For military service members and their families, the separation of deployment is difficult, both physically and emotionally. In the past decade, it’s more likely that service members will deploy for an extended mission. The stress and trauma of these long separations is a real concern as military families go through the five stages of deployment.
With October being Emotional Wellness Month, now is the perfect time to think through how you can support emotional wellness for a family going through this process. If you haven’t experienced deployment yourself, you might find it difficult to understand this journey. Here are some practical ideas to help foster emotional wellness in friends or family going through deployment.
Be ready and willing to listen.
You don’t always have to talk to be able to help. Being present and showing genuine interest is often enough.
Be empathetic and understanding.
When you communicate, be sure to show that you understand the feeling behind what an individual is saying. Even if you can’t personally relate, try to put yourself in his or her shoes and empathize with the situation.
Validate their experiences.
The most important way to validate the experience of deployment is to avoid the use of cliches. Even when speaking positively, avoid general platitudes like “Be strong.” and “You’re doing so well.” Speak to their situation specifically and let them know you’re there to help.
Don’t solve their problems for them.
Help them find answers on their own. You can’t be the problem solver for them. During deployment, military spouses have to take ownership of their own routines and decisions.
Be a confidant.
Conversations have to be kept between just you and the other person. Being an emotional support system requires trust. The only reason to break that trust is if he or she is a danger to himself or herself, or to others.
The famous quote from Maya Angelou rings true in this situation, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Supporting emotional wellness for military families is a critical component for making it through deployment. Remember, your presence and support is enough. For the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, emotional support is a key element in bringing service members back into everyday life during the trauma of TBI and the difficulties of psychological health conditions. Learn more about about our programs in support of our military here.