Saturday, November 8, 2014

I Am Broken Now - My Life Post Deployment

A Glimpse Into One Spouse's Life Post Deployment

I've heard this a number of times. When deployed soldiers are asked how they feel, when they know combat is imminent, they answer matter-oh-factly, "I was planning on dying." I think it is the way that they can keep going through it, and not let fear paralyze them. They don't plan to come home. They don't/can't imagine a life beyond the deployment while they're in it. Ask them. The deployment is all there is until the bullet or IED takes you. ... 

The strange thing is, that in a distant remote way, I get this. Even though I talked about my husband coming home. Even though if asked I would have said confidently, "He's coming home." ... Deep down, I believed that every goodbye was the last one. Every email was the last one. Every phonecall was the last one. ... After a time, that messes with you. You get broken. 

I grieved the loss of my husband even when he wasn't dead. I grieved alone. Who would understand my grieving the living? I didn't even understand it. But it was real and it happened and something inside of me broke. Like losing a finger or an arm, I'm missing something and it won't grow back. I don't understand it. I'm learning to live with it now. 

My husband will attest to the fact that I still believed I was going to lose him even after he came home. I had a very difficult time saying goodbye so he could go to work for the day (for months), because it was "the last time" all over again. Drill weekends were another exercise in anxiety and depression. There were days I paced back and forth in our living room because I didn't know what else to do. I wondered if perhaps I was losing it. Perhaps I had. 

I have finally begun to understand that something in me broke and I can't just go back or "find" what used to be again. I have accepted this, but wonder if there is another side, if one day I will come through, if this brokenness, this empty feeling inside will eventually fade. I still struggle to connect with my husband. I still find myself thinking of a future without him, even though I love him and want to spend the rest of my life with him. I struggle with being too independent. 

But perhaps the hardest thing is that, few other people can understand. Who "plans" on their husband dying. Who understands grieving a living person? It doesn't make sense. It's not logical. But, for some of us who send our husbands away, that is what deep down we have accepted. They will not be coming home and we will survive. And, at least for me, it wrought changes in me that I could not have foreseen, nor fully understand today.  


  1. You protected yourself the best way you could. Your post is wonderful and I'm sure your experience will resonate with many, many people. On a much lesser scale, I felt similar when my husband traveled extensively. I didn't want to rely on him or get used to him being around, because I knew he was only leaving again. It takes time to trust again.

    1. Agreed. It does take time. And sometimes, you change so that you no longer recognize yourself and you have to find a new normal. Blessings!

  2. I understand you. I do agree though that we are probably one of the few. I feel like I am still stuck in some extra branch of the deployment cycle. One that keeps me from being able to have a future with my soldier beyond today, beyond this moment. I fear the next deployment, the one that hasn't even been scheduled and cant manage to think of a future with my husband, cant see growing old anymore, cant imagine birthdays, or events. I constantly feel like every separation is a loss, and it has created a sense of apathy inside me. I don't know how to explain it.

    Are you still in our Unit?

    I would love to have you guest author a few blog posts on our frg page. I love the way you write.

  3. I understand. I have non-combat PTSD and don't have (never have had) a special someone in my life. The only person who loved me growing up was my grandmother and when she died it was a total shock to me. I was only 9 and she still swam much farther than I ever could 3 times a day at the lake. She hiked up hills that made me out of breath and I needed to stop. But mostly, She was the only person who ever saw anything worthwhile in me. The Only person who hugged me. The only person who believed in me. The only person in my family that even "saw" me. After her death, I changed a lot. Sure, abuse was part of problem, but a bigger part (that hurt much more) was that no one cared about me at all. Not my parents, I had no friends (and I lost those I had any connections with because I had become "too wierd" and "had changed"). Although I had always found my passion in animals - they turned into my family and world - forever. They were all I had who cared about me, accepted me, and loved me for who I was. They understood me and I understood them. However, no matter how healthy the animal - it will die before us. And animal emergencies aren't treated as a human one would. Often emergencies simply end in death because of cost or trouble. Some dogs die much sooner than others and most often, unexpectedly, as my Grandmother had. So, yes, I do understand. I am often grieving a great dog's death (particularly a Service Dog) while they are still here. Any little thing that signals something *might* be wrong...I go into a panic. All the warning I had for my grandmother was a feeling that I should turn around and give her an extra hug that last Wednesday I saw her. (I didn't - I thought she'd think I was lame.) Something like that is usually what I have for a warning. I had the same warning before my barn burnt to ground in less than 5 minutes before my eyes. I have no human family now, as before. I never learned that part after my Grandmother died. I don't have human friends, I never re-learned that part, either. I only have my animals (mainly dogs & horses), and their lives go by in a flash. There are plenty of emergencies where I may never see them again. There are many mornings I have awoken happy only to find that someone has unexpectedly passed. So, yes, I grieve the living. I grieve as if they already gone. I live in fear that they will be gone at any given moment- even if they are laying on the bed happily snoozing against me. I have lost so many I hold dear unexpectedly. Now I simply expect to lose them. I expect to lose my family and those who are good to me fastest of all.