Once a deployment or major separation is coming to a close, we fantasize endlessly about being reunited with our loved one. We think about all the fun things we can do, and all that lost time we have to make up for. We have every expectation in the world (especially if it’s the first deployment together) that everything will be perfect. And then… It’s not.
Although Kyle and I have faced a major separation, we have yet to face a deployment, which brings a whole round of challenges that I’m sure we can’t even imagine. It’s impossible to prepare fully for this type of hurdle, but there are some small things you can do to ease the pressure for both parties. Here are some tips on conquering reintegration after deployment:
|KEEP YOUR EXPECTATIONS OPEN|
It’s an exciting and wonderful time, but don’t get swept away by that thought. It’s easy to be disappointed because things didn’t turn out the way you thought, or he/she doesn’t seem excited to be home. Keep in mind that while many things have changed in your world, things have changed for your significant other as well. Start by taking things step by step, and gauge everything as you go.
|GIVE THEM SPACE|
After a major separation, our first instinct is that we want to spend every second with our loved one. But don’t forget what they want and need. Those returning from deployment often need some time to process everything, and it’s hard to do that when everyone is in their face. There will be plenty of time to do all of the things you wanted to do, so don’t try to do it all at once.
They’re going to be different than you remember, and that can be extremely scary. But just be patient and flexible as they try to navigate through this hurdle. They will probably have some mood swings in response to the pressures of being in a completely different environment than what they were used to. Just give them the time to decompress, and take it all in.
|STAY AT HOME|
Keep it simple for a little while. Although they missed a lot, and you want to show them to the whole world, slow it down. They just came from a chaotic, hazardous environment and chances are, they have a whole new value on just being at home. This can be frustrating and confusing, but yet again, be patient.
|TAKE THINGS SLOW|
When my brother came home everyone and their mother wanted to visit the house. But sometimes all of that chaos can cause the person to panic and feel crowded. Protect their needs by reminding everyone that they just need some time. It pays off big time in the long run, because otherwise it can distract them from processing the fact that they’re home, and can cause issues down the road. Try spending the first few days with just immediate family, and take things day by day after that.
|GO WITH THE FLOW|
Some days are going to be easy and full of happiness, while other days might be quite the opposite. Try to remain patient and understanding, because over time this will pass. When Kyle got out of his 6 months of training the biggest change was how quiet he was. It was very unlike him, so immediately I assumed something was wrong. This led me to ask a million questions, and in turn made him frustrated.
They’re going to pick up different habits and mannerisms that you might not have been used to. And that’s okay! It means that they’re absorbing behaviors from their environment and the people they have surrounded themself with. Some of these changes will stick, while others will slowly go back to normal. Just adapt as they do, and trust that everything will turn out how it’s meant to.
Deployment is certainly a touchy topic; one that most military families are not too fond of. But there are many ways to make it easier on them, and ourselves. Do you best to stay positive, even on days when you feel like breaking down. It will make both of you stronger as individuals and as a team. There will be bad days, and that’s when it’s your job to step in and remind them of all the good things. In doing so, you’re also reminding yourself.
These tips will make the process easier for both people, no matter how difficult it is at first. Trust that with each day, things will get better, but also be aware of any red flags. If there are any indications of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) don’t hesitate to address them with the individual (in some cases) or with a professional. For more info about the symptoms, visit Make The Connection.
How did you cope with the reintegration process after deployment?