Husband of deployed wife must convey feelings

Dan’s wife has been deployed overseas with her Army Reserve unit since last summer, and he has been taking care of their three kids while working full time.

So Dan and the kids are celebrating the holidays without Michelle, whose tour ends in June.

“Are you ready for the holidays?” I asked Dan as he walked in for our coaching session.

“I’m trying to get into the holiday spirit, but it’s tough,” he said. “I’m worried about the kids not having Michelle here. Even though we’re supposed to be festive, none of us feel that way.”

“How are you and the kids feeling?” I asked.

“Being separated feels unfair,” Dan said, “and because of the time difference, the kids don’t get to talk to Michelle very often. They are feeling a huge hole without her.”

“It sounds like a lot of your worry centers around the kids and their feelings,” I said. “What about you?”

“No, it’s more about the kids. At their ages, they should be with their mother during the holidays,” Dan said. “I’ve tried to honor our family traditions to make Christmas as normal as possible. We’ve already decorated the house and plan to make fudge next weekend.”

“It sounds like you’ve tried to maintain normalcy even though things are different,” I said. “But I’m still curious about you and your feelings.”

Dan paused. “I guess some of it is about my feelings. It’s tough being separated, having to take on all of the responsibility, and maintain my emotions in front of the kids. They don’t need to see their dad upset. She’s not coming home any sooner, no matter how I feel,” he said.

“But it’s important to acknowledge your feelings,” I said. “It’s not as though pretending that your emotions are not there will make them go away. Have you talked to Michelle about how you are feeling?”

“We haven’t talked on the phone in over a month,” he said. “Because of the time difference, it’s easier to communicate via e-mail. Without phone conversations, though, it’s hard to express how I am feeling. She’s caught up in her mission and somewhat oblivious to the hole that was created when she left.”

“How can you talk to Michelle about how you are feeling?” I asked.

Dan thought for a minute and then his eyes lit up. “My oldest son keeps encouraging me to set up a Web cam to talk to Michelle. Maybe that’s a good idea. We could spend time with Michelle during the holidays and the rest of her deployment.”

“That’s a great idea,” I said. “You only have a few shopping days left. What’s your plan?”

“I’ll stop on my way home and get a Web camera and let Michelle know so we can talk on Christmas morning,” Dan said. “I’ve been a bit down about the holidays and part of it was thinking that I should be happy. I feel better talking about it, and I can’t wait to see Michelle’s face on Christmas morning! I bet the kids will love it, too.”

Coaching challenge: The holidays can be a time of mixed emotions. If this is a tough time for you, the most important thing is to acknowledge your feelings.

Brainstorm ways to celebrate that will honor your feelings. If you still feel overwhelmed or down, consider talking to a good friend or a professional to help you sort out your feelings and find peace this holiday season.


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