How I Survived {and Thrived} as a Wife and Mom During A Year Long Military Deployment

Author’s note :: I am keenly aware that some military spouses are not lucky enough to see their partners at the end of deployment, and I realize the chance to be reunited with my husband is a blessing. The words below are my own authentic experience, and for all grieving a spouse, my heart is with you. 

How I Survived {and Thrived} as a Wife and Mom During A Year Long Military Deployment

How one of the worst years of my life turned into one of the most important years of my life: my experience as a military wife during a deployment

I vividly remember the moment my husband told me he was deploying overseas for a year. I remember the feeling of dread as I tried to wrap my brain around how I was going tobeing a mom during deployment survive a year without him, as a single parent. I’ll be honest; I wasn’t optimistic.

“Well, I have a year to mentally prepare,” I told myself, trying to sound brave. The truth is, that year leading up to the deployment was just like putting off a school project until the last minute. I hadn’t mentally prepared at all. I had just shoved it to the recesses of my brain. “Out of sight, out of mind,” so to speak.

Then the time came for him to leave, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. He left the morning of our 8th wedding anniversary, and I cried the entire day. In truth I spent the whole day feeling like I had lost a little bit of myself. Later that afternoon, I got myself together as best I could and picked the kids up from school. That was it. Life was continuing on. There was no time to feel sorry for myself.

It’s strange being married to a service member during a deployment. Much like when a loved one dies, you have to suddenly learn to live without them and develop a routine they are not a part of. But you can’t become too independent, because eventually they will be home and part of your routine again. So you walk a fine line between allowing yourself to miss them, and pretending they don’t exist. Some days you fear they won’t make it home. Other days you’ve forgotten what it feels like to have them there.

You spend your days teetering between excited anticipation for their return and resenting that they left in the first place. Some days you’re incredibly proud of them, others you’re just plain angry. Angry you’re alone, angry no one can help with the house, kids, or the random things that break (and boy do they break). You name it, it happened during this deployment.

There were days I found myself shouting “Why?! Why God, why?!” There were moments I truly did not think I could handle anything else. But somewhere in the hardship of the year, I learned to surrender to God’s plan. I grew deeper in my faith. Not in a way that causes you to go out and evangelize, but in a way that makes you truly give it all to God. My faith grew in a way that said, “I know this is bad, but it could be worse, and I know you will make good out of this.” My faith grew in a way that made me confident I could handle anything life threw at me.

I’m not sure how it’s possible, but a lifetime of growth happened during the deployment. Growth that was desperately needed. The year took my least desirable qualities and hit me smack in the face with them. It forced me to acknowledge things about myself I had spent years pretending didn’t exist. It made me let go of my ego, and to not only accept help but to ask for it when needed. It forced me to be less sensitive, and not so easily offended. Itmilitary families in New Orleans allowed me to lower my expectations for myself, my children, and others. The year made me realize that there are very few things in life that are truly important, and that the rest is just BS. And if you waste too much energy on the BS, you’ll miss out on what is truly important.

It showed me who I can truly count on, and which people are worth investing my love and energy into. It taught me the word “no,” and that it’s ok to say it sometimes. Most of all, it gave me a confidence I’ve never had before. The year showed me that I may be a hot mess express, but I’m still getting done what needs to be done.

Although I NEVER want to endure another deployment, I can honestly say it was good for me and my relationship with my husband. Not having him here for a year made me self-reliant in a way that allowed me to appreciate him more. It made me realize that I don’t need him in order to navigate life, but that I truly desire to navigate it with him. It made me appreciate what each of us brings to the relationship, and ultimately has given us both a greater respect for one another and our marriage. In the end, what I thought would be the worst year of my life turned out to be one of the greatest blessings of my life.

Emily McElrath

Emily McElrath PTEmily is a New Orleans native, who graduated from Mount Carmel Academy in 2002. She obtained a Bachelor’s of Science from the University of Southern Mississippi, and went on to obtain her Doctorate of Physical therapy from the University of St. Augustine. Emily is the owner of and lead therapist at Dynamix PT and Wellness, and her focus is in Pelvic Health and Orthopedics. She has a passion for helping people stay active and optimizing their health. Emily is a military wife, and the mother of two wonderful children. In her spare time she enjoys  writing, Crossfit, being outdoors, and quality time with her family.


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