Tips for Surviving the First Day

The first day of a deployment is unarguably the worst.

Waking up before dawn to drive a full car to the base and returning home next to an empty seat.   That hug you wish would never end and that kiss that says so much and not enough all at the same time. Saying goodbye to half your heart and watching him walk away into the darkness. The quiet sound of sniffles from the back of the car from the kids who know what’s happening, and even the chatter of the youngest who doesn’t quite understand just yet. A long, lonely ride home staring into a long lonely day, the first of many.

These are the days that can crush you if you let them. The upside is that we know when it’s coming, and we can make plans to make the day a little brighter.

  1. I don’t like to clean … ever really but especially not when I’m sad and missing my sailor. I also don’t like to cook when I’m sad. I know; I know. My poor kids, right? Actually I just plan ahead. I make sure the laundry is caught up, the kitchen is reasonably done, and the rest of the house is picked up. We either eat DIY (everyone fends for themselves except for Alli), or we order in. There’s nothing quite like being day-one-depressed, but it’s much easier from the comfort of a clean couch scarfing on delivery.
  2. Acknowledge the sadness … it stinks to say good-bye. It’s hard not knowing when you will see your best friend again, when you will hug your dad again. It’s almost a tradition, I think, for me to say, “Well, that stinks!” as we drive away. We acknowledge the sadness, but we don’t let it take over.
  3. Recognize how amazing this crazy lifestyle is! I like to go see the submarine off. Scratch that! I love it, and I take the kids with me as often as possible. So many people have said, “I don’t  know how you stand him leaving so much!” I just think how fortunate I am, how fortunate my children are, to have a husband and father who we can be so proud of and to be able to be part of this crazy submarine life. Who gets to wave good-bye to a submarine? Seriously! Who gets to do that?!?
  4. Make it a special day! We’ve had early morning donuts or breakfast picnics. We’ve done pizza and a movie girls’ nights. We’ve done all kinds of silly things because yes, we miss him, but we also have to keep going and staying sad doesn’t really work for us.
  5. Use your feelings. I write lots and lots of letters and emails to my sailor on the day he leaves. I write lots and lots of blog posts in those sad days. I make goals. I make plans. I use my emotions to push me outside of my cozy little 9-to-5 husband box.
  6. Finally, do something good. There’s nothing quite like brightening someone else’s day to make your own tough day a little easier. Leave a gift for another spouse whose sailor just left. Buy a meal for a homeless person. Give your kid an extra hug. See a need; fill it. It will make you feel better.

No bones about it: the first day is tough. It’s sad. It’s lonely. It’s terrible. Let it be all those things, but remember it is so much more. We are so lucky to live this life and create these one-of-a-kind memories. Someday all these tough moments will be just that … mere moments in a lifetime of amazing.


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