27 Tips for Long Military Deployments and Separations
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It’s still months away, but we are gearing up for another military separation. This time it’s a one-year tour to Korea! I have done a 7 month deployment and several TDY’s, but a year or more away from my husband is something new to me. This time, I have two kids instead of one, and both of them have special needs. This time it’s not a deployment, but a PCS to Korea.
I have been asked if I have family here and I don’t. I won’t able to leave to go home for the entire year like some people do, but I’m sure we will plan a few short trips. As far as friends… we’ve been here at this duty station almost 6 years now, and most of my friends have PCS’d and moved on.
I sometimes feel like I am starting over, starting from scratch. New people, a new home we are moving into in a few weeks, and a new separation. While military spouses have many tips for deployments and other military separations, I wondered if there were some different tips when it came to a longer military separation.
I polled military spouses on Facebook and asked for their best thoughts and tips for longer deployments and military separations. Here is what I collected. I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me. I know that I will be incorporating many of these ideas very soon!
27 Tips for Long Military Deployments and Separations From 18 Different Military Spouses:
- “Set goals to accomplish while they are gone or take up a new hobby: lose weight, take a class, or learn to knit or sew. Just give yourself something to work toward. Stay busy! If you have kids, sign them up for sports or activities to keep the family busy so you aren’t just sitting at home missing each other. Let life go on. It’s hard missing your spouse, but time will drag and you’ll be miserable if you just sit at home and do nothing but check your email and messages constantly.” – Natalie
- “Remember that every separation is different and has different obstacles to overcome due to the stage of life you are in and due to your unique circumstances. What I have learned is to stay focused on God. Through Him you can find the good that may come from the difficulty.” – Tia
- “Psalm 91! It’s the only way we got through it all until our soldier came home! We read it together as a family at 9 pm every night while our soldier prepared for the day. We also prayed it together as a family, and the night we did he was absolutely protected.” – Trish
- “This will be our first separation with kids, but our last one I took time to work on me. I Went to the gym, learned a new skill, and took my pups to the dog park. I also reorganized and got rid of some of my clothes. I did all those things that I never had time for when he was here.” – Ashley
- “We did a year deployment with 3 months of training prior AND a 3 day notice to him leaving! Every month we had a ‘Nother Month Down’ Party where we made a new dessert to eat and celebrate being another month closer to his return. I blogged about it as well.” – World Traveling Military Family
- “Within our first year of marriage, my husband had a three-month training and from there went straight to his one year deployment. Our kids were little and I had a full-time job. He missed our first and second year anniversary. I made giant wall calendars and at the end of each day my daughters took turns marking off the days. On the day he was supposed to return, I put a cake and party hat on that day. Having the girls involved in marking off the days gave them something to hold on to. We also Skyped with him as much as possible.” – Robin
- “In today’s world we forget how special mail is. At the beginning of each month, buy 30 greeting cards (you can buy them for 50 cents). Go ahead and address and sign them, maybe write a Bible verse in each one. It won’t take even an hour. Now you have a card to mail every day that month. Some days you will have time to write more and some days you won’t.
- Do a Bible study together. When they can call often the conversation gets boring, but if you are doing something together then it gives you something to talk about.
- Set some silly goals. For example: who can do the most push-ups today. Anything that makes you feel connected.
- Ask family, friends and people at church to send him care packages. Do not leave it all on yourself. Make each month a theme, for example: July is red white and blue, May is yellow.
- For me, I take the amount of money my husband would be spending in gas each month and use it to pay someone to come in and deep clean my house. I also use it to pay a sitter so I can go out with the girls. I am great at basic cleaning but never get to dusting so to have it done relaxes me.
- I do not count down with my kids until the last couple of weeks, it is too much for them. I keep them busy and give lots of extra attention. We also try to help other families out a lot when my husband is gone. We make meals, babysit, and send lots of cards.” – Pam
- “FRIENDS! You need them. The summer of our 15 month deployment we would get together at the park 3-4 times a week. We would feed the kids dinner early and head over around 5 with our dinner. The kids would play and we would eat together.
- Our 2nd deployment I had one friend who I could always call to hang out with. We would say, ‘I need a steak night.’ That meant that we would get pizza for the kids and let them play and then make ourselves a steak dinner.
- Let it go. You are doing this alone for a long time. Let the little things go.
- Plan a trip home if you can. Even for just a week or two. You will need that break from the norm.
- Journal! If you don’t already do this, start one. Write at least three pages in it everyday. That will allow you to really get the stress out.” – Julie
- “My civilian girlfriends were a huge help to me. We planned a girl’s only night out monthly. This was a time when our little group of girls got together each month regardless of what was going on to share stories, laughter, tears, frustration, good news, bad news, and secrets. The idea was that we didn’t judge or criticize each other but that we were there for each other and we listened. To this day those girls are still a big part of my life and my forever friends!” – Kimberly
- “I wrote my husband a letter every day while he was gone (yep, every single day). I also did themed care packages, which he loved! I did the Hope for the Home Front Bible study, and of course having friends to talk to who were military wives helped a lot! – Sara
- “Our longest deployment was 15 months. The best tip I have is to stay busy and get involved. With 3 kids, they each had their “thing”. Soccer, gymnastics, and jujitsu. Practices, games, and competitions keep you running. I also volunteered as much as possible at their schools. Book fairs, PTO, Pennies for Patients, helping with vision/hearing screenings, picture days…there was always some way to help. Another thing I did was get involved in our FRG as a Key Spouse. This helped me stay up to date with what was going on with the deployment as well as put me in a position to meet and talk with others going through the same experiences as I was. It was nice to have that feeling that I wasn’t the only one going through this.” – Stacey
- “My best tip is get a good support system. If you don’t have family close by, make a system with friends. Don’t try to be supermom. You cannot do it all. Let go and let God.” – Tina
- My husband spent a year in Korea when my daughter was two. My advice is make some ‘you’ time to work out, even if it’s just to leave the kids in the kid’s room at the gym. This will help you deal mentally and emotionally. Also, remember to invest in your own family and with the friends that you make your family. – Rose
- “Stay busy helping others and you won’t have time to focus on your own problems.” – Tiffany
- “I sent a big care package every month and I decorated the inside of the box for each month. I found “snow” to send at Christmas and made cupcakes for his birthday (yes, they made it to Afghanistan). That really did help me, and in retrospect my husband says it helped him too.” – Laura
- “My husband did 14 months in Korea. He left when our son was 5 weeks old and came back when he was almost 15 months old. Best advice I can give is stay busy and have a good support system. GET INTO A ROUTINE. Take up a hobby that you may have been wanting to start. One of the things that I found that really helped was breaking the time up by planning something fun to do each month….a countdown to something fun (a trip, a pedicure, a movie, etc). It really helped to pass the time.” – Erin
- “We have done multiple 12 month deployments and I try to keep life as normal as possible for the kids. Our schedules don’t change and we don’t veer from anything while he is deployed. It is so important for our kids to maintain some balance in their lives while he is gone. I stay busy with the kids, but I also say NO sometimes too. I have learned my limits over the years and would always try to do everything, help everyone, and stay involved with the FRG, but saying NO once in a while is okay.” – Stella
- “I basically took it one breath at a time. My husband was in an area that was remote so I often didn’t hear from him for a week or more and the worry was terrible. So, I did baby steps. I woke up and said, ‘All you have to do is shower and you can be done for the day.’ Sometimes I felt better after a shower and I said, ‘All you have to do is pick up the kitchen and you can be done for the day.’ Other times I was lucky if I got past the put on clean PJ’s goal. Life will keep moving forward whether you want it to or not. I still had finals, I still had to make it to class on time, I still had to walk my dog. So I simply broke my day up into mini goals and took it one step at a time on the bad days. I allowed myself to have mini pity parties and do nothing, but never for more than a day. It does you no good, so why not just keep making the effort to move forward and remember that each breath you take is one more breath closer to seeing him again.” – Jane
What about YOU? Have you experienced a long deployment or military separation? What are some tips you used to get through?
Great post! We are in the middle of a long, but less-than-a-year deployment, and I, too, have celebrated the “month days” with our 4 kids – sometimes it’s just a run out for water ice, but we always do something to mark it. Also, we got one of those larger GIJoe guys (12″), we call him GIDaddy, and we take him anywhere we wish my husband could be – a family outing, swim lessons, and, naturally, our month-day celebrations. He has been festooned in everything from a shamrock garland for St. Patty’s Day to a grass skirt and lei to mark my husband’s submarine number day (7/18 – USS Honolulu, SSN 718). It has been helpful and fun at the same time. I also made one of those road deployment calendars w/ a vehicle that travels along it. I laminated it and draw in each month’s special events w/ wet-erase markers. I found x-off-the-day calendars do more harm than good for anything beyond 3 weeks, but a vehicle traveling a road actually seems to be going somewhere at a reasonable pace. And I have no idea how we’d be making it without the constant support from our neighbors, family, and church family. Wishing you all the best! One day at a time, as you know.