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The Deployment Center: Family - Emotional Phases

The Emotional Phases Of Deployment


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During deployments, many Reservists would agree that the hardest thing to deal with is being separated from his or her spouse and family. Likewise, this is probably the most difficult aspect for the spouse and family! Deployments can produce a variety of feelings but most couples experience a predictable cycle of emotions. Different feelings and reactions may occur in each cycle. Listed below are some of the more common emotions.

Pre-Deployment Phase (6-8 weeks prior to deployment). Feelings in this stage may include fear, anger, denial, resentment, excitement, and guilt. Common thoughts include "What will I do without him/her?" "I can't believe he/she is actually leaving me!" "How in the world will I cope with the kids?" and "I wish the ship would leave so I could get on with my life!" Reactions during this phase may vary between "honeymoon" like behavior to severe arguments.

Deployment Phase (during the deployment). Feelings in this stage may include relief, anxiety, enthusiasm, pride, and sense of abandonment. Thoughts associated with these feelings include "Now I can get on with my life!" "He left me...he actually left me!" "What if something happens that I can't handle?" and "I'm handling things so much better than I thought I would!". Reactions during this phase may include a change in schedule (eating and sleeping habits), intense busyness, establishing routine, and being independent.

Reunion Phase (1-6 weeks prior to reunion)
. Feelings in this stage may include anxiety, excitement, guilt, fear, and elation. Thoughts associated with this phase may include "Oh no, I didn't accomplish everything I needed to!" "Hey, I'm managing just fine without him/her!" "I can't wait to see him/her!" or "I wonder if he/she still loves me". All of these feelings and thoughts are normal. Reactions during this phase may include home improvement (cleaning, decorating, etc.) and increased focus on personal appearance (new hairstyle, shopping for a new outfit or lingerie, etc.).

Post-Deployment Phase (1-6 weeks post reunion). Feelings in this stage may include euphoria, resentment, and role confusion. Although this is an exciting and happy time for most couples, it is often the most difficult period they face. The servicemember may feel displaced and no longer needed in the day-to-day functioning of the family. The spouse may feel resentful when the servicemember attempts to take charge of an activity (finances, discipline, parenting). While they are reestablishing intimacy, they are also renegotiating their relationship and redefining roles.

Each of you will react to separation differently. Intensity of feelings vary, and normal ups and downs will occur regularly during separation. If you are having problems coping with the separation or feel overwhelmed, there are both civilian and military resources than can be of assistance to you.

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