My husband left for deployment last year (a year ago and a few weeks, today). I was left with a 3 year old and a 2 1/2 month old. I learned a lot that year.
I learned how strong I can be. I juggled it all and found how good of a juggler I could be. I learned how close I could get to God in all of this — and how desperately I needed Him, even when I felt that I “had it together”. I learned about friendships and mom-life. I relearned how to do long-distance communication. I learned how to ask for help, and even a little on how to accept help. But for this post, I am going to focus on after deployment.
You see, oftentimes we are often told to support each other when the spouse is on deployment. We are encouraged to reach out and lend a hand or lend an ear. And for the first month or two, we’re amazing at it. We think we’ve given the appropriate amount of time and support and attention that the spouse needs in order for her to get back on her feet and move on.
Halfway through a deployment, we tend to taper off. We get busy, we get distracted — whatever happens. Life happens. (Let’s all remember that: LIFE happens to everybody.) It may seem that the women are doing better, that they can handle whatever comes their way. Maybe they don’t need as much support anymore.
Near the end of deployment it can pick up again. Sometimes we think, “Oh! She still needs help. I’m going to help her get to the end.” Other times we offer verbal support, pointing out that “he’s so close to being home!” (If you value your friendships, please don’t say this happily to a wife. It hurts! 3 weeks may sound short to you, but it’s the longest 3 weeks of our lives. Say it with angst, trust me!)
But guess what happens? Deployment is over — the homecoming was full of jumbled nerves and excitement! And then — poof! — where’d all the support go?
Oftentimes we think that she needs the support only when the husband is gone. That once they’re home, she’s whole again. She’s filled up and happy again. Checkmark.
The truth is, reintegration is painful. And let’s go beyond — loneliness is hard, and is just as relevant as in a crowd of people, or with your most favorite loved one. It isn’t fair to your husband to expect him to talk to you the way a girlfriend would. Friends and support is just as important beyond the deployment as it is within the deployment. But for some reason, the military gets it confused. We (which yes, I am including myself!) tend to think we need each other the most when our other half is on the other side of the world, but we really need each other through it all. The good times, and the tough times.
So next time you come across a friend who’s husband is home, don’t think she’s okay. Reach out to her, talk to her, plan a girls night. Just because the husband is home doesn’t mean she has her life back together. A lot of times it means that she’s discovered more that is out of balance. It may be that she’s realized just how much she craves friendships.
We were not meant to walk this life alone. We were meant to lean on each other, to survive together. To live. We have our husbands, we have our kids (or fur babies), but let’s not forget each other.