The tree is up, the presents are wrapped, and from the outside everything looks normal. But there’s an empty chair at the table and an empty feeling in your heart. The holidays can be hard when hard your spouse is deployed.
My husband and I have spent our fair share of holidays separated after 9/11, when he was active duty. We have often joked that it wouldn’t be my birthday if he was home. Those first couple of Christmases without him were pretty rough, but we made the best of it. Like anything, experience has taught me a lot about managing my expectations and moving from survival mode to making the holidays work when he’s away.
I’ve prepared some holiday survival tips for you.
Remember It Is Just a Day
There’s a tendency in our culture to over-hype everything including the holidays, but it’s really just a day.
We can celebrate whenever and however we want. Feel like skipping the turkey dinner to catch a movie? Go for it! Feel like driving around the country to have friendsgiving with old friends rather than notice your spouse’s absence? They’d love to see you!
Make the day what you want it to be and don’t be afraid to embrace new traditions.
Have a Plan
The holidays can sneak up on you.
Make sure you plan fun things for you and the kids in advance and keep up with traditions that seem doable on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If the kids really love outside lights, ask a neighbor to help you put them up. Hire babysitters so you can shop. Know in advance if you’ll be spending the day with friends or extended family so you have something to look forward to.
Give Yourself Permission To Feel a Little Sad
It’s ok to admit that you are sad. Deployments are hard, especially over the holidays.
The first couple times, I was so busy keeping myself busy that I didn’t really let myself feel sad. By the time I did, it was pretty overwhelming. Be honest with others and yourself. There’s no need to throw a pity party, but it’s ok to admit that the situation is less than ideal.
Include Your Spouse in Your Plans
Sometimes in the midst of surviving, we forget that our spouse is likely feeling sad and alone too.
Whenever possible, plan to celebrate the holiday early or late with your spouse or surprise them with a fun trip to celebrate their homecoming. One year instead of dragging out Christmas, we took our kids to Great Wolf Lodge in January as soon as my husband got home. It was a nice transition for all of us. Technology can help spouses feel included as well.
Enjoying the holidays is possible, even when your loved one is deployed. Resist the urge to isolate yourself and embrace the opportunity to celebrate however you like. You’ve got this!
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Give Some Military Families a Break
Colorado Springs Moms Blog is trying to help make the holidays a little brighter for some families with one deployed parent this year. Voting is happening through 5 p.m. Friday to send a dozen Colorado military families to Cheyenne Mountain Colorado Springs for an amazing holiday “staycation.” Vote for your favorites here.