Coming home after a deployment can feel great, but it's also a time of adjustment. When you're single, you face a different set of re-entry challenges than married service members do. You don't have a spouse or, in many cases, nearby family members to support you through the process. This information can help you better understand what to expect following a deployment and how to find support to make the adjustment easier.
What to expect
It's important to think of your return to single life following deployment as a process rather than a single event. Just as it took time to adjust to your deployment, it will now take time to adjust to being home. You may have to get used to different foods again and a different time zone. You might also have to make some emotional adjustments. Returning home after a deployment may make you feel
- Tired, less motivated than usual, or discouraged. There may be no single reason for these feelings. You may feel sad about the things you missed while you were gone. You may feel out of step or out of place. These feelings are a normal part of the adjustment process.
- Lonely.Once you've been back for a few days or weeks, you may start to feel like you can't relate to your friends or relatives. You may feel that no one understands what you've gone through. This might make you feel isolated and may make it harder to adjust. Try reaching out to friends and family members even if it makes you feel awkward or uncomfortable. Chances are they may be feeling awkward, too. If you still feel lonely, you may want to talk with a counselor or therapist.
- Angry. It's normal to feel angry because others were able to stay home while you were on duty or because things have changed while you were gone. Anger can be another part of the process of adjusting to being home. It might help to talk with members of your unit, a trusted member of the clergy, or a professional counselor.
- Culture shock.Even parts of your life that you thought would feel familiar and comfortable may feel foreign to you at first. Give yourself time to adjust to all of these changes.
Settling back in
Many service members feel different after returning from deployment - as though they've changed and don't fit into their old lives anymore. Old routines and ways of doing things may not seem to work, at least at first. Here are some ways to make this adjustment period easier:
- Try to establish a new living situation as soon as possible. Many service members move out of an apartment or dormitory before a deployment and need to find housing again when they return. Try to take care of this as soon as you can so that you feel more settled.
- Sort out your finances. It can be tempting to spend extra money when you first return from a deployment by going out with friends, shopping, or setting up a new home. But it's important to take a realistic look at your budget as soon as possible, especially if your rate of pay has changed.
- Limit your use of alcohol. For many people, celebrating means drinking with friends and family. But overuse of alcohol can increase feelings of depression and loneliness. It can also lead to impulsive and risky behaviors. Go easy.
- Think about the next steps in your career. If your prior work history was good, chances are your previous employer will welcome you back. Or perhaps you've learned new skills during your military service that are applicable to a new career. Be sure to discuss your interests with your employer or any potential employer.
Reconnecting with friends and family
It can be hard to reconnect with people after a deployment. You may not know how to describe your experiences or you may not want to talk about them at all. It also can be hard to accept that life has gone on for friends and family while you were gone. Things may not return to normal right away.
- Try to avoid a tightly scheduled reunion with lots of visits with friends and family. You may find that you'd prefer to take some time to yourself or that you're just not ready to visit with everyone you know as soon as you get back. Give yourself time to relax and return to your life at your own pace. It's also a good idea to let friends and relatives know how you'd like to celebrate your return.
- Realize that different people may react differently to your deployment. Some people may want to know all about your experiences; others may not want to talk about them at all. The same might be true of your travels to other countries or areas. Try to be respectful of other people's feelings and ask that they respect yours if they want more information than you want to give.
- Understand that people or circumstances may have changed while you were away. It's important to take the time to understand how things may have changed while you were away and to be open to these changes.
- Be prepared for some awkwardness in your personal relationships. Remember that you're not the only person who has to adjust to life following a deployment; your friends and relatives are adjusting, too. People may wonder how you've changed and what you've gone through, but they may hesitate to ask you. And you might not know what to talk about because you're not caught up on the local news or what's going on in everyone's lives. Talk about how you're feeling and encourage friends and family to do the same.
- Be patient with yourself and with others. Give yourself and others time to adjust to your return instead of trying to make up for lost time as soon as you get back. The adjustment to being home doesn't happen overnight; it may take days, weeks, or months. Eventually you will settle back into your life - it just may not be exactly the same life that you had before the deployment.
If you're having trouble adjusting and want help, you have several options:
- Trusted friends. Talk with close friends or other service members who were deployed with you. Sometimes just talking about how you feel and what you're experiencing can help you feel better. It's especially helpful to talk with someone who has been, or is going through, the same process.
- Religious or spiritual communities. Many service members find support among the members of a church congregation, a member of the clergy, or within some other group that shares the service member's beliefs.
- Military sources of support. The military offers many sources of help for service members both before and after a deployment. Your military chaplain, installation support services, or Military OneSource can help.
- A professional counselor. A professional counselor or therapist can help you cope with stress, relationship difficulties, and other issues related to your adjustment back home. You can find a counselor by talking with Military OneSource or your health care provider. Military OneSource can refer you to free face-to-face counseling with a counselor in your area or to telephone or online counseling. You can reach Military OneSource by calling 1-800-342-9647.