Deployments are Hard
He left 26 days after our fourth daughter was born for a deployment in Iraq. That was hard
I held a crying 6,5, and 3 year old in my arms, huddled together while they longed for their daddy. That was hard
But not to diminish from the hards that deployments bring, and we as military spouses are all too familiar with, we talk about those hards. What we don’t talk about is what happens after the romantic homecoming.
We don’t talk about how painful it can be for a soldier to come home and their baby not let them comfort her. We don’t talk about how a frustrating it can be for a military spouse to have to deal with the kids pushing boundaries, again, now that things have changed, again.
Post Deployment: Reintegration
But here that’s exactly what we are going to talk about. Reintegration. We do it after every separation, but really have no clue what we are doing.
During this last deployment my husband (a battalion chaplain) was given a series of 14 Word of The Day’s by his brigade chaplain, Major Ronnie Fisher, that were released on a weekly basis, to help the soldiers and their significant others plan for, work through, and thrive during their reintegrations.
Since so many people were constantly asking questions and sending messages on Instagram as I shared our experiences with these reintegration prompts, I thought our special Waiting Warrior community would benefit from having these prompts, Austin and I’s experiences with them, and some additional personal thoughts into a blog series. With Chaplain Fisher’s permission, of course 🙂 (side note: anything in “quotes” but no reference listed with it are words from Chaplain Fisher).
How Do We Reintegrate after deployments?
So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty: How do we freaking do this? or maybe, what’s even the big deal? Coming home is the fun, happy part of deployment and military life, right? We get to be together as families, that should be easy right?
Yes, homecoming will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting blissful moments of your life. A big group of soldiers will march in, a General will say some motivational patriotic things, and then you get to run to your soldier. Those hugs and kisses will breathe life into your body and heart like nothing else you’ve ever experienced. You did it. They are home and you are finally whole again.
But after that comes the work, and yes, it is work. “A healthy reintegration doesn’t just happen on its own, and it requires way more than you merely showing up.”
We, the spouses, need to remember that our soldiers have had a “simpler” life during deployment. They were only responsible for themselves and their soldiers. Now they will once again have themselves, their soldiers, and us. It’s not a bad load, but it is more. (Check out an Instagram post all about this and our experience here)
Now they, the soldiers, also need to realize that we have been counting down the days for the deployment to be over. We want the time to be done so we can take a break and catch our breath. We have spent almost every day wishing for the day they would be home.
“So, how can we right now set the conditions necessary to reintegrate into our families and communities? And, how can our loved ones begin making the necessary preparations to reintegrate us back into their lives and daily routines?”
Step 1: Be Ok That Deployment reintegration is Hard
Remember, it is ok if it is tough. Recongize this phase for what it is: at least two people (in our case 6 because we have 4 kids) who have been living different lives for X number of months, who have different personalities, are now going to have to figure out how to live with each other and flow as a family again. Yes, we’ve done it before, but this is all the more complex.
One thing that has really helped me is giving reintegration a different name: Rebuilding. This helps me keep the right mindset, be patient, and make the right decisions. We aren’t going to be able to slide right back to how our lives were before. We have to rebuild our home and that takes planning, work and time. If you want to hear more about this listen to my interview on The Real Talk with the Ms’s Here.
Step 2: Remember You’re Not Alone/The Only One
It’s ok to have some nervous feelings and energy leading up to it. This is a huge exciting and anxious, stressful and joyful major life change. Everyone is feeling it and it’s completely natural. Honestly, I’d think you were either crazy or lying if you didn’t 🙂 Luckily, you’re not alone and we can get through it together.
All that being said, almost every post will have a challenge, which if done, I can PROMISE, will help you consider yourself thriving at the end of this whole reintegration thing. It won’t be because your reintegration was free of any awkwardness, disagreements, etc. It will be because you have some tools to help and you will be able to process through it all 🙂
How We Did It
We had a weekly call (we used WhatsApp) so we could talk about the prompt and go through the questions. We tried to have the call a few hours after we each were able to read the prompts so we had time to process individually. Obviously when on a deployment you have to work certain time frames but we were able to make it work most weeks.
It also really helped us to remember that just because something was a question didn’t mean that our answer had to be the final answer. Everyone has the right to change their mind or have their opinions develop as the prompts continue on.
Discuss the following three questions and their potential answers with a Battle Buddy AND a loved one (preferably your loved one you are going to be living with)
- What does a successful reintegration look like?
- What is your personal reintegration plan?
- How are you right now setting conditions necessary to successfully reintegrate?
If you have any questions or insights please don’t hesitate to share! I’d love to hear how this works out for you guys either in the comments or on Social media @TheWaitingWarrior!