How to Cope With Emotions When a Deployment is Postponed

The days leading up to a deployment may be filled with frazzled nerves, anticipation and planning of all kinds. The one aspect of a deployment that seems certain is that it will happen. This departure date sets all of your other plans, like temporary relocation, travel plans, arrangements for children and pets or even termination of rent and utilities, surrounding deployment into motion.

Occasionally, though, these plans are halted when the one seemingly inevitable part of deployment-the goodbye-is postponed. Just as you and your family learned to cope with the emotions attached to the farewell, a suddenly postponed deployment can lead to a whole new batch of emotions that you may have never expected.

Plans change

The word flexibility is often associated with military life. Schedules and plans change so frequently, even those deployment and homecoming dates, that service members and families often make plans halfway expecting to change them. Single service members, married service members and their families make all kinds of plans for deployment in order to make sure that family members, pets and assets are cared for during the deployment.

Single service members and military families alike may have terminated or frozen contracts, leases, car insurance and utilities in preparation for the deployment. In addition, arrangements may have been made for pets to stay with family or friends, vehicle storage, travel or temporary relocation for the military family.

All of these plans are made with responsibility in mind. No one wants to be caught off guard because proper preparations were not made for the months of deployment. Many times these plans are necessary and early preparations help service members and families avoid extra headaches and worry in the face of a deployment. Occasionally, however, deployment dates change and these carefully made plans may turn into a long list of things service members and families have to undo or put on hold.

What a feeling!

At the first word of a deployment postponement, service members and families may be overjoyed! Having a loved one home instead of in harm's way overseas and continuing with everyday life has obvious benefits.

This elation may continue for days, or indefinitely for some, but you may find that your initial excitement is followed by a feeling of "now what?" For some, preparations may have been solidified for months, and many of these plans are irreversible or, at the very least, not easily changed.

For any service member or military family who has made preparations in anticipation for months of deployment, it is completely normal to feel any number of things, including confusion, frustration, uncertainty, stress and even anger.

These emotions are not always openly connected to a postponed deployment, but they are all normal and maybe even widely felt throughout your unit. In fact, in addition to these or other emotions, you may also feel guilty for being anything but excited at the news of a postponement.

Someone who has never experienced a deployment postponement might question why a service member or family member would feel anything but ecstatic at the chance to have an extended time at home, but if you are or ever have been in this situation you might argue that the additional time home or with family can have its fair share of complications.

The many preparations you or your family made leading up to the now postponed deployment can cause inconveniences, headaches and even extra expenses. If you've made an irreversible transaction, like selling a car, or terminating a lease, feeling frustrated at the inconvenience of the situation or stressed about what to do now that plans have changed is completely normal. Other plans may be adjusted, but the annoyance of contacting a dozen companies, schools, banks and insurance agencies can easily hang a dark cloud over what might be a seemingly carefree time.

In addition to spending more time and even money, in some cases, you may also be juggling with the uncertainty of when the deployment will actually occur. You may have a new deployment date, but you may not. Even with a new, concrete deployment date, you may be hesitant to make new plans for the fear of plans changing yet again.

All of these reactions are completely normal. Many people, however excited to keep a loved one home a little longer, would be angry or frustrated as they watch months of planning go to waste and begin to question how to change plans at the last minute. Before becoming too overwhelmed with the challenges that accompany a sudden change in deployment plans, understand that your situation most likely couldn't have been prevented and your current challenge exists only because you were so well prepared.

The good news is that you are not alone. Other service members and families in your unit are probably facing some of the many challenges ahead of you. As you face these challenges following the deployment postponement, you can find support in these fellow service members and families. Like so many aspects of military life, you are not going through this postponement alone, so if you think it might be helpful, don't hesitate to ask for advice or support from fellow service members, families, your unit's command or your family readiness officer.

If you would rather have a more confidential approach or if you have a question your peers can't answer, turn to Military OneSource. By calling 800-342-9647, you can be connected with a non-medical counselor who can help you manage the stress and other feelings associated with the postponement. Non-medical counseling is designed to address issues such as improving relationships at home and work, stress management, adjustment issues (like managing a postponed deployment), marital problems, parenting, and grief and loss issues. Non-medical counseling is short-term and solution-focused.This confidential, free counseling resource is available in person, by phone or via instant chat online. Military OneSource consultants, available at the same number, can also help you work through your long list of things to "undo" by providing information and resources.

Wherever you find support, and no matter how long it takes to undo months of meticulous planning, try to make the most of the extra time you have at home and the additional time you have with loved ones. The situation might not be just like you expected, but with the right support system you can focus on the excitement of a few more days, weeks or months at home.


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