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A military family that has gone through a deployment is much like a puzzle that has been wrecked and the pieces scrambled. After the deployment, the family has to work to put their puzzle back together. Here are some tips to help you through the reintegration process.
The After Deployment Reintegration Puzzle
1. Realize that the puzzle you are putting back together is going to look different than it did before. Your family will never be the same as it was, or function in the same way as it did, before this separation. Your “new normal” is going to look different from your “old normal.”
2. Put the border together first. Find all the straight pieces, the easy ones, the ones you know haven’t changed. “We love each other. He’s home safe. Nothing else matters.” You might not feel “in love” or always see all the results of your love, but you have to know it’s there. The rest of the pieces may be scattered– it might not look like you can EVER put it back together. But you still have the border, and that’s a start!
3. Focus on connecting one piece at a time. For us, it’s simple things like holding hands or fixing my husband’s coffee. It’s small, but it’s a connection. Little by little, the more connections you make, the closer you are to putting that whole puzzle back together.
4. Set aside the hard sections that you are struggling to connect and come back to them when you have more of the puzzle put together. Remember that there is no “set time” to how quickly you should reintegrate. It takes time. Don’t brush problems under the rug or ignore them completely, but recognize that not everything is going to connect easily and quickly.
5. Don’t compare your puzzle to others’. The Smith’s might only have 100 pieces in their puzzle while you have 1000 in yours. Things like children, combat stress, unit casualties, pregnancy, or a new baby add pieces to the puzzle. The Smith’s puzzle might look better than yours – you might even be able to see their whole picture when you can’t see yours. But it doesn’t matter. Focus on YOUR puzzle.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in putting your puzzle back together. Puzzles usually get put together faster when there are more hands involved. Sometimes, you just need someone to ask, “Have you considered flipping this piece upside down? I think it would actually fit there!” Having objective help can be crucial in seeing the big picture. It is very rare that a military family would NOT need some sort of outside mediation to help them reintegrate. Please don’t be too proud (or ashamed) to ask for help with the tough sections of your puzzle.
Above all, remember that you love each other and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Give it time.
When you figure out love is all that matters after all, it sure makes everything else seem so small.” – So Small by Carrie Underwood
Aprille is a 5-year Active Duty Army spouse going through reintegration after her husband’s second year-long deployment to Afghanistan. She and her husband Russ have been married for four years and they have a 19-month-old son Ezra. This post was written with the collaboration of her husband. You can read more about their military life together at beautifulinhistime.com.