End of Deployment is the WORST

by | May 30, 2020 | Deployment Survival, Military Life, New Military Spouse | 18 comments

Why is the last month of deployment so hard?

“I should be happy!” I told myself at the end of deployment. “Why am I so cranky and angry at everyone?”

We had made it to the final weeks of our 6th deployment. It wasn’t an easy one, since I had 4 kids at home by myself all summer. But for the most part, things were going along fairly smoothly. Until the day I got the phone call with his exact return date. At first I was excited and jumping for joy! But the next day, a tremendous wave of exhaustion and frustration hit me out of nowhere. And it stayed. For weeks.

I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to give up. With the end of deployment in sight, I felt like I was dragging myself to the finish line. It was almost over! So why was the last month so hard?

With the end of #deployment in sight, I was dragging myself to the finish line. #milspouse Click To Tweet

It turns out that deployment is one big psychological game. And it can get the best of you at any time. The end of deployment is so hard because we expect that it will be the easiest and most exciting. When it turns out to be challenging and stressful, we are doubly disappointed. This shocking experience can be depressing and frustrating, especially if you don’t understand it. The more you berate yourself for not being overjoyed, the worse you will feel.

Here's why the end of deployment is so hard, and how to get through the last month of a deployment.

What makes the end of deployment so hard?

You suddenly have a deadline and a to-do list. The last month is usually filled with tons of tasks and chores. We go into a flurry of activity to have everything done before the deadline. Because of course the house must be deep-cleaned. And the garage must be rearranged. And we have to make Homecoming signs. Honestly, the seevice member won’t care about most of those things. He probably just wants to shower, sleep, and eat a good meal. So stock up on his favorite groceries, and focus on the important chores: make sure his car is working, and make adjustments to the car insurance and cell phone bills. If you need to do last-minute cleaning, stock up on supplies with this affiliate link.

 

Homecoming means change, which can be stressful. We expect that Homecoming will be a joyous occasion. But the end of deployment brings a lot of change to our lives. It can be good changes (like sleeping with your husband again!) or bad changes (like hearing his alarm go off at 5 AM every morning). Any kind of change is stressful, even happy change. Our mind and body react to stress, even before we realize it is happening.

You’re out of time to accomplish big goals. You may get depressed or frustrated with yourself when you realize that the deployment is almost over, and you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted to. You didn’t lose 20 pounds. You didn’t learn a new language. Heck, you never even decorated the living room. Instead of doing crazy things (yes, I once stayed up past midnight the night before Homecoming doing a painting project!) take a breath and realize that none of these things HAD to happen during deployment. Then look back at the small things you have accomplished. You may be surprised and proud when you realize everything you have done.

We realize we are about to lose some independence and control. Despite all the challenges of deployment, there are some slight silver linings. Most spouses say their favorite thing about deployment is the ability to control their own schedule, watch their own TV shows, and make plans with their friends. As much as we want our husbands home, we realize that we will be sacrificing the remote and some girls’ nights. We may feel silly for mourning these things, but it is better to respect your emotions than to stuff them and ignore them.

Get more deployment encouragement and support from my free Deployment Group on Facebook, or through the Deployment Masterclass.

Deployment Masterclass

Kids start acting out. As the countdown gets closer, kids react to stress, too. And they may react in crazy, stupid ways, like suddenly talking back, or refusing to go to school, or not wanting to sleep alone. This is really hard to handle when you are feeling wound up and anxious yourself. Try to be extra patient with them. A little extra screen time for a few weeks doesn’t make you a bad parent! Another idea—try to NOT tell them the date until that morning! (especially since it is so likely to change!)

You worry about the unknown. There are so many what-ifs about Homecoming. Whether it is your 1st deployment or your 10th, those butterflies in your stomach never go away. You aren’t quite sure what your loved one will be like when he comes home. You worry he may not like your new haircut, or weight gain, or the household décor (don’t worry, he will love you no matter what! And he will probably be proud of what you did with the house too. Or just not care, haha). If there is a new baby, you worry about how they will react to each other. So even though we want to rejoice at Homecoming, these nagging insecurities and worries won’t go away.

You have to prepare for the next step. If only military life ended the day after deployment! But no, we know that as soon as they come home, they begin to prepare for the next one. Or you are preparing for the next big change in life: new orders, time away at school, a PCS move, a new baby. You crave some down time to just relax and be a couple together. But part of you knows that the days will be filled with paperwork and financial discussions. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the future challenges, before you have even recovered from deployment, then try to make the most of the post-deployment leave block. Schedule some time for you to get away and relax, even for a day. Do something that makes you laugh together. And remember that you can always get free, confidential counseling through Military One Source.

When the end is in sight, we realize the burden we’ve been carrying. Once you get into your deployment routine, you find your rhythm and your own sense of normal. You don’t even realize the burdens you carry, because these challenges become your everyday routine. But once the end date is announced, you realize there will come a time when you don’t have to sleep alone, mow the yard, pay every bill, repair the cars, watch the kids every minute, etc. When you become aware of all your burdens, they suddenly feel impossible to carry. The thought of mowing the yard even one more time can drive you mad! I have seen this happen overseas too, when we finally got orders to return to America. I suddenly realized all the daily challenges of overseas living that I couldn’t wait to be done with. That’s why we struggle so much with “dropping our pack” at the end of deployment. (That means giving up.)

Don't drop your pack at the end of #deployment. Finish strong! #milspouse Click To Tweet

Don’t give up at the end of deployment!

Face those fears and insecurities. Make sure you have reasonable expectations for yourself and your spouse. Talk to another military spouse about how you feel, because the chances are that she has been there before, too. And try not to dump too much of your worries on your spouse. Remember, he is experiencing his own challenges and heightened stress levels at the end of deployment. He wants to drop his pack, too. But just hang in there until the end: YOU CAN DO IT!

You may also find help in my article about Reintegration. It discusses the normal challenges that couples face after Homecoming.

Are you at the end of deployment? How are you handling all the stress right now???

18 Comments

  1. Eliza

    So much of this article is so familiar to me. Although it’s been quite a while since our last deployment, many of these same points apply to shorter separations too. Whenever he’s gone for training for three weeks, the last three days are the worst. I’ve definitely found that the only way to keep sane is not to do any extra work that I wasn’t already planning on doing in that time. Sure he comes back to a messy house half the time. But he usually doesn’t care, and we’re both happier for it!

    Reply
    • Lizann

      That’s so true, thanks for sharing! Yes, I think so many of us get caught in ‘nesting mode’ at the end of deployment — wanting to clean everything and finish everything. But you’re right that there is usually no need for that, and taking care of yourself and your sanity can mean a lot more to him than a clean house!

      Reply
  2. Jennifer

    Thank you sooooo much for this! I needed to find this today!!!

    Reply
    • Lizann

      You’re welcome! I hope it encouraged you, and I’m so glad you stopped by.

      Reply
  3. Nana

    Thank you so much. My husband is returning home tomorrow

    Reply
    • Lizann

      Congratulations, you made it! I hope this offered some encouragement to help you get through the final night alone!

      Reply
      • Audrey

        I am feeling this way right now. Even worse during these unprecedented times. I have gone through so much more during this deployment. Raising a 2 and a 6 year old during school shutdown and working full-time from home….alone. Quarantine was a true test of my emotional resilience. I’m excited for my husband to come home but I am nervous too.

        Reply
        • Lizann

          I hear you, and I’m sending you a huge huge hug! These are crazy times, and you have accomplished so much to be proud of!

          Reply
  4. Mekeisha

    I greatly appreciated this article/post because I have been feeling this way. It’s our first deployment and first year of marriage. As most newlyweds I anticipated/envisioned our first year of marriage being about creating new memories through date nights, day trips, vacations, and gatherings with friends, etc. but no sooner then the ink dried on our marriage license my spouse was deployed. As someone who’s been a military dependent my whole life I thought it would be relatively easy. But I was wrong, it’s been hard. I didn’t realize, prior to the deployment, just how much joy, happiness and stability my relationship brought to my life. This year has felt like a loss in many ways…or a pause on the things that I love and want to share with my spouse. I thought at this point of the deployment (the last month) I would be filled with so much excitement that all I’d feel is peace of mind, but instead I often feel stressed, overwhelmed, or a sense of sadness and uncertainty. So much of what you wrote is spot on to what I am feeling and what I needed to hear/read today. As a military spouse it often feels like you’re going through it alone but it’s nice to knows others have felt similar to how I am feeling now. Thank you for these words.

    Reply
  5. Kaylee Sanford

    Although not everything about this applies to me, a large portion does. My husband has been gone for 9 months and we’ve been married for a little over a year. He will finally be home in a couple months. I am an emotional wreck because I felt like the end was never in sight, but now it is!! I have managed to lose 85lbs since he’s been gone, so I can’t wait for him to see me. We also got a new place last month that he has been able to see through facetime and photos, but I can’t wait for him to fall in love with it in person. This has definitely been of the toughest phases of my life I’ve ever been through. Thank you for writing this article! I pray for everyone’s safety and that we all get through this holiday season and have a good time with people we love.

    Reply
    • Lizann

      Kaylee, I’m so happy for you that he is coming home soon! Reintegration can be a real roller coaster, but just hang in there a little longer. You’re right, there is a lot to look forward to, so keep focusing on that light at the end of the tunnel!

      Reply
  6. CH

    Thank you for this article! My husband isn’t deployed but has been at sea for 3 months and because of COVID it has basically felt like a full deployment! He’s coming home in the next few weeks and I’ve been sooooo grumpy! This was a nice pick-me-up to know that it’s not just me haha.

    Reply
    • Lizann

      You’re so welcome, it’s a great relief to know you are normal and not alone, right? Hang in there just a little longer!

      Reply
  7. Alondra G

    Thank you for this. First deployment and he’s been gone for 6 months. Original date back was in March and since he left we bought a house, I moved us in, went through covid/quarantine etc, and had knee surgery. We have 10 days left before he’s back and the weight today feels unbearable, much worse than the 5 extensions we went through. I couldn’t figure out why or point to a specific emotion but your post sums it up pretty well so thank you again!

    Reply
    • Lizann

      You’re welcome, I’m so glad you found it helpful and relatable. Hang in there! The end is tough, but it DOES end! Hugs to you.

      Reply
  8. JoAnn Smith

    Our first deployment started in January and he should be home in 30 days, give or take. I can’t imagine doing this as newlyweds ( married 29 years) or with small children! Everything has been so crazy with COVID-19, but we’ve managed to make it work! Thank you for your articles. I’ve enjoyed reading each one.

    Reply
    • Lizann

      I am so glad to hear that you are nearing the end! I’m honored that my articles were part of your deployment journey. This year has been crazy–I cant imagine a more stressful situation, but you made it through! Good luck and big hugs to get you through the final weeks!

      Reply
  9. Lizann

    You’re welcome! I think everyone struggles with these emotions near the end, so you definitely aren’t alone. There’s nothing wrong with you, so don’t feel bad about the to-do list. Try to focus on the good things and new opportunities that are right around the corner at Homecoming!

    Reply

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