to the fact that their parent keeps leaving them.  The kids suffer from behavior problems, social problems, they sometimes latch onto the one left behind for fear of them leaving too.
As a woman married to the military the sacrifices are extreme.  You lose everything you’ve held dear.  You move away from your home, your family and your friends.  You have to quit your job, and hope to be able to find a new one on the other end.  You are isolated in a new town, you have to start over.  Then move again in a few years and start over again.  And again, and again…often repeating this cycle for 10, 15 even 20 years or more.  Some spouses have to move to another city without their service member due to trainings or deployments.  So not only do they pack their house alone, they fly to the new location alone, and get set up alone.  Many military families struggle financially because they are forced to live on one income.  If a spouse does get a job, and the family has children who require daily care, any money made usually goes to pay the child care expenses.  Even though the spouse is outside the home, interacting and making new friends, the effort almost seems useless because they still aren’t any further ahead.


This is why many spouses choose to stay home with their young kids.  This is also the reason many spouses feel isolated and alone.  Not your childhood fairytale.
You started out this life as a vibrant, energetic woman, and due to the situations of the world you have now become a shell of who you used to be. You find yourself crying at all hours of the day.  You lose your cool at the most inappropriate times.  You suffer and your kids suffer to.  You question your self and your ability to be everything to everyone.   If you are able to hold onto your sanity, job, and you make friends easily, it still doesn’t get any easier.  Even retirement comes with a price.
With all of that above, you might be thinking “Why then would you want to take on that lifestyle?”  Well for one, because we fell in love.  That you can’t control.  From the moment I met my husband I knew we were soul mates.  He demonstrated such awesome qualities that regardless of what happened between us I wanted him to be my kids dad.  Lucky for us God had the same plan in mind.
As a military spouse, the pride one feels is overwhelming.  I am married to a HERO!  How many women can say that.  My Prince doesn’t ride a white horse but a metal ship.  Armed not with swords but missiles and bombs.  I feel safe when he’s around.  I am protected. I am among a very elite and special group of women.  Women who inspire me everyday to be my best, to be the strongest version of myself.  My story of life as a the wife of a Navy Chief doesn’t even compare to that of those women who love a Marine or Soldier.


Each spouse is so uniquely different in their circumstance.  Every family has their own challenges. My challenge is that my husband returned Dec. 21, 2010 from a 6.5 month deployment.  He left March 23, 2011 for a minimum 7 month deployment.  He will have missed 9 months of my oldest sons 6th year of life, and 9 months of the 3rd year of life of our baby.  Less then a week after my husband left, our oldest lost his first tooth.  Something my husband had to experience via a photo in an email.  But my sacrifice doesn’t compare to what my husband is giving up.  He doesn’t get to take our kids to school.  He doesn’t get to eat birthday cake with them.  See them swim underwater for the first time.  He doesn’t get to teach them to ride their bike or see them sing in their first school chorus.  Not only are they sacrificing time with their families, but they are also sacrificing their lives should the situation arise.  No wonder so many of our service members are severely scarred when they come home.
The one thing that spouses all have in common is the sisterhood and the unique understanding of just what it means to be the other half.   The backbone of the United States Military.
I am able to be the woman I am ONLY because of my family, my friends and the other military spouses who privilege me with being in their lives.
Find a spouse and hug them today.  You’d be surprised at how far that will go.

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