7 Emotional stages of deployments

Stage one: Anticipation of departure & pre-deployment
During this stage fights will happen. Everyone is stressed. You are both running around like crazy trying to get last minute things done before they leave. There will be so many to do lists: Fix lock on door, set up burglary alarm system, finances, taxes, car maintenance,  child care, etc. Try to get everything done so that everyone can feel at ease. Everyone gets a little nervous and there will probably be tears. This part is tough. All the way up until the last kiss goodbye is horrible. You will constantly have a pit in your stomach and be in denial that they are already having to leave so soon. You may crave intimacy as much as possible before they leave. You will talk of the holidays and celebrations when they get back and how awesome they will be. It is easier to not focus on the ones they will miss, so plan to celebrate the missed ones when they return. If you have fear of infidelity make sure you talk about it and reassure each other. There will be fights, this does not mean your marriage is in trouble. You are both extremely stressed and dealing with a lot. 

Stage two: Detachment and withdrawal
During the first week or two you are going to feel very alone. You will feel detached and withdrawn with a lot of sad emotions and most likely tears. You may not be able to sleep at night without your spouse laying next to you and feel a lack of security. You will feel sad and alone in an empty house or with little ones who can't talk yet. But realize your deployed spouse probably feels even more alone in a foreign location. You may feel overwhelmed with taking care of the normal every things without your spouse there. But the chaos will get better. 

Stage three: Emotional disorganization
Throughout that first month you are going to go through a crazy amount of mixed emotions. You will feel disorganized both mentally and physically. The best thing is try to start to establish a new routine for when your spouse is away. This is what I have found is easiest. I established a routine for my son and I. You may start to feel relieved because the time finally seems like it is passing. You will probably get angry at your spouse for them not being able to talk to you very often. You will get angry because even though time has finally passed there still seems like so much time to go. By the end of the first month the emptiness may start to feel more normal. Your emotions will start to straighten out. 

Stage four: Recovery and stabilization
Depending on how long their deployment is, this could be month 2 all the way up to month 11. You will start to feel in control and confident because you have handled everything on your own so far. You will gain a new type of independence that you may not have had when your spouse was home. You will start feeling more normal, and get used to the missing "hole". 

Stage five: Anticipation of return
The mixed emotions return! You will be excited that they will be home soon. There will be so much built up anticipation and this is probably all you can talk about with your deployed spouse. You start to feel hope and will start "nesting" to start getting everything ready for when they get home. You will experience some apprehension as well, hoping that they will approve of everything that you have changed, wondering if we will get along, thinking that your newfound independence may have to change.

Stage six: Return Adjustment and renegotiation
Mixed emotions once again. You will most likely have anger for an ever changing come home date. Be prepared for a lot of change to this. When they come home there is a burst of emotions. At first there may be awkwardness when you first see each other. There has been so much built up anticipation for this moment and you want it to be perfect. Kissing is like a first kiss all over again and this is the start of the honeymoon faze. You will need to connect emotionally again first before moving onto the physical aspect comfortably. The children may not react how the deployed spouse wanted when they return. They may be scared of them or not as excited as the deployed spouse expected, leading to a feeling of being let down or sadness for them.

Stage seven: Reintegration and stabilization
The deployed spouse will be trying to reintegrate into the family. This may cause tension because of the new routine that you have established. Things have changed since they were home last-Children have grown, you are more independent and personal priorities may have changed for the both of you. You may feel the need for more "space" since you have spent a long time on your own. You may start to harbor resentment for the deployed spouse  "abandoning them" for however long the deployment was. The deployed spouse will be trying to fix everything that they think needs fixing. You will probably fight again. But sooner rather than later you will start to feel back to normal and both mesh back into your normal routine. Just keep communication open and do for each other what each spouse needs. If either of you cannot function daily, seek help through a doctor or therapist. 

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