Why Military Homecomings can be Harder Than Goodbyes This guest article from YourTango was written by .

You’ve seen the pictures of men and women of the military rushing off planes and buses to greet their spouses and children. The smiles, the tears, the hugs and the fanfare warm the heart and cause tears to flood the eyes.

But what happens after the cameras are put away? What happens after the homecoming festivities are over? Do things go back to pre-deployment state or are they forever changed?

As a clinical psychologist who served in the United States Air Force, and as the spouse of an active duty Marine, I can personally and professionally report that for many, the homecoming is harder than the goodbye.

Military families are strong and resilient. They are masters at organization and pulling oneself up by the proverbial bootstraps. The spouse left behind when the active duty member deploys becomes “the one.” The one who grocery shops, the one who mows the lawn, the one who gets the children ready for their day and the one who puts them to bed, the one who handles calling the plumber and the cable person, who takes care of the laundry, who fixes the flat tire, who kisses the kids’ boo-boos.

The family remaining at home anxiously awaits a 30-second phone call or two minute Facetime session. They obsessively check their email.  They count down the days until they get to once again meet and greet their military loved one, get to witness the fanfare and get to settle back into old routines.

Check out YourTango for relationship advice

What many do not expect upon homecoming is that old routines are now obsolete. Everyone has fundamentally changed. The military member has been exposed to many life-and-death situations. They have faced a myriad of stressful circumstances. They have closed off part of their emotional abilities in order to get through the deployment.

Meanwhile, the ones who stayed at home have become the one who handles it all. They too have closed off part of their emotional capacity in order to get through the deployment. They have pondered life if their loved ones do not come home. They have experienced a myriad of emotions and stressful situations. They have most likely mastered the most complex of school, work and home schedules.

Pre- and post-deployment briefings discuss the likelihood that becoming reacquainted with loved ones takes time (I distinctly remember one briefing saying 2-3 weeks). They explain the one returning may have trouble sleeping, may appear hypervigilant and may drink to excess to calm down. These briefings (many of which I gave) did not include the fact that when your loved one returns your grocery bill will triple. They did not account for laundry quadrupling. They did not address the process of going from “being the one” to again “being two.” They do not prepare military families for the difficulties in reestablishing bonds and trying to be patient in re-learning one another’s strengths and weaknesses.

They did not account for the mixed feelings of relief your loved one is home, resentment they have a hard time acclimating to being home, and jumping right back into familyhood would be a process … a very long process. Right when you get it to where you want it to be, another deployment happens.

Military families are in a constant state of adjustment. If you, a loved one or friend, find the welcome home is not all it’s cracked up to be, help is available. Military One Source is an excellent resource. Tricare allows for up to eight sessions for military dependents to see a mental health professional without needing a referral.

Many MTFs (military treatment facilities) will authorize the active duty member to be seen off base due to limited availability of service and many prior military providers are now civilians, ready and willing to help. Chaplains and Military Family Life Consultants are available on base. Setting realistic expectations for homecomings will help as well.

 

More life advice from YourTango:

 


Comments


View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 0 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.


    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Jul 2014
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Experts, Y. (2013). Why Military Homecomings can be Harder Than Goodbyes. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/04/05/why-military-homecomings-can-be-harder-than-goodbyes/

 

Recent Comments
  • Josh: Great article, I could really use active conditioning on learning to control my emotions (I am known as a...
  • brokeandblue: I am someone that prides myself on being non-judgemental. At all. In fact I get complimented on this,...
  • Cathy Taughinbaugh: This is a wonderful list of blogs, which are so helpful to those suffering from anxiety. I wanted...
  • Parsnip: Interesting article, the logic fits in well with what happens. I think that swearing also reduces...
  • MomNxwife: I agree with what you say in this article; however, after living with loved ones who suffer with bi-polar...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code



Users Online: 12287
Join Us Now!