The 5 Stages of Deployment


Deployment. It happens often, and when you least expect it.

I say deployment, but really there’s plenty of reasons for your military SO to be away from home. This changes depending on things like branch, rank, job, and family size. But more than likely they will go away at some point, especially those who have been in the service for longer.

As a military spouse whose hubby has been away a lot, I’ve noticed that I go through the same stages every time, regardless of the reason/time he goes away.

It’s a funny thing too, because no matter how many times you do this, you’ll fall into the same cycle every time. I mean sure you’re more aware that you’re going through the motions, but really it doesn’t do much else.

It’s like knowing what’s going to happen is useless to us.

But let’s talk a little more in depth about just what these stages are.

1. The “countdown” stage

Oh gosh.

From the minute you find out you’ll be separated, everything changes. The closer to the date, the more that knot in your stomach grows, and the more you think about what life is going to be like without your SO for a little while.

You guys have to go through all the preparations, and they’re only constant reminder that you’re going to be separated. Honestly I think this is the most stressful stage, because your mind just becomes consumed with all sorts of thoughts:

  • What can I do to pass the time?
  • How will I handle things for the both of us?
  • I need to start a list of what I’ll do while he/she is gone.
  • It’s going to be so sad and lonely.
  • How long will they be gone for?
  • Does he/she have everything they need to leave?
  • How will we communicate?
  • Explaining to the kids….
  • I have to get a lot of stuff done before they leave!

The added bonus is that sometimes you’ll get a notice months ahead of time, and other times you’ll know DAYS before they leave.

Which is probably one of the reasons you don’t get used to it. It’s always a surprise with the military.

So you know they’re leaving, you’re caught up in preparations, and that knot in your tummy keeps growing….

My husband and I usually like to lighten this up by coming up with things for me to do together, and a few projects to keep me busy, and we try to think of a nice getaway to plan for when we see each other again. It helps.

2. The “mope” stage


The day they leave is probably the worst day throughout the whole thing.

When I drop him off it’s worse. When his chain of command stops by to send him off, that adds to it too. I usually try to hold my composure, and we make jokes, and I try not to blink when I feel a tear coming on.

Then once it’s just me, I usually cry and mope for a few days. I sleep a lot, watch loads of TV, and either offer myself up for overtime at work, or will try to find ways to make the day go by fast.

While they are in transit, or getting set up in the new location, you have to wait patiently, without communication and knowing, and OMG does that feel like an eternity.

Can you at least offer wifi so he can call me at every stop? I need to know these things!

Any who, the first few days are the toughest. It’s like quitting a habit, cold turkey. The person you spend everyday with is away, and you have to quickly adjust to that. For families with pets and children, I can only imagine that it must only make things even more difficult.

You seriously think that the next __ weeks/months are going to be the longest EVER.

Every time.

3. The “adjusting” stage

Remember that list you made in your head about what to do while your SO is gone? Time to fish it out. After you’ve moped and let out your stress/sadness, you begin to pick yourself up and start working on adjusting to life again.

For some, this involves not cooking for a few weeks, spending their entire time watching Netflix, and not worrying about house cleanliness for a little bit (it can feel so great sometimes).

For others, it could mean going into overdrive and getting back to all the hobbies and side hustles you can to keep you busy. Start going out with friends/family. (I once worked 60+ hours/ week and schooled full time while he was gone. Too overdrive?)

The time frame in this stage really depends on how long your SO is gone for, but there comes a point where you really pick up momentum; you got back into working out, blogging, volunteering, etc. You may be working a lot more and bringing in some extra cash.

While we may always go through the same stages every time the SO goes away, you become a little better at getting through them more smoothly.

Or not. You never know really. IT could go either way.

This is when finally I get started on budgeting, and home projects I’ve been wanting to do. After about a month I get back into cooking and cleaning, and at some point later, I try to get into working out. That last one could is always left on the back burner though.

4. “Preparing” stage


You hit the halfway mark.

Wow! Already half way through this.

This is where you do a quick check in of how much you’ve accomplished, and you start to think about when they come home, and you begin to do a mental list of preparations.

Once you hit the half way mark and you realize they’re almost home, it’s like time really picks up speed. You’ve already got into your routine of life separated, but you still CANNOT wait for them to come home. You start talking about the things you want to de when they’re home, and how they want to spend that relaxation time.

Right around this time is where I either start planning for that getaway, or those last projects I want to do before the hubby comes home, OR I start to panic because I did nothing really productive.

I brought out some boxes to re-decorate the house, and forgot them there….

5. “Homecoming” stage

WOOOOOOOOOO! It’s the big day!

You’re finally going to be together again. You pick them up (which can also happen at any time of day, and could become a stressful challenge really quickly), and you’re on your way home.

Now you go through the “homecoming” stage, as I like to call it. Where you basically have to re-adjust to life together again. Sometimes this can be a breeze, and at others it can be little bumpy. You might share stories and catch up, or you might just snuggle in bed and enjoy each others’ company, without having to say much. Some might even fall right back into routine like they were never gone.

Now keep in mind that depending on how long they were gone for, re-adjusting could vary for every family. For those with children, it also means that parenting is now a two-person job again. And reassigning the duties can be a task of its own.

Every single stage can vary in length for everyone, and every military spouse experiences it differently, but this just seems to be the cycle we find ourselves in. And we might do this plenty of times, but it doesn’t always get “easier” or “better”. Sometimes it’s actually the exact opposite. But I mean we know that this is a consequence of being a military family, and there’s always resources for us to help us out if it gets too intense.

And we pull through like champs.