We’ve all heard about the Five Stages of Grief, but what about the Five Stages of PCS Grief? Moving is a part of military life, but that doesn’t mean it’s always smooth sailing.
Here are the five stages you may go through as a military family facing a PCS.
Much like pirates can tell a storm is coming, military families feel the hair on their arms raise as they hear whispers of Orders coming down. Questions like, “Am I in this upcoming cycle?” “Where do we want to go?” “Where do we NOT want to go?” and “Is it possible for us to extend here?” are explored at home and in the squadron as the dream list is rewritten for the 100th time…
There are Orders, and then there are Hard Copy Orders. Sometimes it’s a spouse coming home to deliver the news in person. We had Hard Copy Orders to England, and two weeks before our flight, the Air Force changed our Orders to Hawaii. Talk about an emotional roller coaster.
Other times, Orders are found out in public. At the end of Air Force Officer training, we all gathered at a local bar. One by one, each leaving member stood up as their assignments splashed across the screen to the Ooohs and Ohhhs of the watching crowd. Not everyone was happy with their Orders, but the bar and food equally helped everyone celebrate or mourn their news.
The scramble between News and Settling into your new place can wear you down: between papers needing to be signed by five different people, movers who won’t schedule you until you have Hard Orders, and a house inspection to pass—it can feel like a never-ending to-do list. Coffee is the patron saint of this stage, with only 24 hours per day before the varying deadlines of movers, flights, and report no later than dates.
Settling into your new base can take as little as a couple of weeks, or it can feel like it drags on forever. Finding housing, making friends, and getting a job can make a huge difference in how quickly a new city becomes home.
Sometimes though, settling in isn’t easy. For Heather, an Air Force wife, moving to a new base amid COVID extended her ‘Settling’ time.
“I feel like I am stuck in settling. There has been no thriving. We moved in the middle of the pandemic, and we will move again while it is still raging.”
Thriving in your new base can mean having plans on the calendar you can keep, events in your city you look forward to, or even a favorite dinner spot. Thriving doesn’t mean everything is picture-perfect either. Jessica, a Navy Spouse shares,
“Just like grief, I think it’s important to note these stages are fluid. Some days we thrive & others feel discombobulated even after everything is all set up.”
The Five Stages aren’t always fun to move through, but if you can give yourself grace in the journey, you might find you’re able to laugh about your five copies of passports,the trash getting packed with the movers, and the time you printed out 500 labels for your household goods.
After all, we’re military families: Moving on and moving through is what we do.