Dear Nervous Military Wife,
A well-meaning friend just said, “You must be excited for your husband to come home from deployment”. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. You force a smile, agree and awkwardly find a way to escape from the conversation before anyone realizes that you were faking. It is okay not to be totally excited he is coming home. After all, you haven’t lived in the same place for months, years or maybe ever. It is normal to feel nervous, perhaps a bit anxious, about what it will be like to be plunged back into life together. We are told we are supposed to be happy and excited when he comes home. Sure, you miss him but you have been independent all year. With all the well-intentioned comments from people telling us how we feel, sometimes we need to hear the other side… You are allowed to worry about the homecoming. It does not make you a bad wife, it makes you a realist.
Brian comes home from deployment soon. As the days count down, excitement builds. I can’t wait to cook dinner as a family, watch TV together, and have a conversation without Skype. We have been lucky on this deployment. We have had a tremendous amount of communication with today’s technology and 2 very nice 96 hour trips to Europe, so saying this was the hardest deployment in military history would be a lie. There is no doubt that I love Brian and want him home safe and sound after this deployment and the kids certainly want him home too.
When someone casually says “you must be excited to have him coming home”, I smile and reply with adamant agreement. But I don’t always want to agree. Some days when I am tired from trying to be strong and brave after such a long year, it takes everything I have to convince them my only emotion is anticipation. Among all the happiness and excitement, I am also a tad fearful for him to come home.
Over the past 3 years we have been together, the longest we have spent together is 28 days consecutively. We have had a long-term long-distance relationship that has never been easy. We made the best with our situation, seeing each other when possible and filling in the gaps with phone calls and emails. When Brian comes home, we will be able to spend more time together than in the past with my completion of graduate school. The future possibilities of this situation seem bright.
But we will be starting over after our family life being on pause for a year. My life continued with Brian gone. I learned to be a little more self-sufficient and progressively more independent. I will have to back down and readjust to allow him back in my daily life. I have made myself busy while he was gone to fill the space he left behind and suddenly I need to become un-busy to allow him space back in my life. I will have to get used to having someone else choosing what I watch on TV, influencing what I do on my days off, deciding what is for dinner and using my toothpaste. Being that we have never had the time together for these nuances to become routine, tolerance will be tested as the adjustment takes place.
We will also have the kids back with us part-time after a year apart. They have now begun to enter the teen years, which is always a huge struggle even in the most established homes. Brian and I became engaged just before this year apart, so I will be a more permanent fixture in their lives. We will be setting up a new household in a new location. We will be creating new dynamics for our family as we come back together as a new family unit. As any parent of teens knows, there is nothing that could be challenging or complicated with this scenario.
We also have to be realistic that Brian is coming home from deployment and not vacation. He already has battled with PTSD from previous deployments. Though, not a combat deployment, only time will tell the amount of emotional distress this deployment may have stirred up. This is something that is not talked about often with returning veterans. The returning member gets a few short briefs on this before getting on the airplane home. The family gets almost no help at all. Society tells us we will only feel excited and happy. We sweep the fears under the rug and continue to wear that brave smile we have been practicing all year. But the emotional distress of deployment may not show up for months and we need to be prepared for that.
I was feeling guilty being anxious for what is in store for the big return, but I no longer feel guilty for feeling this way. I am anticipating the possibilities of our future, without a doubt, but life never turns out exactly as we hope. So when someone tells me I must be excited he is coming home, forgive me if my smile seems forced or I hesitate before I agree. All the struggles that lay ahead of me just flashed through my mind. The hardest part of deployment is the homecoming. It takes strength and maturity to recognize that not everything will be a fairytale. It allows us to prepare for the challenges ahead so they do not overwhelm and destroy us. As we work through the situation being thrust upon us, I know we will have many trials. I am slightly fearful for what this journey will entail, but I am eager to see how everything will turn out, because I know we will do it together. That, I am excited for.
So Military Wife, you must give yourself the grace to acknowledge the negative feelings that are wrapped up with this complicated life event. It is okay to be nervous he is coming home. There are so many unknowns in the near future for your family. If you do not accept that you have some anxiety over this, these doubts will continue to grow. They will become larger problems and take away from the happiness that should come from reuniting. Do not let your fears consume you and scare you away. You have made it this far in the deployment journey. Keep moving forward. And just remember, he is nervous too.
Another Nervous Military Wife
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