We Grieve Alone
By: Missy Bearden
G R I E F
As a military spouse for 22+ years I became very familiar with grief. Learning how to grieve missed relationships once we PCS’ed was my first challenge. The military does such a great job of preparation briefings for your next assignment however no one ever mentioned to me how to grieve the home I was leaving. The friends I would leave behind. My favorite local eatery. My church family. The job I love…. The place of security is once again challenged. I have invested heavily in making this geographical location my home. I love the people of this community. The older retirees that have treated my family as their own and now my kids are once again leaving “army grandparents.” The church that immediately recognized my gifts and talents and opened the door wide for me to be able to serve and flourish in this body of believers. Yet we silently move on, making the best of what lies ahead and leaving a piece of ourselves behind.
S I L E N C E
Most military spouses are silent about how this grief affects us and our family time and time again. In my 22+ years I moved 19 times. Not every time was across hundreds of miles. Some of those times we moved from a rental to on-post housing or bought a home allowing the children to stay in the same school district, and me to keep my job. However, those moves that would uproot us as a family and send us to a new state or country, those are the ones that cost you a little piece of your heart. The moves always had an element of excitement to them. Our military member may be going to a better career assignment or we may be moving from a cold climate to a warm climate, a small town to a larger town. Maybe even move to a location where the locals are nothing like us culturally. What a grand experience the moving is….. What a grievance the moving is… The grief is where we become silent, it is the place in our lives we cannot put words to. We say things like, “I miss so and so”, or “I wish we could go to the beach today” like when we lived in Hawaii. But do we actually take the time to allow ourselves to grieve what was or what we had? For me, I would answer no. Most of the time we are too busy rebuilding a life in a matter of days to stop and know that it is okay to sit down for a few minutes to grieve. This is something incredibly hard to explain to your friends and family where you grew up. If you haven’t lived it – you won’t get it. So you silence the grief and move on like a good military spouse.
As a family, we have suffered the loss of family members or friends, of funerals we were not able to attend. This is a difficult thing to endure as a family. Sometimes this loss of life would happen when I was the only one on the home front with either a long field training exercise or deployed service member. This is where you learn how to grieve alone. Most of the time if my husband was not “home” I would not be able to call him up and share the news with him. We sent Red Cross messages and prayed for a phone call. As the rest of our family and friends gathered to memorialize the death of a loved one, I would grieve alone. I will never forget emotionally grieving for our oldest son who had just returned to Iraq after R&R leave. Within a few days of him heading back to his deployment, he would find out his Pawpaw had passed away. This is when I realized my lifetime of silent grief. Life has an interesting way of teaching us through others and this was one of those moments. He would be expected to go carry on his mission while learning the deep pain of grieving alone. My heart broke for him. I understood more about watching someone painfully grieve from another continent in those moments than I had grasped in our entire military life.
Your Military Community
Within the military, we have the opportunity to develop wonderfully deep relationships that will carry us through the happy and the hurt. It is important to reach out to someone and share your life with them. Even if you are only going to be there for 6 months to a year. It is worth the time and risk! As you navigate your military life I challenge you to “grieve well.” Allowing yourself the opportunity to feel the loss of what was as you move into the new. One great resource is social media. You have the option to share your heart and suffering through words and pictures instantly. What a blessing that is!
Looking back ….. well, because it is easier to see some things when you are through them. I would suggest if you are in a position where you cannot fly or drive back to your home state to a memorial, call your military friends in your new community. Share your memories of this person with them. Be vulnerable enough to cry on their shoulders. Buy something that reminds you of the loved one, enjoy that something. Celebrate your memories by sharing them with others.
Military life is not for the faint of heart! Knowing that we have a God that loves us and wants to share in our suffering is a vital part of grieving well. Learn to lean on God especially when nothing else makes any sense. He can and will help us mold life of ordinary out of the extraordinary. Many prayers for you and your family as you begin to live this wonderfully rich life. From those who have walked the paths before you – we know you were made for such as time as this.