Deployment happens. This is the Navy after all, right? And for most of us, deployment happens during the holidays. In my husband’s twenty years in the Navy we’ve missed more than half a dozen complete holiday seasons: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve (which coincidentally includes one of our kids’ birthday). Trust me when I say spending this time apart so often does not make it easier, but over the years I have learned a few strategies for Surviving the Holidays During Deployment.
Include Mom or Dad (the deployed parent) as much as possible.
Whether your service member will be gone for a few months or an entire year, include him or her as much as possible. In our family, this means Dad buys presents and cards before he leaves or sometimes makes videos for the kids to watch on Christmas morning. We make sure he has a holiday care package before he leaves and try to send him holiday videos, cards, and letters along the way.
Depending on your deployment, you might be able to email or chat on special days or even phone, Skype, or Facetime for the holidays. Make every effort to keep your deployed parent a part of the festivities.
Stick to your traditions.
I try to keep deployment as normal as possible for my kids. We all still go to work and school every day. We keep up with swim lessons and marital arts classes. Whatever we do when dad is home, we try to maintain while he’s gone.
This same rule applies to the holidays. I don’t ever want my kids to associate dad being gone with missing out on our family traditions. We still roast a big turkey on Thanksgiving, and we still chop down a ridiculously large Douglas Fir for Christmas. These are things our family ALWAYS does, and I know my sailor wouldn’t want us to skip that just because he isn’t home.
Celebrate with your family.
I am always with my family on holidays. It might be just my husband and my kids. It might be that my kids and I pack up and visit my parents or my in-laws or that they come to visit us. It might be the family that I have assembled over the years here in Washington, but no matter what I spend the holidays with family.
Try to remember the reason for the season …
Whether you are a religious person or not, I think we can all agree that the holidays should be about giving back and helping others. Serving others is a sure fire way to brighten up your day no matter how down you are feeling about missing your sailor.
There are so many ways to give back during the holidays. Donate to a food drive or a buy a warm coat for a child in need. Buy cars and dolls for Toys 4 Tots. Volunteer to serve a meal at a soup kitchen, visit a senior center, or just drop some change in the Salvation Army Bell Ringers’ cans whenever you go shopping. Every little bit counts, and every good deed will make you feel better.
And try to remember the reason for the deployment.
This one is going to be a tough pill to swallow, and I am going to ask you to dig deep here. First ask yourself why your sailor is gone in the first place. Is it a casual business trip that could have been postponed? Did he choose to miss your holiday together? No. Your sailor is serving our country, protecting our rights and freedoms, and honoring his commitment to God and country.
Now dig a little deeper and remind yourself that because your sailor is away, someone else … some other spouse … some other little child will have their mommy or daddy home this Christmas. Someone who maybe needs him or her more. Someone who didn’t have mom or dad home for Christmas last year perhaps.
This is what I tell myself in the very hardest of moments. He is gone because he made a commitment to our country, and I am here holding down the fort because I made a commitment to him.
Deployment is hard, and deployments during the holidays are the worst. But you can make it through. You can survive and even thrive while your sailor is away!
This post is sponsored by Lincoln Military Housing but as always all opinions are my own.