There are countless sources of information for people dealing with deployment. That’s a good thing, considering the length and frequency of deployments in this day and age. However, it’s much harder to find information on dealing with other aspects of military life. For instance, I had to search high and low for information on dealing with a spouse’s separation from military service. Now, I did attend TAP (Transition Assistance Program) class and did find a couple of resources online. While they did have some great information, it wasn’t quite what I, as a spouse, was looking for. Separation effects the military spouse and family just as much (and in some ways more than) as the service member, so following are some pointers about what to expect and the ways I’ve found to deal with things.
The most important thing is to prepare. Yes, all the information tells you this. However, what it doesn’t tell you is that you should also prepare to feel utterly unprepared once everything is said and done. For more than a year before my husband’s separation, I was contacting headhunting firms, researching housing prices and trends for various areas, research schools, researching companies, devising plans A-Z, among many other things. I can admit I probably went overboard; that’s what I do. But I put so much thought and effort into this whole process because I didn’t want to be blindsided. I attended TAP class with my husband; I talked with headhunters to find out everything I wanted to know about their company, their services and the job market. TAP class answered most of my logistical questions in the first couple of days: When exactly does our health insurance end (start of terminal leave or EAOS)? Does he still receive all pay (base and special) once he goes on terminal leave? When can we expect his final separation payment (sold back leave days and prorated uniform allowance? I was so happy I attended.
After all of this research, I thought I knew exactly what to expect in regard to his job search, our move and all the logistical details for his separation. I was only party correct. We decided to change our plan for the move in the relative eleventh hour. Why continue to rent a house indefinitely, sink all the money into it (especially if it was after he was separated) to then find out one day where we’d be moving to and not have time to get the movers out? We decided instead to take advantage of the six months of storage we had through the military. They would come out, pack our things up and we’d move in with Grandma (seven hours away) until we knew where we were going. Easy right? Not really. The ship didn’t get his separation orders out to him until about three weeks prior to our move date (we had already given the landlord notice). We needed those orders to schedule the move. We had to be out of the house in three weeks. It was summer, peak moving season in the military. There were a few nail-biting days of waiting to see if they could schedule our move. Turns out they could and things went off without a hitch, but not the way we had planned.
The move was probably the biggest of the stressors. But there was also my daughter’s emotions to deal with, my husband’s job search, not receiving his DD214 or final separation pay, etc. At one point I thought, “How did this all get this way? I planned so extensively.” You know how? Stuff happens. As much as I hate that it does, that’s how things go. Now, had I not prepared we would’ve been in a world of hurt, so the planning helped us to a point. But the important thing to remember is that in life, there will always be something throw into the mix to make it “fun”. The key is to learn to accept and adapt. That’s a hard one for me to do, but this whole experience has forced me to learn. Understand that you will feel anxious, upset, irritated, sad and probably many more emotions, some at the same time. Don’t lose sight of the final goal: this is a good thing for your family. Either you’ve decided that the military just isn’t for you or you’re being forced out for some reason. Either way, it means more time together as a family, no more deployments and a fresh start. How many people can say they have the chance to start anew, doing whatever it is they want to do.
Next week we’ll continue the conversation and delve into the scary prospect of being able to do whatever you want upon separation and the job search. Also stay tuned for a more detailed series on separation from the service with specific information on moves, pay and the likes.