I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard the phrase, “Well, this is your 5th (or 6th or 7th) deployment, so your family must be used to it. I’m sure you will all adjust so well since you do this all the time.” I know it’s always meant with a good heart, but it’s sort of like pouring salt on an open wound. Not only is it not true, it makes me remember how much time my family has spent separated. Deployment #2 (or 3 or 4!) Is Hard Too!
Truth is, though that second deployment is often even scarier than the first one was. My husband was gone for 8 months and then had 8 months home. That was his 8th deployment and the longest he has done. As he prepared for another 2 month deployment, I found myself in complete panic mode. Yes, we had done this before – multiple times – but each time is very different. And once you’ve lived through a deployment and reintegration cycle, it’s almost scarier because you know what to expect. I’ve talked to a few other military spouses who have felt the same way. It’s almost scarier going into something that can be hard and you know all the gritty details instead of the unknown.
With that in mind, here are a few things that I’ve learned to better handle multiple deployments.
1 | Don’t assume it’s going to be the same as last time
I’m so guilty of this – every time! Leading up to the next deployment, I always get anxiety over the whole thing because I know too much! Unfortunately, I tend to remember all the bad things that happened during the last trip and all the struggles I had at home. I remember the mouse infestation instead of my resilient children who ended up with straight A’s. I remember the sewage back up instead of the awesome relationship my kids developed with their aunt and uncle.
But each time is so different. Each deployment you’ll go through will find your family in a different situation. The kids grow up. Work situations change. Deployment locations make communications different. You might know that it can be tough, but don’t assume it’s going to be bad. Experience changes everything, so stay positive and focus on the things that are going well.
2 | Don’t undervalue your emotions the 2nd time around
With every new deployment that comes around, I always try to convince myself that I’m too strong now to be emotional. I’m like the person I mentioned in my first paragraph and I tell myself that we’ve done this a bunch of times before so it’ll be no big deal now. It is such a big deal every time because your spouse is gone, your family is separated, you worry about their safety, you fret over managing the household alone, you get lonely, you feel disconnected. These are things that happen every time – not just the first deployment.
No matter how long my husband and I have spent living apart in the last 5 years, I still get lonely! That’s real, and it’s big, and it’s okay! I try to force myself to let down my guard and take my big girl panties off because it’s ridiculous to try and convince yourself that it’s automatically easy because you’ve done it before. I wouldn’t say, “Oh, this is your 7th marathon, so I’m sure your 8th will be a breeze.” No, they’re hard every time! Deployments are too. Not impossible, but hard in one way or another and it’s okay to be emotional about that.