The Six Stages of Emotions When Your Spouse Leaves
When your spouse signs up for the military you know you will have to be flexible to an unusual lifestyle but nothing anyone can ever say really prepares you for what is to come. Early days and late nights are tough. Finding lost pieces of a uniform while you are half asleep or making a last-minute dish for a barbeque that you just found out about are all manageable (yet frustrating – I mean, why they cannot tell us earlier is beyond me). Something I will never get used to or comfortable with is the extended absences.
More often than not when your spouse leaves in the military to go on a deployment or TDY, they give you little to no notice. Throughout my husband’s entire career in the military we have only had ample amount of notice for two trips (and one of them was boot camp!) When he deployed for nine months we were given two weeks notice before he left. He had a TDY trip for a month and a half or so that we had to hurry to pack for with two DAYS notice. Even the most recent trip gave us a one-day notice for a month-long hiatus.
I am convinced that there are six stages that you go through when your spouse leaves on a trip. There might be some things I am forgetting but I think I covered the main ones. All of these can happen in any specific order and if you are EXTREMELY lucky (insert a hugely sarcastic tone and facial expression here) they group together and happen overwhelmingly at once.
Here are the Six Stages:
When your spouse tells you that they are leaving (no matter how much notice you have) you immediately start to feel a wave of panic flow over you which is usually always paired with stress. Not only will you have to find some random piece of gear they will never use, make sure their clothes are clean so they have enough to pack, but you also think about all the things you might need them to do before they leave for you. You also think about all the extra tasks you have to pick up and add to your never-ending list while they are gone. Deep down you know you are more than capable of handling everything thrown at you, but it is just nice when you have your teammate to help you tackle day to day life.
Once the feeling of being overwhelmed and panic subsides, sadness starts to creep in. You realize that your favorite person is going to be leaving you. No more hugs, dance parties, dates, or adventures! The shows you have been watching together on Netflix have to be put on hold as well because the unwritten rule that “you do not watch them without one another” goes into effect (which also makes you sad).
3) Dread and (AGAIN) Sadness
The countdown is getting smaller and smaller and you try to soak up every second you have together. You cherish every hug, kiss, text, or phone call as it could be the last you hear from them for a while. Once they leave, the house feels so empty and quiet. You then look around and realize that you are left with the world’s biggest "tornado" of a mess because for some reason the house EXPLODES when they pack. Now you get to clean (lucky you). The good news is that when you clean, it will stay clean and things will stay put away for a while - for the most part. Life starts becoming less and less dismal.
I will not say happiness forms when they are gone because a piece of you always feels like it is missing, but you do become content. You realize that you can watch anything you want on TV without any dispute (bring on some of my favorites like Dancing with the Stars, Jane the Virgin, Orange is the New Black etc.). You can have your favorite things for dinner that your spouse does not care for, does not like to have often, or does not believe is “dinner-worthy”. On top of that you finally figure out how to cook the appropriate amount for just one rather than four people (goodness they eat a lot). You settle into a new routine to give yourself things to look forward to and to help the time pass. You may even set some goals that you hope to achieve for yourself while they are gone (lose weight, eat better, reorganize the house, start a new hobby – you know nothing major).
You have a date and you have a countdown. The end is in sight. You start to clean like a mad person while simultaneously filling up the fridge and pantry with things other than cereal, cookies, and wine (since some of your goals did not REALLY happen). Panic starts to ensue slightly again for one of two reasons: You realize that time is running out and you are not getting your entire “to do list” done before they arrive. Or even worse the opposite happens - you run out of things to do so that makes you panic as you do not know how you will pass the time. Either way, you are turning into an emotional mess again.
You are whole. Your loved one is back and things are all right in the world. You have to get over the fact that your house will forever stay slightly “tornado-like” but you find comfort in that as that means they are home.
During this time that they leave, you are more likely going to experience something breaking or having to ask a neighbor for help with something that your spouse could usually do with you. All of this is also coupled with a crazy roller coaster of emotion (heaven forbid you get sucked into a loop of homecoming videos on YouTube). Do not worry – you are not alone and EVERYONE goes through it.
My best advice would be to stay busy. Keep the end in sight and give yourself little things to look forward to – almost like a reward for surviving without having a complete and total breakdown like Britney in 2007.
Each week plan something with a friend, or eat at your favorite restaurant then go to your favorite shop, or even have a movie night – WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU! In the end it will be worth it when you are able to give that reuniting hug and kiss which is the best feeling in the world!
What is something you struggle with when your spouse leaves?
Always chase your tales,