Stages of Deployment: What Is Normal?
August 10, 2010
At one point or another, most of us have relied on scientific theories to reassure ourselves that we’re normal. Specifically, stage theories break down events into categories and describe appropriate behaviors for each. These theories exist for most life-changing events: marriage, pregnancy, child development, even grief. I figured there had to be a stage theory for military deployments, and my inquiring mind prompted an internet search. I was curious to see how my first-hand knowledge of deployments matched up to those stages, to see exactly how normal I am as a military spouse.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a standard set of deployment stages. Every Google hit seemed to outline different phases. Some listed as few as three stages, some as many as seven. And although every article seemed to discuss a similar progression of emotions, I found no consensus on the labels given to those stages.
After consolidating and applying my research, I discovered that I’ve successfully passed through the Pre-Deployment/Anticipation of Departure phase (the weeks prior to my husband leaving), the Deployment/Emotional Disorganization stage (the first month he was gone), and the Sustainment/Recovery and Stabilization stage (the months between the first and the last). As I write this, I’m restlessly passing through my final day of the Re-Deployment/Anticipation of Return stage (yes, that means my husband is coming home tomorrow). And so far, regardless of the title assigned to my emotions, I’ve progressed quite predictably through the prescribed cycles. I am indeed a normal military spouse.
Because I’ve allowed myself to get lost in time, I was actually shocked when I realized last week that I was already in that Re-Deployment stage. Suddenly, I had only a week to prepare for my husband’s homecoming. And suddenly, I was frantic! My brain went into overdrive as I made a mental list of everything I had to do. I need to clean my house. I need to find the perfect reunion outfit. I need to stock up on his favorite foods. I need to prepare my kids. I need to prepare myself.
I have to admit I had mixed emotions about the deployment ending, and at first I felt selfish and guilty for experiencing that inner conflict. Of course I was positively giddy at the thought of seeing my husband again. But his homecoming would be almost as much of an adjustment as his departure was. I’ve grown so accustomed to being alone that I wondered how I would handle the transition from this life I had created back to the life that was, the life that should be. I tried so hard to take advantage of my solitary existence while my husband was gone, and I worried I’d miss that time to myself when he came home. I was also disheartened that I had failed to accomplish everything I planned to do during his absence, and now it’s too late.
I was almost apprehensive about the reunion. The deployment has changed us both. Will we still recognize each other? Will we struggle to get to know each other again? Will I still be the independent woman I’ve become once I’m no longer forced to be? Am I insane for thinking these thoughts? But according to those stages of deployment, I was relieved to learn that no, I’m not crazy. All of these questions, all of these conflicting emotions are normal.
Once I assured myself that my Re-Deployment feelings were natural, I relinquished my guilt and moved on to another part of this stage: Operation Mega Clean Up. My house is by no means unkempt, but I wanted it to be perfect. My husband hasn’t seen his home in months, and I didn’t want his first impression to be disappointing. I hid unsightly clutter. I mopped the floors. I dusted in the nooks and crannies. I straightened picture frames. I hung the Welcome Home banner the kids and I made. I ensured our lawn was manicured (by which I mean I paid someone to manicure it). I don’t think our house has ever looked this presentable.
After a week of renewed energy and frenetic nesting, I’m now not-so-patiently waiting to pass through to the next stage of deployment. Whether it’s called the Post-Deployment stage or the Reunion stage or the Return Adjustment and Negotiation stage, it all means the same thing. The deployment is about to end. My husband is about to come home. And life will once again be normal.
Posted by First_Rodeo at 10:39PM on February 08 2011
Beautifully written. I needed to read this. Thank you.