When I look for articles about deployment, all of them are written for the service member. Most talk about the different phases and emotions they may feel before, during and after a deployment. I have yet to find something from the wife's perspective. So here's mine.
I mostly felt a lot of doubt. "How in the world am I going to do this?" ran through my head a lot. I tried really hard to put zero expectations on myself and tried to communicate that to everyone around me. For example, we let the pastor of our church know that I may not be there every Sunday and that was okay. They didn't need to check up on me or worry that we're sick; just know that it's difficult to get 3 kids to church every Sunday and for this season, I'm not going to expect myself to be super mom. I also committed to just doing reading, writing and math for school until I felt able to tackle more subjects and assured myself that the kids would be fine for a few months if we just read everyday...a sane momma is a better gift than struggling through a million subjects.
Phase1: "Gather all the things"
I went into overdrive gathering anything and everything that I might need to make this easier. I stocked up on snacks and easy food; our pantry was the fullest it's ever been, so much so that the kids were convinced our entire extended family was coming to visit. I can't even remember all the things I bought, but if I thought it might help life, I bought it. This phase backfired on me because really, it made life harder. My energy was drained by making many large shopping trips and in reality, life wasn't any easier. The kids had snacks, but I would still be short on ingredients for dinner. This phase also included using all paper products, which also sounds easier, but really means an overflowing trash bin...and if you miss trash day, it's one stinky mess.
Phase 2: "A love/hate relationship with Facetime"
I am beyond thankful for the ability to talk with Ben every day. It really helped me mentally, just knowing that I could contact him if I needed anything. On the flip side of it, every time his face pops up on my phone, the kids go into crazy mode. They want to show him every creation they've built and have a million random things to pop in and say and heaven forbid they're hungry while you're talking. Sigh. AND our morning is his evening. Our morning of getting started in school or cooking breakfast or trying to get a workout in (I swear he hasn't seen me in not pj's or workout clothes in 6 months) and his evening after a long day of counseling lots of marines with real problems and he's falling asleep. All that to say, this phase was me struggling with our communication. I would get so frustrated and say, "Just don't call. This is too frustrating!" But then he would sweetly say that he just needed to see our faces and loved seeing the craziness of our little family and we would pick right back up with the communicating but not really communicating life.
Phase 3: "Holidays and Lice"
Our house was full of family for the holidays and it helped tremendously. My in-laws and parents were wonderful at cooking and playing with the kids and helping me with things around the house. Things felt different enough that it took my mind off of Ben not being here and I also felt very supported. Then lice hit our house and my mind was definitely distracted. I didn't have time to think about deployment! All my thoughts were consumed with little bugs crawling everywhere and now that you're reading this, I bet your head is starting to itch :)
Phase 4: "This sucks"
Halfway through. It sucks. Most people will say that halfway through was exciting for them and a relief. Not for me. All I could think was "WE STILL HAVE 3+ MORE MONTHS!!!" January was the longest, hardest month for me. I seriously did not think it was ever going to end. Lice must have boosted my confidence to conquer all things and I doubled our school work. I'm glad that I did educationally and it did keep me busy, but I was burnt out.
Phase 5: "Scared to look up"
I realized about this time that I had been living with my eyes focused solely on the next task before me. In a running analogy, I had my head pointed down, looking at the sidewalk, counting the lines as I passed them. Trying to squint ahead to see the finish line was too overwhelming and just made me want to take a seat on the curb. I was functioning pretty good running like this, but then others around me started to talk about the finish line and I realized it was almost time to look up. Truthfully, that scared me. In fact, typing it makes me tear up. Sounds so weird, right? Seeing the finish line should be so exciting. And it is. But it also means that I'll have to look up, turn around and acknowledge all those miles I've run by myself. There's no more powering through and I'll have to stop and mourn all those hard things I endured. It's natural and healthy and it will be okay...I just don't want to do it.
Phase 6: "It's like your wedding, a holiday and coming home from summer camp all in one."
True statement from the "reintegration" meeting I went to. Planning to be reunited with your spouse who will be stinky and has lived alone for 6 months in a combat zone...it's definitely a unique situation. The funniest part of this meeting was the very first thing they said was, "Chaplain Shear will be here to help you with any thing you may need." Clearly they had no idea that Mrs. Chaplain Shear was sitting right in front of them. They spoke a lot of "problems" that could arise after a deployment and said over and over how the chaplain was there to help. It took a lot of self control not to raise my hand and ask, "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHAPLAIN?! Who's helping him? Who does his family call if there's a problem?" Anyway, this phase is trying to plan. We're planning some meals and what to do if he comes home in the middle of the night and what that first week back looks like and even a little party with our church family. I'm working on homecoming outfits and trying to slowly restock on Ben's favorite foods. Of course being a girl, I'm also planning haircuts and a nail appointment and better get out in that sun a little (don't want to be too pasty in that dress). This phase also includes "hurry up and get it done!". I want to get a ton of school done before we go back into light mode when Ben gets home and I need to finish that book I said I would read during deployment.
Phase 7: "Waiting and waiting and waiting"
This is yet to come. I'll keep you posted.