Emotional Ups and Downs of Deployment

Sailors have been deploying and their loved ones have awaited their return over the centuries, but that doesn’t mean deployments are easy. It’s not just daily life that you must handle on your own, but the roller coaster of emotions with which you have to deal.

Much research has been done to understand the common feelings Sailors and their families experience when separated from each other due to a military assignment. You may experience similar feelings or your reactions may be very different. There is no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” feeling.

If you find your feelings are hindering your daily activities do, don’t hesitate to contact your Fleet and Family Support Center, a chaplain, medical or Military OneSource for assistance.

Typical reactions include the following:

Anticipation of Loss
Anticipating loss occurs before deployment. It’s a time of tension and confusing emotions. You may be angry and resentful of the hours required to get ready for departure. You may or may not talk about your fears and concerns. Service members feel guilty that they are leaving their families. Family members may feel abandoned. Arguments and bickering are common. Although irritating, it can be a way for you to distance emotionally in preparation for the separation.

Detachment and Withdrawal
The day or two before deployment can be difficult. You stop sharing thoughts and feelings with others. This is a natural response as separation is imminent. Although physically together, you are separating emotionally. This can be especially difficult if it is seen as rejection rather than as a reaction to trying circumstances. Often non-deploying spouses think, “If you have to go, go.” And Sailors think, “Let’s get on with it!”

Emotional Disorganization
Once the deployment begins you may feel an initial sense of relief followed by guilt. You may feel disorganized, depressed, or restless. Old routines have been disrupted and new ones not yet established. Give yourself a few weeks, and you’ll begin to feel more in control.

Recovery
At some point during the deployment, new routines are established. You feel more comfortable with the reorganization of roles and responsibilities. New sources of support and a new sense of independence and freedom are developed.

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