As I chatted with the nice young woman who was new to our Protestant Women of the Chapel program, she turned to me and asked if I had any advice on deployments. I was pleased she recognized me, a seasoned military spouse, as a source of information and wisdom.
I proceeded to tell her about the Good Chaplain’s first deployment. It was a week long. Should have been a piece of cake. I was a mess. At one point I went to a neighbor’s house in tears because I couldn’t get the checkbook to balance. How was I ever going to survive the next deployment of three months? And, this wasn’t our first separation. He was away from home for two and a half months while he did his chaplain candidacy training a few years before. I handled that okay.
While I gave her the usual spiel of keeping busy, talk to him often if you can, go out with friends, etc., a light bulb went off in my head. “It’s okay to have a bad day,” I told her. With almost a sigh of relief, she thanked me for those words. “All I could do yesterday was cry,” she said. “I texted a friend to see if this was normal or if I needed help.”
I remember when the Good Chaplain was just starting out. All the books and articles I read cautioned me against letting him know I was falling apart back home. The idea was the military member needed to focus on their deployed job and didn’t need distractions from home.
That advise led to one miserable deployment I’ve talked about before on this site. We lived at Eielson AFB, Alaska, about 25 miles from Fairbanks. The Good Chaplain deployed shortly after Thanksgiving for four months. It was the longest deployment he’d been on. It was our first time apart during the holidays. And it was winter in Fairbanks, Alaska – dark and cold.
I could not keep it together. I cried every night. I only got out of bed in the morning because I had to get the girls off to school. Outwardly, I put on a brave face. Inside I was a mess. And all the books said I couldn’t say anything to him or I might get him killed because the distraction would lead to a mistake.
That was the worst advise I’d ever gotten. I eventually broke down on the phone and told him what was going on. The Good Chaplain understood and we agreed to talk about his continuing in the military when he got home. Of course, I couldn’t and wouldn’t ask him to give up his calling. After talking to him, I bucked up and got on with my life. I just needed my best friend to listen and he did.
I recently finished reading “God Strong” by Sara Horn. (Shameless plug for this book.) Although our deployment days are past, I appreciated the advice Sara gives in her book. And one thing she talks about is being part of a community to shore each other up.
It is so important to have a people who will listen to you. If you don’t live in a military community, a lot of websites exist where you can become part of one. But don’t try and go it alone. Rely on God and your best friend.