This year I’ve been so excited about the holidays! I’m always excited about Thanksgiving because of the food, Christmas because of the gifts I get my babies, and the New Year because it means new beginnings. Well, this year is a little (ok, a lot) more special than the past few years. Since we’re a military family, I’ve learned a few things about coping with the holidays during separation.
Let me start from the beginning (insert flashback here). My husband and I met when we were both in the Army, so we dealt with quite a few separations and deployments. Times were particularly difficult over the holidays when we weren’t together. After dating for two years, we got married. He deployed shortly after. He was able to come home to visit for two weeks during his deployment. Since I knew he only had a short time of being home, I planned every single holiday of the year within two weeks. Every day he woke up our house was decorated with a different holiday theme. It took a lot of work to keep it a surprise since I had to decorate while he was sleep, but it was very much worth it.
Two days after Thanksgiving and two days before he had to go back for his deployment, we found out we were pregnant with our first baby. That was the first time my husband wasn’t able to spend Christmas with me.
The following year, we were able to spend the holidays together because he was back from deployment. However, the year after that my husband was going to be deployed again. This time we found out two months (on my oldest son’s first birthday, to be exact) before his deployment that I was pregnant again. My husband left in October, so he wasn’t here for Thanksgiving or Christmas. We were in Colorado away from our family, but luckily my family was able to travel that year to spend time with us over Christmas.
My husband came back from deployment two weeks before our new baby was due. We moved to Virginia for six months and then my husband came up on orders to Korea, so we decided it was best for us that the boys and I relocate to Miami while he was gone since we’re retiring here.He left right before Christmas, so again, I was in a new city with a 6 month old and a 2 year old and no family over the holidays.
He was gone for 2 ½ years and was only able to come back every six months to visit. That meant that almost every birthday or holiday, I had to prepare for by myself. Christmas was the worst! Every year of our marriage, except one year, I had to put up and take down the tree and decorations myself. One year I was so depressed after the holidays, that I left it up until January 30th.
This year (yes, the flashback is over) he’s finally back in Florida! He was here for my oldest son’s birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and he’ll be here for the New Year! I can finally take a break and relax a little. It’s good having him home and having my family complete over the holidays!
From all of the separations, I’ve learned a few things for coping with the holidays during separation.
- Keep Family Traditions – Even if your loved one can’t be there, it helps to keep the flow of things if you follow through with traditions. If you all eat takeout on Christmas Eve, then eat takeout on Christmas Eve. If you visit pumpkin patches every year and love the hayrides, don’t miss out on those!
- Email, Call, or Write as Often as Possible – The holidays are supposed to bring everyone closer, but it’s difficult when your loved one is so far away. Even if they can’t respond to your mail or take your calls everyday, contacting them and keeping open communication will help ease some of the loneliness you may feel especially if you have no friends or family near. It will also help them know that you’re thinking about them just as much as they’re thinking about you.
- Have a Support System – One of the things that helped get me through some lonely times was being able to pick up my phone and call my parents, sisters, and close friends who know exactly how it feels to be away during deployments for the holidays. If you’re military, there usually are military spouse groups who offer a lot of support. Miami definitely doesn’t have a huge military presence, so it was a little challenging to find people who understood why my husband was gone for so long without feeling sorry for us, but I was able to build a support system that really has helped me out in some tough times.
Have you dealt with any family separations over the holidays? How did you handle it?