I’ll never forget it. I was heading into my office when my phone rang and I heard my husband Ethan say:
“Babe, I got orders.”
It’s the one sentence that as a military spouse can take you from 0 to 100 in .25 seconds. We had been in Alaska for 3 years now, so while I knew it was coming, I wasn’t prepared for what came out of his mouth next:
“I got a remote tour…to South Korea. And I leave in a few months.”
Girlfriend let me tell you…my heart DROPPED and almost immediately, it felt like I went through the seven stages of grief. I was in shock, I was angry, depressed…you name it, I experienced it. I was on an emotional roller coaster. “How could he PCS by himself,” I thought.
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“We’re supposed to do this together! How could the Air Force do this to me?!” A few hours days later, after I calmed down and realized that this comes with the military-life territory, I began to really get myself together and prepare as best as I could for the inevitable: my honey was going to a new duty station….without me.
Let’s be honest…as military spouses, we sign up for moments like these when we say “I Do.” Somewhere down the line, we figured maybe…JUST maybe, we won’t have to deal with our sweethearts being gone, but deep down, we know that one day, our time will come.
But that doesn’t mean moments like these still won’t still have our heads spinning. While there isn’t anything you can do to change the assignment, there are a few things you can do to prepare for and get through it.
1. GET YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER.
Just because Ethan is gone, doesn’t mean running the house comes to a screeching halt. I learned the hard way that banks and other institutions do NOT care if you are married and are just trying to take care of business while your spouse is gone. You can’t just call and get information you expect to be privy to just because you two share the same last name.
This is why having all your legal ducks in a row is KEY. While we still make decisions together, the reality is, he is on the other side of the world. Sometimes, decisions have to be made quickly and there are things I still have to take care of in his absence. I still have to run a house….and so do you.
Whether it’s dealing with making financial, medical or housing decisions, having a power of attorney allows you to act on your spouses behalf and it will save you SO many headaches down the road. It doesn’t take long to get one..all you have to do is make sure you two take a trip to legal before he or she leaves, because without one…life will be way harder than what it needs to be.
Also, If you haven’t done so yet, go around your base with your husband or wife. Visit key facilities where you can get easy and helpful information for deployments/separations. It never hurts to know your way around.
2. AGREE ON A PLAN FOR COMMUNICATING.
Make a plan to talk to your spouse as often as you can, in as many ways as you can, but also be realistic. Ethan and I set aside a certain time every week to have our FaceTime date. Sure we text and send video messages all the time, but this special time of the week gives us something to look forward to. It’s our uninterrupted time to connect with each other.
In today’s world, there are PLENTY of ways to connect. One of our favorites other than FaceTime is Glide, a video messaging app. However, even though we live in a time where everyone is easily accessible, communication access may not always be reliable when your service member is in remote locations.
Yes, there may even be times when you may not be able to talk to your spouse every day, so keep your plans flexible and be willing to use a variety of ways to keep in touch (email, webcam, Glide, Skype, Facetime or my personal favorite – handwritten letters). It may even be nice to keep a journal, so that you two can reflect on your adventures together once he or she returns.
And remember, in those times when you guys can’t talk, it’s important for you to…
3. DO YOU BOO.
You know ALL those things you’ve always wanted to do? Now is the PERFECT time for your to go do them. If you spend ALL your time obsessing over the fact that your better half is gone, you will be doing yourself a disservice. Yes, I’m bummed that Ethan is gone, but at the end of the day, I LIVE IN ALASKA. ALASKA!!
Since he’s been gone, I’ve gotten into hiking, traveled to different parts of the state I haven’t been to, went to a reindeer farm, and fished for salmon! I’ve tried new recipes, started journaling again and even learned a new language.
Even if you don’t live in Alaska, imagine all the things you can be doing in your town! Visit the farmer’s market, take up a new hobby. Rediscover your passions. Taking time to invest in yourself not only helps the time go by, but it also allows you to continue to grow and become a better you.
And don’t forget to eat well, exercise and get plenty of rest. After all, you owe it to yourself to be in tip-top shape when he/she returns. 🙂
4. FIND YOUR TRIBE.
We found out we were expecting our first child 2 days before Ethan left. TWO. WHOLE. DAYS. Needless to say I was an emotional wreck for SO many different reasons. But looking back on it, if I learned nothing else during this entire experience of being separated, it’s that I can NOT do it alone.
For me, it was mixture of my church family, sorority sisters, close family and friends that kept me from going off the deep end. I must have texted my friends on a daily basis saying “I can’t do this. How am I going to survive a pregnancy by myself?!” And they were all there to remind me that I wasn’t by myself. Just because he is gone, doesn’t mean that I am alone.
I know sometimes we think we can do it all ourselves, but we are not superheroes. Sometimes we just need someone to sit with us, pray with us, hold us when we cry or simply listen while we vent and say “I feel you boo.”
Even now that our sweet baby boy is here, having my circle of women to lean on makes the days where I want to just stay in bed and sip wine from the bottle far and few in between. They remind me that I am strong, that I was made for this and I’m doing great. I thank God for my tribe. He put the right women in my path.
So I encourage you, to get out there and make friends with other military spouses. Get involved at church. Not only will it help time go by faster, but you will be reminded that you are not alone in this experience and build a beautiful community in the process. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, having a tribe to do life with makes everything better.
5. CAPTURE THE MAGIC
So obviously this one is optional, but I totally support it 1000%!! There’s nothing I love more than looking through our albums. They tell the story of how far Ethan and I have come. It’s not just because I’m a photographer that I truly believe in the magic of capturing the magic of you and your family before your loved one leaves.
It’s because I’m a wife and a mother…a daughter, a sister, an aunt and a friend too. Existing in photographs and making unforgettable memories is what gets me through some of my loneliest nights.
Sure this time is hectic. Yes there are a million things to do. Make it a million and one. Don’t forget to set aside moments to enjoy each other as a couple and as a family.
Take plenty of photos. Make silly videos. Go on a family outing and simply be present. Invest in a professional session and surprise your boo thang with an album to enjoy while they’re gone. The beautiful memories, these snapshots in time that you create now, will help sustain you and your entire family through your loved one’s absence.
Images credited to – Sachel Samone Photography
A Georgia native and proud Air Force wife, Sachel Samone has a heart for photographing women and couples who may be older in age, but young at heart. Primarily serving the women over the age of 40, Sachel finds joy in capturing the wisdom, faith and love of her elders. “After studying broadcast news in college and working a few years as a reporter, I truly believe that while journalism has taught me how to document life, photography has taught me how to SEE life. And I SEE you. I see your strength. I see your hurt…your pain. I see how Genuine you are…how Confident you are…how FEARLESS you are. I know that as women we often struggle to see our own beauty..to tell our own stories and that’s why I’ve dedicated myself to telling your story and capturing the most captivating portraits you have ever seen of yourself. I don’t care how much you weigh, how old you are or how imperfect you think you are…the truth is you are perfect just the way God made you and I want to show you how beautiful you are. I firmly believe that you have a story that deserves to be told. It is my dream to build a community of people who are genuinely confident in who they are and fearless enough to let their light shine bright in a dimly-lit world. This experience with me is more than just posing pretty and smiling big. It’s about telling your story…capturing your magic…your incredibly powerful strength, grace and wisdom. One day, your children will grow up and if they’re anything like me, they will look for photos of you. This portrait experience is your gift to them. These portraits of you are your legacy.” She is humbled to have her work been published in top publications including The Knot, Denim + Grace, Chic Brown Bride, Beauty Revived and Simply Elope. She has also been recognized for her work by the United States Air Force and the Department of Defense. When she’s not shooting, you can find Sachel with her enjoying the outdoors and breathtaking views of Alaska with her husband Ethan, their new baby boy J’Aiden and their super cuddly dog Teddy George the Bichpoo.