When Someone You Love is Deployed
copyright 2003 by Susan Dunn
Having someone you love deployed, whether child, partner,
relative or close friend, is extremely stressful. An article
I wrote Called "Separation Protest Reactions" helped mothers
whose sons were being deployed in Georgia. The newsletter
editor wrote me, "It helps us understand why we're acting
like we are." I'll repeat some of the information here.
When we must part with a loved one, particularly under
circumstances, we have reactions that are physiological and
emotional. These are largely beyond our control; however,
our emotional intelligence skills can helps us manage them,
and tame our reactions and responses. It starts with
understanding and self-awareness.
Studies of newborn separation from their mothers shows us
the extremes of "protest-despair behavior." When the infant
is separated, the body reacts, pumping out stress hormones
that affect the sympathetic nervous system, and certain
somatic or muscular behaviors. There can be a ten-fold
increase in gulcocoricoid levels (cortisol, the 'stress
hormone'), approaching neurotoxic levels (Modi and Glover,
1998) and there is a powerful inhibitory effect on all
gastrointenstinal functions. Withdrawal, a slowed heart
rate, and lower body temperture ensue, presumably attempts
to "survive", and the
immune system is compromised. Some of the reactions are
Any separation from a loved one during our lifetime will
mimic this reaction to separation, because we're humans,
because we love, because we bond.
At the same time, if the person being deployed is your
lover, you'll be deprived of the oxytocin. According to "The
Alchemy of Love and Lust," by Dr. Theresa L. Crenshaw,
touching or even thinking about someone you love releases
this hormone. It feels wonderful and keeps us bonded.
The price we pay is that separation is painful.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Expect, first of all, that nothing anyone tells you will be
helpful, and may, in fact make you angry, including what I
say in this article. What you want to hear is that it's all
a joke, it isn't happening, and anything short of that won't
That having been said, I go forward with what you must deal
It is normal feel like you're going nuts.
It is normal to cry a lot.
It is normal to have trouble making even the smallest
It is normal to experience changes in appetite; food tastes
It is normal to experience sleep difficulties - sleeping
fitfully for short periods, of wanting to sleep all day and
It is normal to feel angry.
It is normal to kick the kitchen stool that's in your way
and be unable to talk about what's really going on.
It's normal to experience rage at the ineptitude of people
who try to
console you, give advice, support, or encourage.
WHAT CAN HELP?
The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself; it's worse
health-mental and physical-than obesity, smoking or high
blood pressure. Studies show if you have adequate
opportunities to share feelings and receive feedback, you'll
have fewer symptoms related to stress.
"Share your thoughts, vent your anger, or ask for help,"
says the Submarine Wives Club. "We are all in the same
'boat' and are here to offer support and advice."
1. Find support groups. National Deployment Support Groups
can be found here (http://www.submarinewivesclub.org/supportgroups.html).
The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself. If you have
adequate opportunities to share feelings and receive
feedback, you'll have fewer symptoms related to stress.
2. Prepare in advance. Here is practical information you
need to know from the Submarine Wives Club (
3. Learn what others are doing that's helpful. Here is
information on how to survive the separation --
4. Try the Military Spouse support page for more
5. At The Stress Forum, you can ask questions, share tips or
sympathetic listener 24 hours a day. Just do it! Go here:
6. The National Military Family Association (
information and services you may find useful.
7. Read the Navy's guide on signs of depression:
8. Take positive action. The Navy Family Deployment guide
says: "The cure for depression is the same as prevention.
Take positive action. Behavior is changed by thoughts and
feelings." Join a support group, hire a coach, keep family
traditions thriving, plan activities, set new goals, take
care of yourself and don't be alone.
9. Hire a coach.
This is the perfect time to treat yourself to an outside
source of support where you will be listened to and
understood. It can be a relief to get someone more objective
than your immediate social group. A coach can help you stay
positive, give you tips on coping, and teach you skills for
handling transitions. Also this could be a great time for
you to work on some new goals for yourself. Learn more about
yourself, explore your strengths. (For free Strengths
course, email me at
email@example.com.) Keep the good things in your life
9. Develop your emotional intelligence.
The EQ� Course provides foundational information for coping,
transitions and adversity, and managing emotions. It will
understand where your emotions come from, why they make you
feel the way they do, and what do about it constructively.
Learn optimism, and the stages of a transition. An EQ coach
can help you practice these skills and incorporate them into
your life on a daily basis.
10. Extreme self-care
Because of these physiological responses, you need to pay
attention to your wellness regime. You may not feel like
running in the morning, but do it, and you'll feel better -
in the short-term and in the long-run. Find healthy food you
can enjoy - eat small snacks all day, if your appetite is
low. Get a physical checkup if problems arise.
11. Know your limits. If you are experiencing an especially
difficult time, get professional help. Therapists and
counselors are waiting to help you.
Susan Dunn, M.A., The EQ Coach, offers individual and
business coaching and Internet courses on emotional
intelligence, resilience, strengths and transitions. She�s
the mother of two, formerly a single-working mom, and
grandmother of two. She is widely published on the Internet,
the author of numerous ebooks, and a regular speaker for
cruise lines. Visit her at
http://www.SusanDunn.cc and email her at
for FREE motivational ezine.