The 5 Emotions of PCSing


Why didn’t you tell me about the emotions of a permanent change of station, or PCS? There are many feelings about PCSing and usually it depends on how you feel about your current duty station. You know the 5 stages of grief? They are typically defined as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. If you are or were recently in the midst of a PCS, you may find yourself in one of these stages.


You get the announcement and you are sad to leave your current location, sad to leave your milspouse friends, sad about where you are headed or you are simply dreading the whole moving process. Ugh. Didn’t we just move? You get that announcement of “penciled-in” orders, but you have to hold off on too much excitement (or dread) because until the hard copy orders come, it can (and does) change.


Really, this one kind of doesn’t apply. Unfortunately once you have hard copy orders there isn’t a lot of bargaining happening between you and Uncle Sam!


This is where it really hits home that PCSing is going to happen. Heading up to moving day, we're ticking off the list of all the must-do/must-see sites before we leave. Of course this includes saying not goodbyes, but see you laters or ‘til we meet again, last parties and final get-togethers. Just like the two-week period before a deployment, you find yourself or your friends pulling away ever so slightly, that self-defense mechanism rearing its ugly head as you both prepare to not be as involved in the day-to-day of each other’s lives.


Moving day = Chaos. It just does. You try to keep an eye on everything as they are packing up your household goods, but inevitably something that was not supposed to get packed suddenly goes missing and only shows up on the other end.

Anger also sets in when cleaning out the old joint. By this point, most of the stuff is on the truck and headed to your new destination, but you are cleaning up the last-minute items so you can avoid losing a deposit or paying fees. During this phase, you are wondering why you didn’t just hire someone to come do this for you (and if you did, you probably learned this from the last move).



Finally. You are on the road, or the plane or a combination of planes, trains and automobiles. The hotels, the family, the pets, all camping out in temporary housing or hotels, living out of suitcases; it’s glorious isn’t it?

Okay, it’s not, but as a military family, we make the best of it. We find a place to live or are assigned base housing. We accept that upon arrival, at least one thing will be damaged in the household goods shipment. We accept that Mary Poppins is not here to snap her fingers and march all the belongings to their new places.

It starts to sink in on a whole new level; this is our new home. We figure out the new labyrinth of Tricare in a new region, we wade through the sea of cardboard and packing paper (and we ask ourselves if it’s really necessary to pack dishtowels in paper). We register the kids for school. We check out a new city, find the parks and get plugged in. We navigate those sometimes awkward encounters with other parents trying to see if they may be a good fit, because it’s not just you on the friend-dating scene. If you have a family, compatible playmates are a must, not to mention spouses!


We miss the familiarity of the place we used to call home. Knowing the commissary or local grocery store layout by heart, knowing the primary care provider. After a bit though, it starts to become the new familiar. While we may not love every duty station assignment, by this time we have one or two adult friends to commiserate about the weather with or have at least one non-spouse, non-child conversation!

Like the traditional stages of grief, these don’t always have to happen in a particular order and often overlap and repeat. We do life. We move on, we learn, we grow. At least until the next time our service member comes home, with the words, “I have something to tell you…” and our collective guts lurch at going through the whole thing again!

What is your favorite part of a military transfer? Do you get excited or loathe PCS season?

-- Lori Stoffers is a Navy Spouse, mother and writer. Follow her blog CurlyMamaof2 here.

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