Holiday time can be very stressful for a military family with a deployed parent.
The parent who is away often feels empty and alone and wants to be home. He (or she) wishes he could be home to share in the celebrations, but also to help with the preparations and work involved.
The at-home parent struggles with the absence of a partner to share in the burden of making the house festive, shopping for gifts and preparing a meal. Plus, she probably feels less than merry and may not even want to go through the trouble of decorating, baking and shopping.
The grinchy attitude is a natural reaction to the lonesomeness.
It can be hard to get into the holiday spirit when you see everyone around you is joyful and in family mode, preparing for fun holiday plans and you feel completely alone in the crowd.
Getting the decorations out and setting them up is a lot of work, especially while thinking of the fact that your spouse won’t be with you to celebrate, nor will he be there after the holidays, to help put it all away, which is not a fun task under the best of circumstances.
But, as a military spouse, you have to pull yourself together and do it all anyway. Despite the lack of enthusiasm, the military wife has to put a smile on her face and make the effort to make the home joyful and festive, no-matter-what.
The kids. It’s all about the kids. Sure, the kids are feeling some of the same emotions as their parents. They know it won’t be the same without mom/dad, but they still look forward to the holidays. They get excited seeing the lights and Santa/menorahs, shopping bags, decorated cookies… all the hoopla that is Thanksgiving to New Years Day.
Without a parent to lead the way to the celebration, children will feel lost and even more alone. I know this because, I’m a more than a little embarrassed to say, I let it happen.
Horatio left for his deployment on December 8th of last year. I was in no mood to decorate or celebrate the holidays.
We lit the Hanukkah candles every night. The boys got presents I could barely bring myself to wrap. We traveled to my parents’ house and Santa delivered a few presents there, but the festivity was absent… and the kids noticed. I had effectively passed my gloominess on to my kids.
That’s just sad.
I won’t let it happen again. Sure, I’m as tired as ever, but this year is different. I decorated the house the day after Thanksgiving. The boys helped and are thrilled with the anticipation the decorations ignite.
And you know what? I feel better, too. Once I got over the stress and effort of getting the decorations out of the attic and putting everything in its place, I calmed down and look forward to the holidays as much as the boys.
Well, not quite as much, but I am not dreading them like I did last year.
Sometimes acting the part is more than half the battle.
An act can transition to reality and even if it doesn’t, making the effort for the kids will probably save a bundle in therapy bills for the kids in the future.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy New Year
If you are feeling lost and alone tell your friends and family. Don’t suffer alone. You have someone who is more than willing to help you, share their family celebration, lend an ear, whatever it is that you need.