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The Emotional Timeline of a Separation

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Brief or extended, the words “I’ll be leaving on_______ and by home by _______” strike a sadness into every military spouse’s heart. It’s a process of it’s own, somewhat like a grieving. Most spouses are given varying amounts of time to plan and prepare, but also to worry and become anxious about what it will be like to handle the day to day alone.

With this being the eighth time we’ve dealt with a military separation of some kind, I’ve come to understand my own emotions before, during, and after my husband leaves. The intensity varies depending on the amount of time he’s gone and the circumstances. By far, the hardest time was when he was a Marine deployed to Iraq in 2005 for an indefinite amount of time. I never really accepted his absence or felt like I fit into a routine in my new life for 9 months.

When he left for Army training for 4 months in 2011, the intense sadness was shorter. I knew when he’d be home, he was safe, and I had my daughter to distract me.

But then there is the homecoming, and while the anticipation and excitement is always forefront, a few days or weeks in, reality settles back in again.

So here is my emotional timeline of when we are separated:

  • The Announcement: I know he’s leaving and when, so the countdown begins. I am sad and also constantly pep talking myself about how I’ve done it before and I can do it again.
  • Leaving: The day Sam leaves I’m usually a bundle of nerves, after he goes I’m a mess. It’s hard to suddenly be faced with so much time alone and in a new routine. This feeling of, “IT WILL NEVER END I CAN’T DO THIS” lasts around 2-3 days.
  • The First Week/Month: This is by far the hardest part for me. Something about being overwhelmed and trying to find a new routine and doing it all at home just takes over my brain until I feel like I might explode.
  • The Middle: Once we find a new way of doing things around here, emotions and expectations take a turn. I slowly get used to him not coming home, to doing the daily and nightly schedule with Bella my way, and find things to do on my own time.
  • A Week Before Homecoming: We usually spend this time getting everything ready for Sam to come home. Stock up on things I don’t buy when he’s gone but he loves, clean the house for the inevitable explosion of Army gear coming through the door, etc.
  • The Homecoming: Seriously, these days might be the most jittery of my life. I tend to want everything PERFECT. I spend an hour on my hair. We talk about where Daddy is, how many more hours, etc. And then the moment we see him is just the best for all of us.
  • The First Week Home: It’s like the honeymoon feeling all over again. Aw, those dirty socks are on the floor. Cute. You left the toilet seat up? Adorable.
  • After The Honeymoon: Let’s just say, being glad he’s home never goes away, but suddenly I find myself thinking, “When I was here by myself…” and that ends with “things stayed clean, I watched what I wanted, the laundry wasn’t left in the washer for 3 days…” So life returns to normal. Only the things I missed so much? I am reminded for far longer than being annoyed by the socks how grateful I am to have him home.