A reader wrote in asking for tips to make it through a deployment when you aren’t married and/or the unit doesn’t have a strong (or any sort of) support group, such as an FRG.
While I was lucky and have been a part of great FRGs where I made great friends, each FRG is different, and it may not provide the support you need or want. And that’s okay.
I’ve reached out to a few of my friends who have been through trainings and deployments alike in both these scenarios to get their best tips. I’ve also compiled some general tips to help get through anytime apart, with or without official channels in place, and with or without a marriage certificate.
- Have a support system. This is true for any relationship you are in during deployment. For me, that was mainly the friends I made through our FRG, but for others, those are family and friends they already have. These are people you are already comfortable with and understand you. They are there for you on good and bad days. These are great people to help you fill your time, and you know you’ll have fun with them and can vent to them when needed.
- Focus on work, school, or your family. I worked and started school. They naturally fill time, but it’s great to have something to put your energy towards. With a quiet house, that reading will definitely get done for school.
- It’s okay to have a day of nothing. You will feel numb or sad some days, and that is okay. Your favorite person is gone and you can’t just call them whenever you want or hang out. Take the time you need to cope with those feelings. And they won’t all be at the beginning, it’s okay if 3 or 6 months later you have a bad day. Take the time you need and do what you need to do.
- Do things for you. Whether that means shopping, a spa day, a nice dinner, lunch with friends. You need to take care of yourself, so make sure you do that. You don’t need to spend money to do this either, and I don’t suggest that if you are on a budget!
- Travel. A friend of ours is stationed in Germany and spent some of her time (when she wasn’t working) seeing new places and visiting friends that were all over Europe. I was able to do the same a few times – I went to a wedding, visited friends, and did some exploring with friends in Washington. This fills time and gives you something to look forward to.
- Cherish your alone time. A great point was made by a friend – once they are home you won’t have your quiet time as often. So enjoy the days you spend reading, binge-watching your favorite TV shows or chick flicks, and taking a long bath. It’s funny how during time apart you can’t wait to have them home, but then you miss your quiet or own space when they return.
- Work on or start a hobby. I know ladies who have devoted deployment to getting into shape, losing weight, cooking, or quilting. Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn to do but haven’t? Now could be the perfect time! I started this blog (well partly because of school too) and was able to build it during that time! I had a group of friends that helped another friend learn to cook and like vegetables! It was a great excuse to get together, and know she loves Brussels Sprouts.
- Plan your welcome home date or vacation! We took a trip to Oregon but I also planned a welcome home dinner of his favorite foods. Whatever that celebration will be that your loved one is home – plan it! It gives you something wonderful to look forward to near the end when the days seem to get longer.
- Take one day at a time. Each day is going to be different. Some days will be awesome, but others just won’t be. Or your significant other will feel down and you just want to give them a big hug and can’t. It’s okay. Do whatever you need for that day. To this day, even during trainings, I will overbook myself and miss that time to myself/feel overwhelmed and cancel plans. Do I feel bad? Yes. But in the end, I need “me time” and to take care of myself, and sometimes that means a night on the couch, and I feel better. It’s easy to feel guilty but try not to. It’s a stressful time so do whatever you need to do on that day. The next day is a new day!
- Be prepared. Do learn from your significant order what to do if there is an emergency. Get the number for Red Cross in case you need it. Red Cross is the route to call if something happens and the service member may need to come home, such as birth of a child or death of a family member. You will need their unit information and social security number, keep that information in a secure location. Also be sure your name and contact information is shared with the Rear Detachment (Rear-D) to notify you about when they are coming home or if anything else arises. Also, have their number if you have a question or aren’t sure if you should call Red Cross.
- Know OPSEC (and PERSEC). OPSEC = Operations Security. PERSEC = Personal Security. It’s tempting to post that you hate being alone, or their address overseas, or the date they return. But all of these could compromise security – both your own and theirs. Be mindful of what you are posting and your own security settings on social media sites. A bumper sticker (like the “Half my heart is in Afghanistan” one) or a yellow ribbon on your door can put you at risk. Also, be careful how much you share with people you just meet. Basically, be alert and careful. If you are unsure if it could compromise security, don’t post, or check with your service member before posting for guidelines.
- Enjoy the little things in life. Write a letter. Find cute cards. Make fun care packages (get some tips here). Spend times with friends and family. Take the phone call from the weird number (it’s probably your service member). Count down the days. Enjoy the homecoming.
Any time apart, be it deployment or trainings, are full of long days but quick weeks and months. I promise time will fly. In the meantime, like I said above, take it one day at a time, lean on the people that you trust, and do things you enjoy.
What other tips do you have to get through a deployment?