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Embracing the Holidays with Military Separation 

Counseling for families during the Holidays with Carolina Counseling Services North Fayetteville Office Fayetteville NC,PCS challenges during Christmas,Easing pain of PCS during the holidays with counseling,counseling for military families around Christmas Fayetteville,NC,

Embracing the Holidays with Military Separation 


Dubbed as the “most wonderful time of the year,” the mere thought of the holidays can bring a smile on your face. The holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s – after all, evoke warm and comforting events, such as family reunion, mouth-watering spreads, gifts, and great family time… but not always for a military family.

For a military family, separation is a real, tragic possibility during the holidays. Tragic because no holidays can be perfect when a member is away on a deployment or thousands of miles away from your family because of a recent PCS (permanent change of station). The feelings associated with separation are not easy to live with because the loneliness and the sense of defeat are magnified by the season.

The separation of a military spouse during this season can put stress on any couple. For the departing spouse, the loneliness can be unbearable. For the one staying behind alone with the children, the numerous holiday tasks can “fill their plate,” overwhelming them in the process. For a family that just moved for yet another PCS, leaving behind everything familiar cannot be any more difficult. As powerful emotions hit you and the other members of your family, more issues can be generated.


Stress Magnified

“As another holiday season approaches, the stress of separation on military families can be overwhelming.” The deployment of a family member in the service or a PCS before the holidays is not to be underestimated. Studies reveal that next to divorce and a death in the family, separation is the third most distressing event for military families. The pain, sadness and sense of futility or hopelessness are greatly magnified when separation happens around the merriest season of the year. Not that it won’t be appreciated at another time of the year but having an incomplete family around this time can be more upsetting.

Knowing that the deployment or PCS is necessary to help keep world peace is a consolation.  That is not enough, though, to obliterate the powerful emotions that the long separation and lifestyle adjustments may conjure, especially if these happen during the holidays. Imagine the empty chair at the Christmas dinner table or not having one parent around when the Thanksgiving turkey is carved. Think of the heartbreaking moments when the Christmas presents are opened or when the New Year’s fireworks light up the sky and a family member is not there to enjoy the fun with everyone.

Considering that deployment and PCS are regular military routines, giving up the idea of having a stable domestic life is part of the deal. This means having a transient family lifestyle or being a ‘mobile family.’ While such can evoke fun and adventure, being on the constant move is a different story. It can hit hard during the holidays because the season is meant to be celebrated with family. With deployment also comes the nagging fear for the safety of the family member deployed in a war-torn area.


Alone and Faraway on a Deployment

There will be so many occasions you will likely miss when you are deployed in a faraway country. You can miss the birth of your child, their activities in school and the chance to watch them have fun. You may feel guilt as your spouse is left to struggle on her/his own, doing everything for a smooth-sailing household. You may also worry that your family is adjusting “too” well that they could be forgetting how it is to have you around. All the emotions become stronger as the holidays draw near.

If you are active in the service, the order for deployment any time before the holiday season is not good news. Whether you are a novice or a veteran who has gone down this road before, you may never become used to the pangs of loneliness. You must battle the solitude as you remember and wonder what’s going on back home. It is natural to feel unhappy, frustrated and helpless, but you don’t have to feel hopeless.

There is no single way of adjusting to the situation. You may decide to put some space between you and the others in your unit, or you may want to seek out the company of others. You may choose to increase your calls to home or deliberately take a break from excessive videocalls. You may want to do some crafts to bring home as gifts later. If you are wondering how else you can feel better with PCS or deployment these holidays, talk to a counselor, and look forward to the happy days ahead.


Waiting Back Home

Many people think that life can be easier for the one left behind. If you are left at home with the young ones, it can be just as challenging. Being the single parent, you must juggle so many tasks and responsibilities. It isn’t uncommon for military spouses to do everything, including odd jobs to have a smooth-running household.

If you are the wife, you will likely find yourself doing ‘man-jobs,’ such as repairing a broken door or window hinges, fixing the faucet or the fence, and maybe chauffeuring the children to and from school, ballet or practices. If you are the husband, you may be relegated chores that a housewife typically does – laundry, cooking, cleaning the house, caring for the little ones and helping them with their homework, and a million other small tasks.

You are bound to be overwhelmed by a lot of emotions, especially during the holidays. You may feel guilty that you are safe at home and having all the fun and enjoyment while your spouse is alone in a distant location. You are likely to be lonely as well, seeing the empty seat at your dinner table laden with your traditional fare for a holiday feast. You will worry too, wondering how your wife or husband is surviving their ordeal and the twinges of solitude.


Don’t Be Lonely, Angry or Worried; Go to Therapy

Talking is good, even when the you know that the distance cannot be bridged by the person you are talking to. Talking can help you feel better because it allows you to release your emotions. Rather than be angry or keeping your feelings under a tight lid and running the risk of exploding later, you can talk. Talk to your fellow soldiers in the unit. For the military spouse, talk to fellow military spouses, civilian friends, and relatives. If you are feeling overwhelmed, the best person to talk to who is great at listening is a counselor/therapist.

Rise to the challenges of military separation in the family. Whoever you are – the military, the spouse or a teen child in the family – you can benefit from talking to a professional listener. They do more than listen. If you are overwhelmed, they can help you sort out your issues. If depression or anxiety is tainting your life, they can assess your symptoms and start treating your condition. They can also help you see the holidays without your loved one/ones in a different light. A deployment or PCS, after all, is not a “death sentence.” It carries a nationalistic value that isn’t offered to every citizen.

It is true that the holidays aren’t as fun as they should be when somebody’s not home to share it with, or your family has just moved to another military base. Remembering the noble meaning it carries can be heartwarming. Rather than agonize because of the separation from loved ones, talk to a counselor. In North Carolina, you can find dedicated independently contracted therapists at Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC.

Despite the separation this holiday season, be positive. Call us… let’s talk!

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Fayetteville, NC (North)

Counties: Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson Counties, NC

Areas: Fayetteville NC, Ft Bragg NC, Pope Field NC, Sliver City NC, Linden NC, Bunnlevel NC, Erwin NC, Dundarrach NC, Rex NC,and Wade, NC

Zip Codes: 28311, 28395, 28390, 28356

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Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office, Fayetteville, NC

422 McArthur Road, Suite 2
FayettevilleNC 28311

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PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311

Choose your Therapist

  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Anxiety, Depression, Individuals, Couples, Geriatrics, Criminal Justice, Stress Management, Loss and Grief related to death, disability, divorce, deployment, “empty nest”, retirement and other major life transitions
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    Location: Fayetteville, NC