You Got the Activation Call – Now What?

March 31, 2016


By Danielle S., Mother of Two Our Military Kids Grant Recipients

As military spouses, and specifically Guard and Reserve spouses, most of us have had “the moment” that we knew things were about to change. You know “the moment”, spouses; it is the moment your husband or wife says any of the words, ‘got the call’, ‘deployment’, ‘activation’, or even ‘involuntary orders’. Our heart sinks for a moment because we know it means a good-bye is on the horizon. If you are anything like me, the heart in the stomach moment is short lived as my brain starts spinning with all of the things I need to remember to take care of before he leaves. We need to update the will, the power of attorney, get the cars serviced, tell the kids’ schools, and the list goes on and on. These are all very important tasks designed to make the transition as smooth as possible as you move from normal into the new normal that is deployment. We all know the contents of the pre-deployment checklist; but that isn’t what I am talking about. I am talking about the things that should be on the checklist. We check off tasks on the pre-deployment checklist that will help us survive deployment; but there is a whole other list of things we should check off so we can thrive during the deployment. For most of us, this list was put together by our experiences with past deployments, articles, or even advice from other seasoned military spouses. No matter where we get it – this list is just as important, and sometimes more of a lifeline to us than any other. The reason this sort of list isn’t circulated in a generic way at pre-deployment briefings is because it is more personalized, fluid, and individual.  In fact, my list has been a bit different for each deployment we have experienced with my Marine. Ready to start your list? Put your big girl or big boy pants on, get a great notebook or journal, and start writing! Did you write those 3 items on your list? You should – they are my top 3.

  1. Put your big girl/boy pants on. That’s it. You will have terrible days, you will have great days, and some days you will just be happy you had the chance to put pants on at all.
  2. Get a great journal or notebook. My suggestions? Get one that is sturdy enough to carry with you every day. Not too small, not too big. I like getting ones about the 5×7 size, but that is me. Find what speaks to you – I like getting pretty journals, ones that make me feel good when I look at it. There are so many great ones out there – they have pretty covers, or inspirational quotes on them, your favorite comic series – whatever it is that speaks to you and can be carried with you wherever you go.
  3. Start writing. Two words that have a huge impact. When our spouses leave, everything is on our shoulders. A thousand details are spinning around in our heads; dance class at 5:30, can’t forget to pay that bill, what do I need at the store, how did he tell me to check my oil? It’s all there, spinning around. Write it down; the moment you think of it, write it in your notebook. Deployment is stressful enough – we need to find ways to quiet the stress. Knowing that you have written it down and can go back to trigger your memory; it helps in inexplicable amounts. Half of our worry is that we will forget some of the things we need to do or remember. By writing it down, we take away at least one worry. Also, use the notebook as a journal when you need to. Feeling down? Write it down. It is scientifically proven that writing can make you feel better – much like a good cry. Holding feelings in during deployment is common; we have our big girl pants on, we are strong military families, we want to be strong for the kids. No matter the reason, valid or not, we hold them in. This is not good. Get them out – writing in a private journal lets us do that without judgment. I have also started writing at least three positive things that happened each day. It’s easy to focus on the bad of deployment but what a difference it makes when you also see there is good in it! So get out your journal, notebook or iPad – whatever method you choose – and start writing!

As I said before, this is a very personalized, fluid, constantly changing list. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. The standard suggestions that you read in every article are there for a reason. They work. So add these to your list: take care of yourself, spend time on a hobby, start a project, see a therapist, exercise, travel, go out with friends, attend activities at your spouse’s unit, STAY BUSY. I know what you are thinking – I am on a blog about helping our military kids, why is she talking only about the spouses? My reason is simple, if we are taking good care of ourselves, we will be better equipped to take care of our military children. So take care of yourself, military spouses – your military kids need you and are following your example!