Jennifer Haskell is a Canadian military wife and a coordinator at a Military Family Resource Centre in Meaford, Ontario. Everyday she finds herself privileged to work with Canada’s bravest families as they deal with the ups and downs of deployment and looks to share some of her personal and professional experience with families facing a separation due to deployment. Her husband is currently away on pre-deployment training (deploying to Afghanistan in April 2010) so she has taken up blogging about life, home, and the military to help pass the time. Catch up on the journey at Canadian Rhapsody.
The following is the second in a two part series Jennifer wrote on The Emotional Cycle of Deployment.
Another thing that it is important to look at is the idea of a ‘Battlemind’. The Walter Reed Institute created a program that helps families to understand the behaviours and skills that are important in battle and which may be difficult for soldiers to turn off once they’ve arrived home. It takes time for the soldiers to transition out of this ‘survival mode’ and families can help out in a number of ways.
You will best be supporting your soldier if you come to understand that those behaviours that are ticking you off are the same ones that kept him alive overseas, and make sure you aren’t reacting on your frustration. Eventually he or she will adjust to being back home and most of the behaviours will dissipate. Additionally, you can help your soldier to identify when their behaviours are not suited to the situation, as they may not even realize they are reacting to problems in a combat oriented way.
- Buddies (cohesion) vs. Withdrawal – When the family has an issue is he calling up his friends instead of talking with you about it?
- Accountability vs. Controlling Behavior – Is he wanting to know where you’ve been at all times and know exact times for when you’ll be returning home?
- Targeted vs. Inappropriate Aggression – Does he get overly angry when one of the kids spills some milk?
- Tactical Awareness vs. Hypervigilance – Is he having trouble relaxing when you are out at a restaurant or even when you have some people over for a party?
- Lethally Armed vs. “Locked and Loaded” at home – Is he concerned about whether his weapon is ‘ready’ at home?
- Emotional Control vs. Detachment – Is he withholding his opinion or does he seem very ‘flat’ when responding?
- Mission and OPSEC vs. Secretiveness – Is he having trouble sharing his experiences with you? (this may not change)
- Individual Responsibility vs. Guilt – Is he troubled with feelings of responsibility over what happened over there?
- Non-Defensive (combat) vs. Aggressive Driving – Is he driving at high speeds and changing lanes erratically (more so than usual!)
- Discipline and Ordering vs. Conflict – Is he expecting perfect behavior out of you or the kids?
- Your family has worked together to make the most of this deployment; don’t worry if you didn’t do everything you had hoped to do.
- Everyone changes, even without deployment, so give your marriage the time and energy it needs to rebuild; it probably won’t look the same as it did before, but it may be even better!
- Don’t question the decisions you have made during the deployment; you were required to make many decisions on your own, and you did your best with what you had available.
- Deployed members have concerns too! He’s probably wondering if the family still needs him, or if the kids will remember him.
- Make sure you take time for yourself! It may seem selfish to take a few hours here and there for a break, but you better serve your kids when you are offering them a rested and patient mom!
- Ultimately, there is no guide book to dealing with a deployment; each family will react differently, and the obstacles you come up against will change the shape of your reactions. Simply understand that you are reacting in a normal way to abnormal circumstances, and make the most of it.
- You have the choice whether to thrive or flounder during your loved one’s absence and I hope you learn to make the most of it!
This post is part of the series, Making it in the Military, dedicated to helping service members and their families make the most out of their time in the service. You can find the rest of the articles here.