What Are the Emotional Tolls for Military Families When Troops Deploy?

It’s the message no one wants to hear about their friend or family member in the army. While deployment is incredibly stressful and frightening for the troops themselves, their family members also experience an emotional reaction from this kind of news.

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Learning that a loved one is about to be deployed can trigger chaotic feelings of stress, fear, and pain in family members of troops. When a husband or wife is deployed, it changes the dynamics of a household. Plus, there’s the fear the person may not return home.

People who have had family members deployed reports feelings of worry and concern. This is normal, of course, given the circumstances. There’s no way to know what’s going to happen when a soldier is deployed, and there’s a very real chance they may not come home. Panic can also be a very real problem for families with deployed troops. Anxiety disorders can arise or become exacerbated. It’s frightening to feel that you have no control over what happens to your loved one. Feelings of helplessness are common.

Family members might also feel lonely. They’ve gotten used to having this person around in their life, and now, quite suddenly, they’re gone. This loneliness can then lead to feelings of sadness and depression.

Another thing to consider is that with the deployed family member gone, those remaining at home must take on new responsibilities. This can be difficult to adjust to, and can be overwhelming. Again, this can all lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

For families with children, this adds a whole other level of stress and complications. For a military spouse remaining at home, taking care of kids alone along with all the other added responsibilities they must take on leaves little room for self-care. This means that all of these normal feelings of fear, sadness, and anxiety can be exacerbated because there’s no time for the spouse to take care of themselves.

These changes and new stressors can also lead to problems like alcohol and drug abuse.

Children face their own issues, too. The children of deployed parents tend to struggle more with anxiety than those of non-military families. They also tend to lash out more, and struggle socially with their peers. Toddlers also experience their own set of issues. They may struggle with separation anxiety, and confusion as to why their parent is suddenly gone.

Children may also experience trouble sleeping, and poor academic performance. A missing parent can weigh heavily on a child’s mind, and affect their mental health.

Family members returning from deployment can bring a whole other set of issues, too. While the serviceman was gone, dynamics in the household have changed. It can be difficult for everyone in the family to readjust. The serviceman likely has traumas from being deployed to deal with too, which adds another level of difficulty to the situation. Infidelity while the soldier was away is also a common issue many military families deal with.

Many servicemen coming home deal with dissociative symptoms and episodes, sleep problems, depression, anxiety, and sexual problems. Left untreated, this can culminate in PTSD, which can continue to affect the serviceman’s life, as well as the rest of their family.

So, what is the best way to deal with all these problems? The number one thing to do is to get some form of counseling. This is true for the serviceman who was deployed and is now home, but it’s also true for the family members who have had to deal with their own emotional tolls during deployment.

Counseling and therapy reduce the risk of PTSD. It helps families deal with and overcome feelings of abandonment, fear, anxiety, infidelity, and depression. It also makes it easier for everyone in the family to readjust when the deployed family member comes home.

Deployment is a terrifying word for those with a family member or loved one in the military. It means at the very least, not seeing the family member on deployment for what could be a long time. At worst, it could mean never seeing that person again.

During deployment, family members at home will have to deal with a whole range of new emotions and responsibilities. During this time, it’s important to remember there you are not alone, and that there is support available. Consider joining a support group, either in person or online. See a counsellor to help you deal with your emotions during this difficult time. If you have kids, hire a babysitter once in a while so that you can make time to take care of yourself. And make sure your children are coping with the deployment of their parent by putting them in counselling too.

It’s normal to be worried and scared when a family member is deployed. The important thing to remember is to take care of yourself.

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