Tag Archives: fear

Building a foundation of support, even from planks of uncertainty

2 Jul

Jill Bozeman, Founder and Director of Operation Faithful Support, Inc.

I’m going to try to hit as hard as I can to get your attention, without over-dramatizing the home front battle.  Firstly, I’d like you to look over your life and think of all the unexpected hardships you’ve faced, as a child or as an adult.  Then I want you to ask yourself if there was a way you could have planned for any of those hardships in advance?  More than likely the answer is no, because for the most part, you couldn’t have seen them coming.

So now, I want you to imagine those same hardships coming unexpectedly during a deployment, when your main line of support, your partner, is in a combat zone.

If you had nothing to do but take care of your daily duties and responsibilities on the home front, the continued stress of concern for your Solider is enough to make you weak in the knees.  Add to that even one single additional hardship and you have a cocktail for emotional exhaustion.

What happens when Mama is exhausted?

What happens when Mama is depressed?

OFS (Operation Faithful Support) welcomed home an Infantry Brigade last January.   Some of those we sent did not return.  And of those that returned, some did not return the same.  At least one Soldier returned as a single parent due to a home front suicide.  Yes, this Brigade lost a spouse.

She had friends that loved her and supported her, but the truth is that she needed more than what one or two friends who were in the same boat could offer her.   She needed an entire framework of support, because we can’t foresee the struggles and joys the deployment year may hold.  We need a whole community.

I believe a spouse’s number one resource is her (or his) FRG (Family Readiness Group).  I’ve heard enough negative commentary about FRGs  to write a gossip column, but my first-hand experience literally changed my life.  It was so supportive and so empowering that I was inspired to do my part; I started OFS (Operation Faithful Support, Inc.) which as a program, has now supported three unit deployments since, earning lifelong friends and contacts all over the world.

All I had to do was reach back to the hands that were reaching out to me.  Even though the outcome was uncertain, and the rumors about FRGs were compelling, when the hand was extended, I took it!   And I thank God!

For the spouses and families serving on the home front, don’t throw those pamphlets and flyers away.   Don’t delete the emails without engaging the sender.  Answer the phone when you see it is your “Key Caller”, as she is a lifeline extended to you for contact and resources.  Behind the acronyms are real people who live to help, support, and love those belonging to our military communities.  Many times they are spouses, or former service members who are working for those programs, services, and non-profits.  If anyone knows the burden of deployment, it is them.

The only thing that is certain before, during or after deployment is that you are loved, and you will need that love to make it through.

Ask a friend to attend an FRG meeting with you.  And if you don’t have a friend, call your FRG leader and tell her the truth….that you are nervous about coming.  I believe, before you hang up you’ll have found a friend.

Jill Bozeman is a committed, 17 year Army Wife, and the founder and dirctor of Operation Faithful Support, Inc, a grassroots, pro-marriage educational support program for the spouses of deployed service members.  She and her husband, SFC Wade Bozeman, and their two children are stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky.  For more information about OFS, please visit  www.operationfaithfulsupport.com.

Army Wife Says, Second Deployment R & R Presented Unique Challenges

30 Nov

Aprille Donaldson, Army Wife, mother to Ezra, and Operation Faithful Support Spouse

Aprille Donaldson is an Army wife to her Solider, Russ, a stay-at-home mommy to their bright and active toddler, Ezra, and an Operation Faithful Support spouse.  While Russ is wrapping up his second deployment to Afghanisatn, Aprille commands the Donaldson homefront.  She enjoys Facebook, coffee, sweets, playing the piano, writing music, photography, and hanging out in the military wife blogosphere. She has been actively involved in the 3/1 Operation Faithful Support chapter at Fort Knox.  Check out her blog at  http://www.beautifulinhistime.com/blog.php

Prior to our mid-tour leave, I attended many meetings about RnR and reintegration. They warned that RnR could be a difficult time and that we can’t expect perfection. I heard it, but I didn’t really comprehend it. RnR during our first deployment was amazingly easy and I didn’t think that this time would be any different.

But it only took a few hours into my husband’s time home for me to realize the truth behind the warnings. I didn’t realize quite how much our family had changed until we tried to do something simple like watch a TV show. We used to watch TV with the computer on the coffee table while our baby Ezra would lay or sit quietly next to us. Now TV watching involved a noisy kid crawling all over both of us, messing with the computer, and clamoring for attention. It was a little thing – but it was an adjustment. I had adjusted gradually over the last 8 months but Russ had to adjust on the spot. Something neither of us expected–and it caused stress.

The first few days, Russ was in “go mode”– full speed ahead, take charge. It didn’t matter what it was, it was a task that needed accomplished and he was going to accomplish it. His anxiety levels were high, he was defensive, and he couldn’t relax. As we struggled to adjust to this highly dynamic force in our lives, Russ often felt like he was doing “everything wrong.” I responded by being stressed and anxious, which made Ezra fussy, which made Russ even more stressed. It was a horrible cycle. I kept thinking was “WHY IS THIS SO HARD!?!?!” It took lots of tears before I realized i needed to change my attitude. I was expecting perfection and when things weren’t perfect, I became so fixated on the problems, and trying to fix them, that I was missing just enjoying that Russ was home! I had to let go of my expectations, relax, and just focus on the good things–to set aside the problems and realize that 14 days isn’t enough time to fix everything. I took my hands off and let Russ take over as he saw fit – even if it was different from my way. I focused less on my husband’s anxiety problems and spiritual struggles and more on the love he was lavishing on us.

One of the things that was crucial for us was getting baby-free date time. Every time we had a date we came home feeling so NORMAL and in love. We also got some counseling. For some couples, doing this over RnR might not be the best option – but for us, it was. Having more freedom to talk about things in an environment that felt safe to us helped us so much.

As the two weeks progressed, our time together went from being difficult and stressful to being wonderful, amazing, and just plain old normal… and trust me, if you are feeling normal, you can count your time together as a HUGE success!   

A more detailed account of our mid-tour leave (with pictures) can be found by visiting my blog: http://www.beautifulinhistime.com/blog/-so-how-was-your-rnr-

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, http://www.marsdenmedia.com)

 

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.