“Well, life is not fair!” We probably all heard this when we were growing up, and it is very true. Things happen in life that we didn’t expect, that are not in our plan, or that leave us shaking our heads. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad. We get knocked down, suffer disappointment, or we get hurt. It is life. None of us escape it.
Military families can experience a different level of being knocked down, disappointment, or hurt. But, as we discussed recently in the article titled “Military Families Are No Different than Civilian Families”, our civilian counterparts still experience these things. We are all human. When I say that none of us escape it, I am not simply talking about those of us in families where someone serves.
So, why the title? If we all experience life being unfair from time to time, if we all get hurt from time to time… why focus on just military families? “How Life Has Hurt My Family” would suffice, right? And furthermore… there are so many positives to military life, why in the world should we focus on the negatives?
Well, I guess that depends on your view of the word “hurt”.
Technically, the word “hurt” is defined in the following way: “Cause physical pain or injury to” or “cause mental pain or distress to”. Now, I cannot really think of a positive way to spin physical pain and injury OR mental pain and distress. I am not a big fan of the saying “Pain is weakness leaving the body” and I don’t believe that “Everything happens for a reason!”
There are many things about military life that our family loves. But, it has not been all sunshine and flowers. Admitting that is not being negative, in my opinion, it is being realistic. When we deal with reality, we can conquer the challenges we face.
Moving multiple times has hurt our family. We all say goodbye to friends who have become like family to us, and that hurts. (“Why I Hate Military Life”) We have to re-establish ourselves in every new community we find. My health has suffered greatly by moving around so much and always having to find yet another new doctor.
Being far away from extended family hurts us. As an entire family, we all make great efforts to make sure our kids have meaningful relationships with their grandparents, but it is hard. It hurts every time we say goodbye to them. They are getting older. All of us know none of us are living forever. Military life has forced us to sacrifice time spent with those we love the most. (“I Finally Found My Way Home”)
Deployments have hurt our family. Some of that hurt is very private and I won’t speak for other members of my family by sharing that here. When my husband is gone, we miss each other and still communicate… but we are still spending big chunks of our marriage apart. That hurts. Our children miss the time away from their Dad. Dad misses milestones and memories that he will never be able to re-create or recover.
Being a military family during over a decade of war hurts us too. Hearing a trumpet play “Taps” does not just bring a tear to my eye. It hurts. I think of the things my husband has sacrificed. I think of our friends who are wounded or injured in some way. I think of those families who will never be complete again. I see that look in my husband’s eye when he hears that song or sees something patriotic. I know it hurts him… way down deep in places he probably will never share.
Hurt is not always a bad thing. While you are hurting, sure… there is not much positive. But all of our life experiences shape our lives and make us into the human beings we are today. The good, bad and ugly alike.
Hurt shapes us too.
There are many cliche phrases I don’t buy into. Here is another: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I get the sentiment, but I disagree. When something hurts, it does not automatically make you stronger just because you survive it. Hurt often makes you weaker. What makes you stronger is how you choose to deal with the hurt.
Sometimes we don’t have the ability to make any decision but to simply survive. That is okay. But eventually, we all come to a cross road; we have to decide to let the hurt help shape us… or destroy us. Just like so many other military families, we have decided to let it help shape us… even if we were kicking and screaming along part of the journey.
When my daughter was six, she lost her best friend and cousin to brain cancer. He was only five. I will never forget her lying in the bed with him while he was in hospice, rubbing his arm and telling him she loved him. I will never forget the questions she asked about kids and death. I will never forget the hurt I could see in her eyes, and still do, when we would talk about him after his passing.
But… my daughter is one of the kindest, most compassionate kids I have ever met. She is the first one to care about a child who is different, or has a disability. She is great with younger children and adores her baby sister. I know that part of that incredible part of her personality came from lots and lots of hurt over losing her cousin. I wish like hell that she had gotten it some other way… but it is a part of who she is now… and she is pretty amazing.
So, yes. Military life has hurt my family in different ways over the years. Some days I wish like hell we had made a different choice. But, we didn’t. We are here. We are proud to be a military family. Hurt and all.