Going through a deployment is uniquely stressful and confusing for the spouses who are left behind. Their spouse’s job has an inherent risk of harm, communication is often inconsistent, and life back home feels so different. Their spouse hasn’t died, but the lack of presence and threat of danger makes it feel almost like a death. If you are looking for ways to comfort and support these people as their husband or wife is overseas, familiarize yourself with these pointers on how to support military spouses during deployment.
Send a Card or Gift
Sending a card or gift is one of the many impactful ways to show your appreciation for military families. This is a good option if you don’t know the military spouse well. An affirming note from someone who notices their situation is typically welcome and goes a long way.
Don’t Avoid the Subject
Military spouses suffer the absence of their husband or wife for months, sometimes even years. Often, the worst thing to do is not talk about their spouse’s absence. This confirms their absence even further, as if everyone who knew them doesn’t think about them now that they’re out of sight. Don’t press them, but show that you remember their partner. Sometimes, reminiscing about past experiences shared with the deployed spouse can gift the spouse at home with a better sense of their companion’s presence.
Validate Their Feelings, Experiences, and Pain
If you’re given access to someone’s emotions about the deployment, steward them well. Validate what they’re feeling in this unprecedented time and acknowledge their daily pain. Try not to minimize their grief or fear or “fix” their feelings—this is an indication that what they’re struggling through has been misunderstood.
Don’t Compare Your Experience to Theirs
One important way to validate them is by not comparing your experiences with theirs. Even if you’ve spent time at home as a military spouse, inserting your trauma into a conversation deflects from what they’re currently living through. And if you been in their shoes, relating their experience to your own shows them you don’t consider their uniquely painful time away from their spouse to be quite so unique.
Make Time to Be Present
Another means of supporting military spouses during deployment is by making sure you’re present with them. They’ve lost, for a time, someone who was constantly around them. Life apart is typically much quieter, so initiating plans with them can help take away that silence for a day.