How many of you have seen one of those homecoming videos of a man (or woman) in uniform surprising their child or mother or another family member? I love them—don’t you? They are sweet and joyous, so full of emotion. I giggle and smile and sometimes shed a few tears.
I look forward to the homecoming pictures posted by my active duty friends. Everyone who knows them breathes a collective sigh of relief. Another one returned home to us, safe and sound. Things can return to normal for that family.
What civilians may not know is that the hours and days after the welcome home photographs may not be so sweet. The reality of homecoming can be very different from other reunions, say when a child returns home on a college break or you travel home to visit family.
If you want to support military families, this is what you should know about reintegration.
The Hidden Truth about Reintegration
God is with you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He is covering you and sustaining you throughout your time of separation from your husband. ~Kathy Barnett, from Beyond Warrior’s Bride: Reintegration
Most of what I’m about to share is common sense when you stop to think about it. But the truth is that not even military families who know and understand this are good about it. We rarely talk about it, and even when one of our close friends returns home after deployment, we struggle to follow through on the advice below.
It’s easy to focus on our personal joy when someone we love or care about returns home after months of being away. But the spouse and children will thank you for taking the time to remember and pray about these four things.
Four things to know about reintegration
1. Everyone is a bit nervous
The family has been separated for weeks, maybe months. Everyone has changed. At least one spouse lived with a different culture and a different mindset. Both spouses dealt with higher than normal stress. Maybe the one deployed saw action, dealt with intense danger, or watched comrades die. The one at home learned to function as a single person or parent, setting the schedule, controlling the remote, and maybe living off cereal for dinner.
Now, they must reintegrate as a couple and a family. They know things may be different, and that’s concerning. They don’t fully know everything the other has seen or done while they were separated, and that can add stress. Expectations can be high, making the fall into reality even worse.
2. Quantity equals quality.
Relationships need time, and that’s the one thing this family has lived without. While they will adjust faster than a newly married couple, in some ways they are like newlyweds again. For weeks, the deployed spouse has relied on his battle buddies while the spouse at home relied on herself, her best friend, or her children. They need to mentally and practically switch to working together as partners.
This can be even more difficult if tragedy struck during the deployment. For example, if the active duty member saw his friend die on the battlefield, he may come home withdrawn as he mourns his loss. Trying to be supportive and understanding, the spouse at home may continue to rely on the children to keep things running smooth around the house. While this may be appropriate at times, it’s easy for this pattern to continue rather than for the couple to fight through the heartbreak to become a well-functioning team again.
3. Visitors may be appreciated. But probably not at first.
Remember when you first met your spouse? All the time and attention you wanted to get from them and give to them? Do you remember how other people were an interruption?
The stress of reintegrating as a family varies from one deployment to another and one family to another. But most families need at least a day or two to relax together and begin reforging the bonds that will help them function as a team again. If the deployment was particularly stressful to one spouse, several days of family-only time may be needed.
And yes, this time out goes for extended family too. They may love you deeply but give them at least a day (maybe more) to be alone together.
4. Each deployment, and thereby each reintegration, is a little different.
Some reintegration periods go amazingly well. Others . . . not so much. No one really knows how this is going to go until you are in the midst of it. So prayers are always good, and phone calls or texts before you stop by are wise.
The Lord is good, and God is generous. ~Carrie Daws, from Beyond Warrior’s Bride: Reintegration
No one wants this to go better than God. We know that He loves each person involved more than we can imagine and that He wants to bless us all with abundant life. So pray for that for this newly reunited family and be sensitive to the needs of the family you love before intruding upon their first few days together.
So, Tell Me . . .
I want to know what you think!
- Did this post make you think a bit to make sure you’re on track with what God wants you to do with (or how God wants you to pray for) military families? Write ‘Yes’ in the comments below.
- Does this motivate you to make some changes in your life (or prayer life) when someone you know returns from deployment? Write ‘Changes Ahead!’ in the comments below.
- Do you need to think about it some more or figure out what God is asking of you? Let me know you are ‘Still Thinking.’
- Anything else come to mind? Share it below! Your comments encourage me to keep writing, no matter how insignificant you think your thoughts about this post are.
If you want to read more from me about reintegration, check out my ebook in the Beyond Warrior’s Bride series. It’s only $0.99!
Deployments are inevitable in military life. Short or long, relatively safe or extremely dangerous, time away from our men is standard issue. How can the family left behind best deal with the transition before and after deployment? And what should we do if he comes home different?
Those who deal with long separations due to a career know that the first weeks back can be trickier than when you first began living together as a couple, particularly if the mission was stressful or life-threatening. While the Bible doesn’t specifically mention reintegration, God still gives us great advice on preparing our hearts and minds so that our marriage can thrive even through Reintegration.