The first month of a deployment can arguably be considered the hardest for a partner or loved one left behind. During the weeks leading up to Matt’s deployment and for the few weeks after, I found my emotions all over the place and my brain scattered.
I was reading a deployment spouse blog one day that described that for every crying mother, wife, and girlfriend who was watching her partner head out on a deployment, it meant that another was anxiously getting ready and awaiting the arrival of their loved one coming back home. I still get goosebumps when I think about it; it’s all a cycle. When I finally got to hug Matt again, it only meant that someone else was kissing their best friend goodbye for a period of time and that’s not something I take for granted.
You don’t have to be overwhelmed by deployments. You’re definitely not alone and many successful couples have blazed this trail before, so in the spirit of supporting one another & having a productive & even (dare I say it!) happy deployment, I’ve compiled this list of thirty things to do during the first thirty days – I hope you find it helpful!
It’s totally okay and a completely normal reaction. Suppressing your feelings will ultimately just make things harder for you in the long run so spend those first few days tearing up and make no apologies.
Binge Watch Your Favorite Girly Netflix Shows
You deserve a little guilty pleasure the first few days while you’re still adjusting and feeling all around crummy. Keeping Up With The Kardashians definitely occupied my evenings while I was still figuring out what I wanted to do each evening after work.
define your deployment goals
After those first few days and when your emotions calm down, take some time to reflect and really think about what you want to accomplish while your partner is gone. This could be a professional goal, a fitness goal, a financial goal, picking up a new hobby – it’s completely up to you but spend some time solidifying your goals and then commit them to paper.
Start To Establish A New Routine
Maybe this means picking up half the amount of groceries you were before, maybe this means switching your workouts to after work to eat up some time. Experiment and find your new normal.
Keep Track Of Your Countdown
There are plenty of apps, deployment walls, crafts (new post to come soon!), and calendars that will help you keep track and feel like you’re making progress towards your partner coming home. I look forward to cutting off a link from my deployment chain every morning!
Start (Or Continue) Your Prayer Or Meditation Habit
I’ve started to secretly look forward to waking up a little earlier than I used to so that I can spend some quiet moments by myself in the morning reflecting on how blessed I am while praying for my partner and our troops overseas. I then move into a few minutes of meditation and manifestation affirmations. It grounds me and helps me feel connected and confident to take on the day.
I used to be a huge reader but found that I never really read when Matt and I were together because I would rather be spending my time talking to him or just hanging out but while Matt was deployed, I found myself craving my reading time before bed. I gravitated mostly towards female empowerment or professional productivity & development books like Girl Code, The One Thing, and The Miracle Morning.
Start Cooking At Home
I’ve always been a big cook but Matt and I also loved going out to dates and spend a sizable (aka embarrassing) amount of money on our culinary adventures. Don’t get me wrong, I wish more than anything I was still able to make him dinner each night but now with Matt gone, I’m able to incorporate more vegetables into my meals, I don’t have to disguise cauliflower rice, and I’m even able to go meatless if it strikes my fancy that night.
Get Your Workout Groove On
Matt was my accountability partner and definitely pushed me to go to the gym so once he left, it took me a good couple of weeks before I decided to fire up the OrangeTheory app and book myself into a morning session. I created a great little fitness tracker (that I plan to share next week in a post!) that I uploaded and shared with Matt so I still feel like he’s encouraging and cheering me on. Plus – he doesn’t have to end every email with “did you go to the gym today?” 🙂 For those who are already avid workout fans or worked out with their partner, this is a great time to switch it up a bit and try something you wouldn’t normally – spin, Zumba, yoga, hiking, pilates… the options are endless!
Make Your Home A Place You Love To Go
Not that I’m suggesting you go on a full free redecorating spree without your partner (especially if you own a home together!) but I know personally I have these super adorable, beaded throw pillows that are completely unpractical and itchy to sit on. When Matt was around those poor pillows never got used but while he was gone they were proudly displayed and I smiled every time I walked in the door (before I promptly moved them as well haha). This might mean buying a scented candle you love or treating yourself to fresh flowers on the kitchen table.
Hang Out With Your Girlfriends
You might feel like just staying at home and ordering Postmates but you can’t stay in your footed cat pjs forever. Rally your girlfriends and meet up for a happy hour or a meal. Host a girls’ night at your place. Spend some serious time with the people that love you.
Find An Online Support System And Community
It can be hard if this your first experience with the military or deployment (heyyyy sister! Me too!) and even harder if no one around you has ever been in the same situation. I was lucky enough that’s Matt’s unit had a Facebook group for all the significant others where we could ask questions, share advice, vent, and support each other. It helps to know you’re not alone and it’s a great way to identify some amazing role models – there was a woman in our group who had been through SEVEN deployments and shared some GREAT advice!
Communicate With Your Partner
Days and weeks will go by with no communication but I made an effort to send Matt a bunch of little emails just to let him know how I was doing, what I was up to, funny things the dog has done or just that I was thinking about him. I knew that whenever he eventually read my messages they’d be a welcome break from his normal day’s duties and helped him still feel connected and up to date with what was happening in my life.
Start Your Care Packages
I didn’t know until I joined the FB group I mentioned above that decorated care packages were a thing. I just assumed you put the things in the box and sent them, but ohhh no and I have to admit, I loved it. I’m all about the crafts over here. Matt’s first care package went out three weeks after he left and was coffee themed so it included puns like we (me and the dog) miss you a latte, I cannot espresso how much I love you, and you mocha me so happy. It took a few weeks before it arrived but I he loved it and I had such a fun time decorating it. I started decorating my second care package before he even got his first delivered! (#militarymailproblems)
Make sure to check out Pinterest if you’r looking for ideas!
Plan Some No Spend Days
I put aside some of the money that Matt and I would have spent on date nights out into a separate deployment savings jar so that when he got home we had some fun play money to do something nice like a weekend trip or just a really special dinner out! I’ve also heard of friends starting a spare change jar during deployments where they add up all the coins at the end and treat their partner (& themselves) to something!
I started incorporating journaling into my morning routine and found that it was a great way to get some of my emotions and thoughts out there. This blog post actually begun as a journal brainstorm and I’m sure you’ll see many more blog posts in the future that had the same start.
Establish A Way To Share Moments With Your Partner
I made an Instagram highlight called Matt and anytime I added to my story and it was something I wanted to Matt to see eventually, I just simply pinned it to the highlight. There’s no expiration date so the next time that Matt pulled into a port and was able to use his phone, he was able to see everything I had been up to. There are also 1 second a day video apps or you can take a picture a day and save them for your significant other.
Work Out Your Mind
Your partner has been training and learning many new skills for this deployment and will continue to fine tune and advance those skills while they’re gone. Why don’t you try to learn a language, pick up an art skill, or work on professional development to also make sure you’re growing during the time apart?
Head To The Wooden Pews
Well my church definitely doesn’t have wooden pews but you get the point. With a summer deployment start date, weekends out of town on vacation and family visits, and hosting people in San Diego, my church attendance was anything but regular leading up to Matt’s deployment. I really enjoy starting my Sunday morning off with a good workout, church visit, and great lunch. If you’re as lucky as I am, your church may even have a great community that offers support or small groups for military families or even meet up groups that can help you with your deployment goals (financial freedom, weight loss, etc).
Do Something Fun
It’s so easy to get caught up in the goal setting, new normal, range of emotions that you forget to just take a break and do something fun. Go to the movies, spend a Saturday at the spa, head to the mall, or make a trip to the beach!
There are a ton of great organizations who are always looking for some extra helping hands. Eat up some of your extra free time and make the world a better place while doing it. Everyone can make a difference.
Clean And Donate
This is a perfect time when you’re really looking at matters and who you want to be. Spend some extra time going through your home and making sure that it aligns with those goals. While discovering your new normal, you’ll also discover all the junk from the past that has. got. to. go.
Quit A Bad Habit
Is there something you’ve been meaning to eliminate but just haven’t gotten around to? Now without your partner around daily you have the flexibility to commit yourself to getting rid of this bad habit without feeling added pressure from another set of eyes. Just think how excited they’ll be when they return home and find out that you no longer pick at your nails, smoke, swear, are glued to your phone, etc.
Go See Some Art
Maybe it’s an art museum, a concert in the park, or even a display of bulletin boards in your kid’s school but get out there and appreciate some art. You’ll feel a greater sense of beauty in the world and it’s a nice little break from our everyday lives.
Send Friends And Family Your Partner’s Address And Encourage Them To Send Letters & Packages
I drafted out in my planner the people I wanted to reach out to so that Matt would receive a constant flow of support and encouragement during his deployment.
Check Out Your Local Events Calendar Or Plan Something A Few Months From Now That You Can Look Forward To
It was super helpful to me to break apart the deployment into small pieces. When I originally wrote this post we we’re almost done with July, I had a fitness competition at work going on in August, I made some plans with my girlfriends in September, and my sister was having a baby in October so I was planning a trip home to visit at the latest for Thanksgiving. Having little milestones like that to look forward to really made a difference. I found that by breaking apart the time and making it only a few weeks until the next thing/event you’re looking forward to really kept me from slumping into a “this is taking foreverrrrrrr” mindset.
Ask For Help
Need some alone time? Find a sitter or ask a friend for help. Need to talk to someone about how you’re feeling? Reach out to the FRO for resources or find a licensed even military family focused counselor in your area. Connect with a girlfriend and offer to swap homemade meals. You don’t have to do this alone and it’s completely okay to ask for help.
Even when you don’t feel like it. There’s scientific evidence that by physically putting a smile on our face you can improve your mood and send your brain signals that you’re happy.
Create A Master Password Sheet
Technically you should have done this before your partner deployed but Matt and I found that as an unmarried couple, a lot of the pre-deployment checklists didn’t make sense for us. Well guess who lost their reoccurring Postmates Unlimited subscription? I also had to go back through Hulu and Netflix too so just realize even if you’re not married there will probably be things that you didn’t think about being tied to your partner that you might want access too.. hello gas perks for grocery shopping rewards! Haha
Make Plans For When Your Partner Returns Home
If there’s one thing you learn from military life, it’s that everything changes and flexibility is the name of the game but I find it always boosted my mood when I thought of all the plans and things Matt and I would do once he returned home. It helped make the ending of this deployment feel real.
Be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you put on your deployment to-do list or share any advice that you may have for someone going through this for the first (or 99th) time!
Don’t forget to check out some of my other blog posts like How I Never Miss A Message From My Marine!