By: Kristy Burton, LPC-S, AADC, SAP, NCC, TA
Returning From Deployment
Initially, the relief of finally returning from deployment can override absolutely everything else. While homecoming is a happy time for everyone, it is also a time of disruption and readjustment. Be prepared for some ups and downs as you re-acclimate.
Preparing for Your Return
The name of the game here is expectation management.
Lots of folks will want to see you, talk to you, spend time with you upon your return home from deployment. In the last few weeks of your deployment, address what your schedule will look like once you’re home, and the schedules of those that want to see you.
Plan for breaks in between guests and visitors, as this kind of socialization can quickly become overwhelming. Be firm with your boundaries too. If you find that you’re close to overloading yourself, you can tell loved ones that while you’re excited to see them too, you’ll need some time before reconnecting. Go at your own pace.
If you have a partner at home, plan for your arrival as much as you can, and count on some hiccups. Make contingency plans for what you both will do and how you will prepare for delayed flights, late buses, car troubles, or other sudden changes in plans.
Once You’re Home From Deployment
Home, friends, and family are not how you left them last. This can be disorienting, even frustrating. In your absence, loved ones have found ways of working through the days and weeks without you in the mix. There are regular practices now that you’ve not been part of, and it’s normal for this sort of thing to cause friction.
Feeling out of the loop is normal. Be patient and kind with your loved ones, partners, and child(ren); everyone is re-acclimating, and it will take time to find your new normal. Give yourself grace.
Reentering the civilian world will also be a dizzying challenge. On deployment, you were surrounded by people with all the same challenges as you, the same training, the same standards to meet and very little time around civilians.
A mission coming to an end can leave you feeling oddly bereft at times, or directionless. This feeling is normal and will also pass with time.
Finding That New Normal
Reintegration is a process that takes several weeks for most service members.
You might find that in-person socialization is feeling strained or awkward for you, even with your partner or closest friends and family.
Conflict may be unexpectedly frequent between you and your partner. Emotional and/or physical intimacy can seem suddenly difficult.
All of your relationships will need navigational help, so make sure you’re talking about your feelings as kindly and often as you can. Let your loved ones know what you need and want from them, let them meet you halfway, and work together towards that new normal.
While you’re renegotiating and/or redefining relationships, getting your proverbial footing back at home, know that professional, educated help is available to you with Central Arkansas Group Counseling.
If you’re struggling to readjust, or you’re looking for a non-judgmental space to talk about your deployment, and what it’s been like to return from it, call our team in Benton, Conway, or North Little Rock to schedule an appointment.