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Saying Goodbye

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Two weeks ago, I said goodbye to my youngest sister, Becky, off. For the next year, she’ll be spending a service year abroad.

I’m proud of her. She made a courageous choice, she’s going to have a lot of wonderful experiences, and above all– she’s going to do a lot of good. So yes, I am extremely proud of her selflessness and dedication to something bigger than herself.

But I’m still going to miss her.

In the lead-up to our final goodbyes, I tried to keep telling myself that I’m a pro at this. After all, there’s that whole deployment thing that surely must count for something when it comes to emotional capital.

The goodbye was obviously different than the ones I said with John when he left for Afghanistan– Becky’s not going to a war zone. No one’s shooting rockets or missiles at her. She’ll be safe. She’ll have access to internet and phone services that won’t be wonky or blacked-out. We’ll be able to visit her later this year (which, I might add, I’m so excited for).  She’ll be able to watch Downton Abbey before it gets to the States (which, I might add, I’m super jealous about).

But, similar to John’s deployment, we don’t know what date she’ll be coming home. I don’t know when (or if) John and I will actually be able to visit– so I don’t know the next time I’ll see her. If this seems whiny and wussy, it’s because it is, and I am. And I own that completely.

Because goodbyes aren’t rational. They’re emotional. And that’s okay. (Tweet this!)So, I was the wimp in the airport, trying not to cry (and failing miserably). I was the one that needed two hugs before she went through security. I stood with my mom as we watched Becky walk through the maze to get to the checkpoint. And I knew exactly what she was feeling– the immediate loneliness that comes right after a goodbye like that. And I wanted to say something to her– but everything just seems so… lame.

A lot of goodbye advice is well meaning but just misses the mark because they come with unsaid assumptions.

It’ll be over before you know it. 

You’ll be surprised how fast a year goes by. 

S/he’s only in Japan/Korea/England/Hawaii/Other Faraway But Kind of Fun-Sounding Place. That’s not that bad.

It seems that, especially in the military community, there’s a pecking order or ranking of how awful a separation is. Here’s the thing about any goodbye: they suck. They bite the big one. It doesn’t matter where the person is going or what they’ll be doing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a deployment, a long-term TAD/TDY, an unaccompanied station, a study abroad, a missions trip… The build up and the actual goodbye are tough for anyone. Especially if you’ve never dealt with it before.

So here are some things I’ve learned over the past few years which have been full of goodbyes:

It’s okay if the person you’re saying goodbye is going to a “fun” place and you’re sad about it.

It’s okay if the person you’re saying goodbye is going to a war zone and you’re sad about it.

It’s okay that you’re going to miss someone even though they’re going to have a great time.

It’s okay that you’re going to miss someone even though leaving is a fantastic opportunity, a one-in-a-lifetime experience.

You don’t have to justify your emotions to anyone– no one else gets to judge them, and you don’t need to qualify them.

Deal with missing that person in a way that works for you. (Tweet this!)By all means, take people’s advice, but take it with a grain of salt (this advice included). What works for one person might not work for someone else. Don’t try to shove a square peg into a round hole– it’s not fun and it’s just not worth it.

For me, I’ll be diving back into making care packages to ship overseas. I’m also writing Becky a letter a day, just like I did with John two years ago (two years ago!). I’ll be tackling a read-through-the-Bible program again (and hopefully succeeding this time around) too.

Because I dealt with John’s long-term absence, I know what also doesn’t work for me. I know that I need to sleep a normal amount of time– I can’t just keep going until I crash and burn. I can’t stay connected 24/7 to the internet waiting for the proverbial watched pot to boil. I know that I need to be kind to myself, but not overindulge myself– I’ll just end up feeling worse later.

And even though Becky is going to (probably) have the time of her life and accomplish fantastic things, I need to be able to give myself permission to miss my sister and cry if I need to. I can encourage her, be proud of her, and still miss her.

If you’ve dealt with multiple long-term goodbyes, what advice can you offer someone who hasn’t just yet?

photo credit: Sprengben [why not get a friend] via photopin cc


28 Responses

  1. i couldn’t agree more – when my husband first left for his deployment I kept saying well it’s not as bad as…but then I felt like I wasn’t really allowing myself a moment to be sad, and I was. It does suck no matter what :) Last Nov. I was the one leaving, and saying goodbye to my sisters was WAY harder than I expected – and this first year away I have been SO BLESSED to see one of them this summer and the other two this fall – we didn’t think it would happen, but the surprise made it even better!

    PS – can I ask about your bible program? I would love to start something like that! Thanks

    1. Thanks, Heather! I’m so glad this post resounded with you. That is so wonderful that you and your sisters have been able to see each other. I don’t know what I would do without mine! I am doing the read-through program with my sisters, husband, and pastor who is a friend of ours, but we haven’t chosen our method yet. I believe we might just read chapter by chapter. There are a lot of great resources online- (which is why it’s taking us some time to decide)- including apps that will remind you and have the selection for the day available to you. :-)

  2. Being a military wife for years I did the deployment thing more times then I wanted to. It is hard, good-byes are hard and a year is a long time. You’re so right about just giving yourself permission to admit that you’ll miss them and you need to deal with it. I think writing letters is such a great way to deal, I did it too. It makes you feel connected and helps you focus on that person every day. I also slept with one of my husbands shirts that smelled like him! I felt like a little kid with their blankey but it made me miss him a little less!

    1. I did the same thing, Krista! I also had a bottle of John’s cologne and sprayed it on things occasionally when I was really missing him. That definitely helped me miss him a little less, too. :-)

  3. So glad to read this, especially right now. Getting ready to say good-bye to my sailor for a bit in the upcoming months (for the first time as his wife), and am already having a rather difficult time dealing with it. The military wives I know in person and on the internet always seem so good at it, so it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who’s still working through it.

  4. I think it’s more normal than not to have a difficult time dealing with deployment– no matter what stage of your relationship. Perhaps it becomes easier to put on a brave face about it, but I believe the majority of spouses still find it difficult, even after multiple deployments. Best of luck on the upcoming deployment. Please keep in touch and let me know if you need anything. I’ll be thinking of you!

  5. Good-byes are hard no matter what! I think it’s the uncertainty more than the distance that hurts. I say it’s okay to cry, to be a little whiny, AND to eat a big bowl of ice cream if it makes you feel better! :)

    Thanks for linking up at #milfammonday!

  6. I really struggle with goodbyes. My husband and I pretty much avoid them all together. The last time my husband left, he left at the crack of dawn before either me or my son were awake. I’m not sure that this is the healthiest way to be doing things, but I’ve pretty much turned into a sap lately. I’m not even a crier. Ha. Geeze. Military life is such a whirlwind. Thanks for sharing a little piece of your world.

    Lauren

    1. Aww, I didn’t know you were dealing with a separation/deployment right now, Lauren. I think that however you deal with goodbyes is what’s healthiest for you. Let me know if I can do anything!

  7. Thank you for allowing others to take a glimpse into your life! I’ve really enjoyed your blog, and this post struck me emotionally. We will be saying our first “big”goodbye tomorrow, and unfortunately we are not able to do it in person. Not sure how to feel about it, how to react, I’m left emotionless and confused! But I absolutely loved what you said, “You don’t have to justify your emotions to anyone- no one else gets to judge them, and you don’t need to qualify them.”

    That was just what I needed, thank you so much. <3

    1. I am so glad that you found this post in the nick of time. It really makes me happy to know that my experiences can help someone else. :-) I hope that your goodbye went well and that you’re feeling okay. And if you’re not, that’s okay. You will feel better– there is light at the end of the tunnel! :-) Let me know if I can do anything!

  8. I stumbled upon this site on accident via Pinterest because of course spending hours at night going through tons of boards filled with quotes to help me through the day, or silly little crafts I can do to make something better, and so on and so forth, is a hobby of mine now that my fiance has joined the military. I am so glad it lead me to this! I have a list a mile long worth of questions without answers. Answers that can only come from the experienced. Thank you for sharing! It’s going to be nice having a “go to”/support for the journeys ahead.

    1. I think my computer decided to have some sort of malfunction and post this comment repeatedly…..sorry for that :)

      1. No worries! Thanks for stopping by and telling your story. Please keep in touch as you go through your military SO journey! :-) I’m happy to have you here!

  9. I stumbled upon this site on accident via Pinterest because of course spending hours at night going through tons of boards filled with quotes to help me through the day, or silly little crafts I can do to make something better, and so on and so forth, is a hobby of mine now that my fiance has joined the military. I am so glad it lead me to this! I have a list a mile long worth of questions without answers. Answers that can only come from the experienced. Thank you for sharing! It’s going to be nice having a “go to”/support for the journeys ahead.

  10. I stumbled upon this site on accident via Pinterest because of course spending hours at night going through tons of boards filled with quotes to help me through the day, or silly little crafts I can do to make something better, and so on and so forth, is a hobby of mine now that my fiance has joined the military. I am so glad it lead me to this! I have a list a mile long worth of questions without answers. Answers that can only come from the experienced. Thank you for sharing! It’s going to be nice having a “go to”/support for the journeys ahead.

  11. I stumbled upon this site on accident via Pinterest because of course spending hours at night going through tons of boards filled with quotes to help me through the day, or silly little crafts I can do to make something better, and so on and so forth, is a hobby of mine now that my fiance has joined the military. I am so glad it lead me to this! I have a list a mile long worth of questions without answers. Answers that can only come from the experienced. Thank you for sharing! It’s going to be nice having a “go to”/support for the journeys ahead.

  12. I stumbled upon this site on accident via Pinterest because of course spending hours at night going through tons of boards filled with quotes to help me through the day, or silly little crafts I can do to make something better, and so on and so forth, is a hobby of mine now that my fiance has joined the military. I am so glad it lead me to this! I have a list a mile long worth of questions without answers. Answers that can only come from the experienced. Thank you for sharing! It’s going to be nice having a “go to”/support for the journeys ahead.

  13. Very happy I found this as the new wife of a recently deployed soldier. The things people say definitely resonates with me, as I heard it constantly before he had left and after he was gone. Not only was I a new wife to a deploying soldier, but I was (and still am) recovering from being very ill. My husband worries about me and asks about how I’m doing and I do everything I can to not let him worry. I love the ideas on this page because I can relate to so many things, especially making things (very creative personality) and sending them to him to cheer him up. Your Pintrest page is fantastic! I’ll definitely continue to follow it and get ideas from it. Thank you!

  14. Thank you so much Jo for making these posts!! I am a new Navy girlfriend to a submariner. This whole navy thing is so new to me! It’s overwhelming to a civilian! We are so in love and thankful to have met each other but saying goodbye for his 1st deployment is getting me down. I really appreciate your posts and all the comments!

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