Sometime between the hamburger I could hardly stomach and standing right there in front of him, I resolved that this was going to actually happen. My husband was leaving for war. Again. I knew logically that I’d done this goodbye before, that I knew I could survive deployment, and that the only thing I needed to focus on was that he needed all the love and support I had to give. The thing about logically knowing something and actual feelings is that they live on separate planets that eventually collide.
Over 500 Iowa soldiers said their final “See you later”‘s on Saturday. We lifted our eyes to meet our best friend’s gaze and forced out the words that we’d play over and over and over again in our minds for weeks to come. One last hug. One last “I love you.”
In that moment time stops. It’s not necessarily what you say but how you say it and it’s not really about the “goodbye” but more so freezing that second of time to hold onto. It’s a moment we cannot have regrets with. It’s a few seconds of time that we spend knowing we may never get it back again. It’s being willing to let go, but being strong enough to hold on.
Hundreds of wives came back this weekend from Texas without their husband or boyfriend with them. Each of us carry a sort of grief that can often go unnoticed because we are, in fact, military wives and we are strong.
As a 23 year military wife with four deployments I am here to tell them, “It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to vent. It’s okay that you came home, looked around, and felt utterly and totally alone. It’s okay that you want to stay in your jammies and binge netflix Hallmark movies. It’s okay to miss him already. This is the hard part. That last hug still resonates and we have yet to get into our deployment routines. Right now, today, is probably the worst pain you are feeling or will feel. Let it be what it is. Cry it out. Scream it out. Give yourself permission to feel this. If you don’t, you’ll bottle it all up and it will spill out into the deployment in ways that could hurt you, your spouse, and your children. Don’t listen to people who say, “Just be strong,” or, “It will be over before you know it.” Listen to your heart. Feel what you need to feel in these next 72 hours.”
Then, we will pick ourselves back up and we will forge ahead. We WILL be strong. We WILL be tough. We will do things other wives could not fathom to do. But for right now, while that kiss still lingers on your lips, please give yourself permission to feel.
Journal it out, call a friend who will listen to you (without trying to relate to you or give you advice), pump out some reps at the gym, get a babysitter and lay in bed with his pillow and bawl for an hour. Whatever it is you need to do to process this monumental life experience, do it.
Even if it’s just to have someone acknowledge that you are a bad ass who just went through a hell of a hard time; find that person. You deserve to be heard, validated, and loved through this. It’s essential, because after about a week it’s your job to suck it up and get on with it.
In the chaos that is this kind of pain, never forget, while few will understand there are those that do. Find them. Hold onto them. Reach out. Don’t isolate.
A good cry never felt so good. Have at it ladies. Get it out. There’s plenty of time for us to be tough. And tough we will be.