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When Deployment is Extended

SD-DeploymentExt-Image

By Karen Pavlicin-Fragnito 

Deployment involves uncertainty about many things, including the duration of the separation. Sometimes an assignment is extended, just when a family begins to see the light at the end of the deployment tunnel. An extension for any reason can bring on a host of fresh emotions, worries, even physical symptoms, including exhaustion and pain. 

To deal with a deployment extension in a healthy way, find a safe outlet for your initial reaction to the news. Be angry at the situation, but don’t blame individuals, especially your spouse. Service members may feel badly that they won’t be coming home and worry about additional stress on their family; kids may wonder if their behavior or fears caused the extension. Try to work out some of your emotions and help those around you do the same. You have no control over your new timeline, but you can control how you respond to it. 

“You have no control over your new timeline, but you can control how you respond to it.” 

A few tools you can put in your deployment extension kit to help you combat the negative effects and turn back to the positive approach of celebrating each day: 

  • Put on good dance music. It’s hard to be angry or depressed when you are listening to music that makes you want to dance. 
  • Put a photo on your bedside table – one that depicts a wonderful aspect of your loved one’s personality or your relationship – so the first thing you see when you wake up and when you go to bed is a reminder of your love.
  • Watch a funny movie. Laughter and a sense of humor can change your perspective, helping you face the situation with a little more patience.
  • Surround yourself with positive people and influences. Find inspirational sayings or scriptures and post them on your refrigerator and bathroom mirror.
  • Create a worry notebook. Any time you have a worry, large or small, write your fear in the notebook. Write down worries and questions to get them off your mind and find answers later. Allow no more than 20 minutes once a week or less often to look in your notebook and examine your worries. Use the rest of your time to live your life. Take actions or seek answers to questions you have written down, but don’t spend more time worrying.
  • Don’t neglect time for yourself: Every day has 1,440 minutes. Sixty minutes is not too much to give yourself. Exercise, meditate, shop, pray, participate in a creative outlet, whatever you need to keep balance in your life – that still leaves 1,380 minutes for everyone else. Give yourself an hour a day just for you, guilt free.
  • Make sure that you and everyone else in your family gets enough sleep, healthy food, and exercise. Get the basics every day.
  • Express your love. Make time in each communication for affection – include it in every letter, email, or phone call with your service member and each interaction with your family at home. During a deployment extension, reaffirming your love and commitment can go a long way to helping each person in your family feel more positive.
  • Plan at least one fun activity for yourself and your family during the extra time of separation. Give yourself permission to really enjoy this time.

Consider this deployment extension as a new beginning. If there are things you wish you had done during the deployment, you can do them now. If there are routines that aren’t quite working, go ahead and change them.

Anger and disappointment are common responses for both children and adults, but families should pay attention to more severe or lasting reactions including depression, apathy, withdrawal, or increased physical stress. Seek help from a professional when these symptoms persist. 

Yes, deployment extensions are disappointing, but a few extra days or weeks is a short time compared to spending your life together. Take all the positive things you learned during this deployment and use them to turn the extra time into a positive, rewarding experience.  

Karen Pavlicin is the award-winning author of  Surviving Deployment: A Guide for Military Families  andLife After Deployment: Military Families Share Reunion Stories and Advice.

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