The Dangers of Anticipatory Grief, by Megan Hughes

13 Nov

Megan and Oliver Hughes have a moment together at Walter Reed after Oliver sustained serious injuries in an attack as he served with the 2-2 of the 3/1 last spring in Afghanistan. His unit will be returning in the weeks ahead. (Photo taken by Marsden Media,


Anticipatory grief is a very common experience for many military spouses.  It is a phenomenon that sometimes starts before the deployment even begins.  Maybe it sets in when the family is sitting down to make wills, fill out SGLI forms, or make a “legacy book” that contains funeral arrangements.  Especially as infantry families, we know the stakes of sending our soldiers to war.

After a deployment (or two… or five…) you would think that we would be used to it and be able to manage it better.  But the truth is, the more they go, the more we think the odds are against our soldier coming home.  The worse the odds, the more efficient the anticipatory grief.  During a deployment with multiple casualties–deaths and severe injuries of friends–the stress can break the strongest among us.  In an effort to come to terms with the unrelenting fear of the doorbell, we detach.  We convince ourselves that we are ok without our soldier.  And when we go too far, we convince ourselves that we don’t really want them back anyway.

This is harsh and it hurts, but it is REAL.  It may not be right and it’s certainly not pretty. It’s real.  The idea of losing them violently is enough to make us check out mentally and emotionally on our own terms.  As though it would somehow not hurt so badly if we have already let them go.

Be wary of what you use to fill the void of your missing soldier.  Some ways are healthy, some ways are not.  Personal development–education, exercise, hobbies, etc–are generally healthy.  Building positive relationships that encourage you to stay faithful and provide opportunities for personal growth are also a good outlet.  Beware of friends that feed your fears, that steal your focus from your longterm goals, or start replacing your relationship with your soldier.

Be careful, ladies.  This last month of deployment is the absolute worst for mental and emotional stability.  Our unit has experienced so much hurt and loss.  This has been a horrible year for us.  I know you are afraid.  I know you have found new strength and independence this year, and you are worried that you will lose it when they come home.  Please hold the faith–remember why you love your husbands, honor your commitments, and don’t let the home fires die.

No amount of anticipatory grief will save you from the devastation of your soldier’s death or injury, but it can absolutely kill your marriage.

Hold strong.  You’re almost there.

Megan Hughes, veteran Army spouse of the dashing, U.S. Army NCO, Oliver Hughes, mother of four incredibly resilient and playful children, OFS spouse, and friend to many, has stayed connected to her unit sisters throughout a very tough deployment in which her own Solider returned seriously injured last spring.  Although the clan now resides in San Antonio, focusing on Oliver’s recovery, Megan remains a voice of experience to those awaiting the return of their own Solider in the weeks ahead.  


8 Responses to “The Dangers of Anticipatory Grief, by Megan Hughes”

  1. Kat Forader November 13, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    Love you Megan Hughes. Wise counsel from a Proverbs 31 woman.

  2. kathleenwst November 13, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Great post, not something often talked about , and you did it well. May you be blessed as you help others.

  3. Kim Crist November 13, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    I really appreciated this insight, Megan! I was wondering,”Why on earth does it seem so much harder when we’re almost at the finish line!” I’m so tired and ready for him to be here, the waiting has been draining. Withdrawing emotionally is so tempting in the short run, “If I don’t care/think about him then losing him won’t be so hard.” Yet, that mind sight is completely opposed to Christ’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” I have to pray to keep that faith every day, its so hard. But, we’re nearly there! Hope you all are well in Texas!

  4. Terry Kilpatrick November 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    I am a LTC who just returned from Iraq. It was my third tour in this war. Most Americans think of casualties as men and women who have sustained injuries or made the ultimate sacrifice while serving “over there”. They have no idea of the casualties on the home front and the sacrifices made by those left behind. Families have been destroyed from repeating tours in a combat zone. You have really hit the nail on the head when you describe what this does to spouses, particularly spouses who have gone through this awful ordeal more than once. Correct is your position regarding the spouse and the children as well. My wife always told me it doesn’t get any easier. It gets harder. I have always believed that the US military should honor military wives with medals or trophys they can display proudly. “Iron Mikes?” How about “Iron Michelles?” “Bronze Bruces?” How about “Bronze Bonnies”? Yes, I know that doesn’t help while they are gone. Only their footsteps approaching the front door can do that. They should give those fantastic heroes who battle the home front, often alone and with no where near the support the troops get with something other than family support groups that aren’t usually near the spouse for them to see or hear from when they usually need that support. Of course, that is usually the way it is for the reservist’s wife. Active duty wives have it better in that regards. But still, the ordeal is not easy.

  5. Joan November 16, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    You really hit the nail on the head with this one. To hear/know that as a wife this is an ok feeling to have, that this is part of the deployment/redeployment and that everything is going to be ok gives me hope. I cried when I read this because it felt as if I had wrote it.

  6. Greta November 19, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    You have become a seasoned military spouse to be able to write down so eloquently and to the point of what goes on in the minds of spouses. Bravo Megan!

  7. Claudio January 1, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

    You post very interesting content here. Your blog deserves much bigger audience.
    It can go viral if you give it initial boost, i know useful service that can help you, simply search in google:
    svetsern traffic tips


  1. Dealing with Anticipatory Grief - August 19, 2013

    […] aware of the psychological condition known as anticipatory grief. Here's a blog post about it – The Dangers of Anticipatory Grief, by Megan Hughes | I've also found studies put out by the military about this form of grief. I was gripped by it […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: