Military discharge and retirement is sometimes the natural progression, a satisfying end to a lengthy contract or career. Sometimes, discharge and retirement come on suddenly with injury, or something else necessitates your separation from active duty. Circumstances may vary, but life transitions such as these are never easy or simple.
The military often requires pre-separation counseling, attending reintegration and employment workshops, and having final medical exams performed. You are also planning your move, learning about your benefits, and thinking to the future. Among all of this, there is also fear, adjustment and readjustment, uncertainty, and grief.
Grieving the Military
This type of grief is not particular only to retiring military, but also to emergency responders who are facing retirement. There is a certain comfort in knowing that all meaningful life transitions such as these come with emotional upheaval and challenges, but this can still be isolating.
Your relationship with your work is special. Your line of work has been so demanding for so long and while your time in emergency response work or active duty military may have featured trauma, this work also gave you a sense of purpose. For years, you might have been itching to get out but now that the time has come, you’re bereft, frightened, and unsure.
Talking About It
Articulating what you’re experiencing, verbalizing the, at times, contradictory feelings you have upon discharge or retirement is important. Not just for you and your own health, but for those that will be supporting you as you transition to the civilian world.
There may be aspects of your time in emergency response or active duty military that are still difficult to talk about. Take your time with this, there is no rush.
The grief over physical and emotional injuries sustained during your time in, and the grief of the ending of a significant chapter of your life will take time to process. Be patient and kind with yourself. Try to remain open and receptive to comfort and support.
Coping and Processing
These lines of work are unique; packed to the brim with fond memories and terrible traumas, emotional scars and physical injuries. Your grief may present in waves of resentment, followed by nostalgic wistfulness, then aggravation with your own emotional whiplash. Transitioning out of the military or emergency response is going to take time to acclimate. Each feeling, no matter how confusing, is valid and fair.
As with all things in life, the more you prepare for your transition back into the civilian world, the better off you will be, so prepare where you can. When you’ve got your administrative work taken care of, it leaves room for the emotional work you will inevitably face.
There’s comfort and support to be found in family and friends, in all the corners of your life, but there are two modes of support you should consider pursuing for your betterment: connecting with retirees and veterans, such as yourself, and professional counseling.
Frankly, there is no support quite equal to that which people who have similar life experiences can give you. Veterans and retired emergency responders can provide you with some of the best comfort and validation you’ll find once you’re out/retired. Reach out to see where there are events and gatherings in your civilian community and make connections.
Besides connecting with your people, make some time for professional counseling. We here at Central Arkansas Group Counseling can provide you with educated sensitivity, and help you process all the most complicated feelings that come with military retirement and/or discharge.
Make your transition back into the civilian world as comfortable as possible and allow us the opportunity to serve you as you have served us and our communities. Call our team to schedule an appointment whenever you’re ready.