Families go through some difficult times when separated during a military member’s temporary duty (TDY), deployment and overseas short tours which are normally a year long. When there are children involved, the spouse bears the load of taking care of the family alone along, both spouse and children misses the member after they leave. It is never easy when family is separated during these missions and no matter how much we try to prepare, we realize that we can never prepare for the emotional stress on top of everything else that comes with family separation. In this story, we will say their mom deployed and the child as Clara.
While the father is working and taking care of life and family business, the Clara is going through her own adjustment and emotional stress. Clara adjusting to their new routine. Clara misses mom making home made lunch, taking her to school, picking her up, preparing dinner, having special time, reading bed time stories and tucking her into bed. Clara has grown into depression because she never thought she would have life without mommy. She loves her daddy, but the meals aren’t the same, special time and bedtime stories are just not as exciting and tucking Clara into bed turned into Clara not getting tucked in and cried herself to sleep on her own. After a month and realizing she won’t see mom for another six months for mid tour, then another few months till she completes her one-year deployment, Clara became depressed. At the time she was too young to understand how military deployments work and never imagined life without her mom. As time passed, she realizes her mom is in a war zone and may lose her life. Now Clara has fallen into manic depression. Three months passed, Clara has problems in school, she can’t concentrate and doesn’t participate in classroom sessions. She stopped eating school lunch saying it’s gross as mommy used to make her school lunch every day. Both eating and sleep habits changed tremendously. Clara was happy when she was able to see mommy through Skype or FaceTime but feel into more depression every time they signed off. Now the real challenging times have begun.
While daddy is working hard and doing his best to hold down the fort, he didn’t realize how Clara has been suffering. Clara kept her thoughts and ideas to her own and shut daddy out. The school staff noticed Clara’s mood changes, nonparticipation, weight loss and is now failing all her classes. Her once favorite arts, math and science classes became challenging. The staff contacted her father with their concerns but when her father communicated his concerns to Clara, she claims she’s doing just fine and can’t wait to see mommy again. Since her father isn’t the nurturing type, he was fine with Clara’s response.
Now the really challenges come to light as Clara feels she’s better off dead so she doesn’t have to bear the hurt, stress, missing her mom, adjusting and thoughts of mom not coming home at all has taken over her. During the next FaceTime session with mom, Clara expresses her hurt and love for her mom which was very touching however, she mentioned how much she is missing mommy, hates her present life and she feels better off dead, so she doesn’t have to feel this way. Mom talks to dad about these comments, dad replied saying Clara told him she’s fine. Although mommy is busy in the war zone, going out the wire and has worries of her own, she contacted the school and Clara’s PCP to schedule an appointment. After a couple of visits, Clara spent a week in the children’s crisis psychiatric ward. Clara admitted to attempting suicide in a few ways. She cut her wrists, she admitted to having a knife to stab her heart, but daddy walked into her room, she mixed and drank a few different prescriptions and over the counter medicines which made it difficult to get up for school. Clara has been diagnosed with manic depression and under high alert watch. Fortunately, mom was able to come home for mid tour and help Clara during these rough times. As a mother going through her own dilemmas and depression, she was strong and put Clara’s needs first. She assured Clara she will be home and they will spend a lot of time together. Clara felt good for a moment, but realized mom has to go back and shut down. She told her mom that she will just accept that mommy may lose her life and never come home. Her therapist did some intense sessions with Clara alone and with Clara and mom. Thankfully, the awesome therapist was able to convince Clara to think positive by doing some exercises on these big white pieces of paper so she could take it home and post it on her wall. For the next four months till mom’s deployment would be over, Clara continued weekly therapy and exercises with her therapist. It took a short while for Clara to get back on track, but eventually she saw the light at the end of the tunnel, that mommy would be home soon. She did her best to stay on track. FaceTime or Skype sessions continued which helped the time go by a little faster.
After a year long family separation, mom returned home from her year long deployment. During the two weeks of Rest and Recuperation (R & R), mom attended session with Clara. Although Clara did well in the last few months prior to mom’s return, an unforeseen new set of challenges surfaced. The adjustment back to having the family together again wasn’t as easy as they thought. The assumption of having a whole family together again would be like how it used to be, was definitely not what happened. Not having mom around has really put a strain on the family. Since Clara refused special time and bedtime stories with dad and didn’t have it while mom was gone, Clara’s thoughts about both has changed. When mom tried to do special time and bedtime stories, Clara told her mom she doesn’t like it anymore which hurt her mom really bad. Clara and mom did everything together, did laundry, fold clothes, cooked and baked goodies, went shopping together and all. Since her mom has been gone for a year, learned new behaviors, became independent and since mom came home, she didn’t feel she need mom to help with laundry and didn’t feel it fun to do all those with her mom anymore. In one of their therapy sessions, Clara’s mom expressed these behavior changes and Clara didn’t take it well. She didn’t didn’t understand why her behavior changed, instead, she interpreted this as her mom didn’t love her anymore. The next few months were rough… Clara attempted suicide again. This time, she used a power strip in attempt to hang herself. Fortunately, her mom walked it right as she attempted to hang herself. Both her relieved and disappointed. This time, her mom took her to the crisis center and checked Clara into the children’s crisis psychiatric hospital. This time she stayed for a shorter period of time with a number of intense sessions. Both Clara and her mom attended sessions to help with adjusting back to a positive military lifestyle after a yearlong deployment. Clara graduated and was able to go home. Adjusting to having mom home again took some time, but after 1 year or so of having mom back home, life still had its ups and downs but overall, the situation has been more positive and happier.
If you or anyone recognize persons with suicidal tendencies and behaviors, please contact any of the resources below:
The 988 Lifeline
988 is now active across the United States. This new, shorter phone number will make it easier for people to remember and access mental health crisis services. (Please note, the previous 1-800-273-TALK (8255) number will continue to function indefinitely.) Click below to learn more about 988.
Military One Source
Suicide Prevention Hotline
Call 988 or 800-273-8255