When You Aren’t Moving: The Flip Side of PCS Season

Every summer, PCS season upends any shred of stability military families thought they had established. For some, it means adventures to new, exciting places as they follow PCS orders across the country or overseas. For other families, it means tearful goodbyes at a place they have come to love, as they grudgingly relocated to a place they had never heard of before.

As service members and military spouses scramble to figure out the logistics of moving their family, buying and selling houses, replacing furniture, and relocating with pets, there is one group who is often overlooked and forgotten:

It’s the military families left behind.

They are the ones who don’t have PCS orders this year. They watch from the window as moving trucks fill their street. They attend the farewell celebrations and give long hugs and well wishes. They watch as dear friends move away and blank windows stare back from once-bustling homes.

When You Don’t Have PCS Orders, But Your Friends Do

When you aren’t the ones moving, PCS season brings a new set of challenges. As friends and neighbors move away, it affects your support system and your daily routines. The people you relied on for advice, weekend entertainment, or regular interactions with your kids are now gone. And in their place are new strangers.

Many military families find it takes a full year to get adjusted and make local connections after a PCS move. It’s during their 2nd year at a duty station when they finally know their way around, have friends, know people’s phone numbers, and feel settled. But after that 2nd year, many of those friends hit their own cycle of PCS orders, and they have to move away.

As a non-mover, you’re expected to provide a sense of stability and offer support to new families as they arrive. Maybe you introduce yourself and make small talk when you see them unloading their van. Perhaps you bring over a baked good to help their move-in day go more smoothly.

But deep down, you know you aren’t any more stable or supportive than anyone else. You’re missing your old friends and looking for new ones. If you have kids, they’re probably feeling the same way. Maybe you secretly peer out the window together, looking for children of the same age and guessing who would make good friends.

PCS season is still difficult, even when you aren’t the one moving.

moving truck on moving day of PCS season for military families with frequent PCS moves
The sight of moving trucks during PCS season can be sad when your friends move away.

Challenges of PCS Season When You Don’t Move

Adults and military kids all struggle with PCS season, even if you aren’t the ones moving. Even if you’re sighing in relief that you don’t have to manage the logistics of a PCS move this year, here are some unexpected difficulties you may face.

Losing Friends

As some military families move away across the country or around the world, PCS season can be filled with emotional goodbyes for you and your children.

Goodbye Parties

When you’re the one staying, you watch everyone else move away, one at a time. If you’re in a large group of friends, this means one goodbye party after another. Whether it’s an official unit “Hail and Farewell” event, or a casual goodbye dinner at Olive Garden, it can be exhausting (and sometimes expensive) to repeat this process.


Maybe you really dislike your current duty station and wish you were the one with orders to move away. It’s difficult to watch others go to your dream assignments while you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere. Maybe you’re excited for your friends… but also a little jealous.

Shutting Down

After investing time and energy into friendships that end with PCS orders, many military spouses feel like making military friendships aren’t worth it. Why invest in new friendships when you’ll probably move in a year or so anyway?

Lack of Support

The people who were your go-to support system for venting on a bad day, being there for you during deployment, or raising kids together may be relocating. This causes a shock to your local support and may take time to rebuild.

PCS season care package for new neighbors
A PCS season care package for new neighbors can lead to new friendships!

How to Handle PCS Season as the One Left Behind

Despite these challenges, military families have to find ways to cope with the ebb and flow of friends during PCS season. After all, this is something that’s going to come around again—probably next summer.

Here are some strategies you can use when you’re struggling watching others move away during PCS season.

Maintain Those Friendships

Your friends are moving away, but they aren’t gone forever. Discuss ways to keep in touch through messages, phone calls, watch parties, shared apps, social media, etc. No, it’s not the same as dropping by their house, but it will help each of you to feel loved and supported, especially as they start over in a new place.

In military life, you never know when you might cross paths again!

Manage Your Goodbyes

Goodbyes can be draining, both emotionally and financially. Set healthy boundaries for yourself. Plan ahead to make sure you have a meaningful moment with each departing friend, whether that is a final dinner out together or a long hug on their front lawn next to the moving truck. But don’t let the goodbye process drag out into weeks of “final moments together.” That’s hard on each of you.


If you’re frustrated with your current duty assignment, getting jealous of your friends’ destinations will only make it worse. Instead of building resentment during PCS season, try to build gratitude.

Be grateful for the friends you have made so far at the assignment and for the places you have gone together. Be thankful for all the ways you have grown and learned from your friendships. The more you focus on gratitude, the more things you will find to appreciate moving forward.

Reach Out

I get it, military friendships can be exhausting. When a good friend moves away, it leaves a void that’s difficult to fill. You may be tempted to shut down and not make new friends for a while. But I promise that is not the healthy way to go.

It may feel awkward, but reach out and try to connect with these new neighbors. They are looking for advice in support in this area that’s new to them. They won’t replace your old friends, but reaching out to help others is one of the best ways to lighten your spirit and get out of an emotional slump.


Everyone needs a support system, so look around and invest in yourself by connecting with others. Try new clubs or activities in your area. Ask people you see regularly at the park or school pick-up line if you can get their number. You may find people with common interests. And you’ll be building your emergency contact list for the next time you need help. (We all know things start breaking as soon as the service member leaves for training!)

It’s never easy being the one on the flip side of PCS, but when you take these steps to help yourself rebuild and recover, you’ll come through PCS season stronger, and you’ll learn to continue building meaningful friendships at each duty station, no matter where the military sends you!


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