>> Friday, November 16, 2012
For our family, this is not the first holiday missed, but for some, this is the first holiday separated from your loved one. You may be asking yourself, “How can I celebrate when my Soldier is gone?” or saying “I feel guilty being happy over the holidays knowing that my Soldier is away.”
Trust me — these are natural feelings and you are not alone! For military families, deployment is a tough period in their lives. And when you have a deployment over the holidays, it becomes a little harder. How do you cope? How do you celebrate the holidays when you’re missing someone so special in your life?
To be honest, while I’ve had many holidays away from My Marine, this will be the first time that I’ve been alone with two children who are fully aware that Daddy is not going to be home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. So, in a sense, this is a “first” for me as well — and together, we’ll get through the holidays! Below are some tips and tricks that have helped me to get through when My Marine was away from our family.
1. The first and most important thing to remember is that YOUR SOLDIER IS MISSING YOU TOO! While it’s hard for us to be away from our Soldiers, it’s hard for them to be away from us as well. They may be experiencing the same holiday blues that we are. While we are thinking that it would be nice to have them here carving the turkey or putting up the tree, they are thinking the same thing. Sometimes we lose that perspective — and that’s normal— so we need to try and keep that focus just a little more during the holidays.
2. Try to avoid looking at this time as the “Holiday Season” and look at it more as a “Holi-DAY” Take it one day at a time and break the season into smaller chunks. It doesn’t seem so overwhelming if you break the season down into manageable bites. Instead of planning every day through New Year’s, take it a week at a time and be flexible. You may put something on your calendar for the week of Christmas, and then have a bad day of missing your Soldier. You may not want to attend the Christmas Cookie exchange, opting instead to stay home and eat the cookies yourself. That’s OK! Be flexible and don’t overschedule yourself or your kids!
3. If you’re the social type, reach out to another military spouse/SO that you know may be alone this holiday. Plan a small get-together, sharing the menu and cooking. If you have kids, this will be a great time for them to hang out with other kids who are missing their parent as well.
4. However, if you don’t feel that you can handle being social, and want to be more of a homebody (like me!), make it a special family day! If you don’t feel like cooking, a lot of local restaurants have the premade Thanksgiving meals where all you need to do is pick it up and reheat! If you’re feeling up to it—make a smaller version of your traditional Thanksgiving dinner or prepare a new dish that you’ve been wanting to try. Who knows! It may end up on your menu next year! Wrap up the day by watching some holiday movies, making hot chocolate and eating those yummy pumpkin pies!
5. Avoid the temptation to overspend or compensate for your Soldier’s absence. While we want to give our Soldiers a great Christmas, try to avoid sending big items as gifts. Remember—space is limited AND they will have to ship it back. Save the big items for homecoming gifts and focus on items that will give your Soldier a little piece of home. Also, I encourage you to discuss Christmas lists—for each other and your children. If possible, ask your Soldier to order a gift online for your child(ren) and have it shipped home in their name. Your children will love knowing that Daddy picked out that special gift just for them and it will make your Soldier still feel a part of the holiday process.
6. You don’t have to do it all. (This one is hard for me too!) This goes back to overcompensating for your Soldier being away. Afraid of putting up lights outside on your house? (Like me!) Don’t do it! Opt instead to put candles in the window or light up the window frames instead. Always get a real tree, but don’t want to go and get one by yourself? (Like me!) Get a small, prelit tree to decorate and then donate it to a worthy cause after the holidays (again, like me!) Always go to every holiday show, pageant, party? Pick just one or two to attend instead. Make new memories with your children—plan a sleepover in the living with hot chocolate, popcorn, and watching a special Christmas movie by tree lights.
7. Depression is common during deployment, but it can be heightened during the holidays. The holidays can be the perfect time to ask for help. Many of use try to prove we can be the "strong spouse" or show we can do it alone. This is not true and now is not the time to withdraw or be alone. Depend on your close family, friends, other milspouses to help get you through. Don't spend time feeling guilty because of the way you feel. Instead, you should own your feelings and understand that they're normal given what you're experiencing. More importantly, you should share your feelings with someone who will understand. Military OneSource has excellent counseling resources available should you need it.