40 Ways to Cope on The Day Your Spouse Deploys

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As military spouses, we are resilient. We live this life and it’s rarely easy, and the weeks leading up to deployments are a special kind of hell. That final day you have to say goodbye is one that none of us look forward to, but it will come and we have to face it. And we have to cope with it.

Everyone is different and you have to find what works best for you. While some need to watch the boat leave for closure, others rather not visualize it. Some enjoy the company of others, while some may prefer to be alone.

To crowdsource others for inspiration, we asked over 40 experienced spouses what they do to cope that first day. And here’s what they said:

  1. I used to go shopping and buy an expensive purse. Then when he came home, I would say: “This old thing, I’ve had it for months.”
  2. Order takeout
  3. Immediate fun with girlfriends… shopping, lunch, spa day, wine, whatever makes you smile on a normal day will make you smile that much more on this day. If you have the option of taking a brief road trip for a night or two, that works great as well.
  4. I like to create a fun project list, with one big fun thing I want to accomplish each month. Nothing boring or stressful. Recently I finally ordered a learn to watercolor paint kit. I’m horrible at painting but it was hilarious and a super fun month of watercolor exploration. And it was a nice special something for me to do (other than cleaning) when the kiddo was finally asleep!
  5. I usually would do house chores, get all the laundry done, clean the kitchen and then sit down and find a new show series to start watching from season one. I also read a lot more books and try out new recipes for dinner in the months my husband has been underway. I’m the kind of person that has the TV or music on in the background all the time because I like the noise.
  6. I started an herb garden one time…my the time he got home we had SO much basil and mint lol.
  7. Clean my bathroom so it’s just my stuff on the counter (no constant reminders of his absence) and I always have some kind of self-care plan like a face mask and nail polish and watching The Crown.
  8. The last two times I’ve invited the other wardroom spouses/SOs and their kids over to my house for pizza and drinks. It was very casual, and people were welcome to spend the night (or Uber home) if they wanted. It was a really fun night both times. I never want to be alone that night, and being with other people who “get it” helps me. (I also remember being completely alone the first time he left, which was not good for me. I always want to give others a place to be with people they can trust and ask for help)
  9. I have four kids. We always watch the boat leave and then get takeout and have a floor picnic and family sleep over with a movie.
  10. We always had breakfast for dinner. I love it he doesn’t. It was a tradition with my girls.
  11. We say our goodbyes, watch the boat leave and get takeout including deserts and keep it low key at home. My kids are older so I make myself available to them but I follow their lead. We’re all a little sad that day.
  12. (In the before times) go somewhere myself! I’ve always left on a trip that day.
  13. Sleep in the middle of the bed. 
  14. With kids, we always did junk cereal for dinner*, watch a new movie, and have a slumber party together in the family room. *I never let them have sugar cereals, and I buy the boxes early and let them stare at them for the week leading up to deployment so they have something to look forward to on that day. 
  15. I keep departure day pretty low key with maybe grab take out and a movie. Emotionally, it’s a really long day and the kids and I were always exhausted. The first full day we did a pot luck with the wives and kids or got together for coffee and play dates.
  16. The kids and I go out to have ice cream. That way dad leaving is an happy thing!
  17. I insist that no extended family come for departure day. I need to be able to go through all the emotions without having to entertain others. As for the actual day, we (kids and I) plan to watch the boat leave with other boat friends. I am not someone who wants to be alone so I open up my home for wardroom significant others/family to come hang out for a casual potluck. It’s good to have others who are literally “in the same boat” to lean on and it’s fun to plan out the activities you want to do together over the coming months.
  18. I take my kids to get ice cream. We each plan our deployment excursion while we eat! The excursions can be small outings but they are something we all look forward to. For example, my son wants us to go tubing. Little trips that are fun and keep us positive!!
  19. Take the kids out to sushi and something really fun.
  20. Something really fun, to distract the kids. Harder during a pandemic, but usually a zoo visit, or Chuck E Cheese (which I hate, but they love).
  21. Go shopping!
  22. We say our see you laters and then we eat junk food and just stay busy and then watch movies. We just have a day to be sad and the next day we get on with what I call “our second life.” We have the whole family life and then our Navy life while daddy/hubby is gone.
  23. Donuts and deployment. We always do donuts that morning after drop off.
  24. Binge my favorite chic flicks and do absolutely nothing!
  25. Whenever he leaves, I schedule a day (or two) to mope. I lay on the couch with the dogs and watch my favorite show, with snacks. I always end up needing a lot of sleep to feel human again, so I make sure I leave time for that. And then once my mope time is done, I spend a lot of time connecting with friends and family. Now it’s Zoom/FaceTime but in the past my friends would always take me out to a nice junk food dinner. Basically, I just try to be as kind to myself as possible!
  26. Clean up after the hubby!
  27. Buy something for myself that is completely indulgent.
  28. The first time I went home after watching him leave, I crawled into bed to self pity. My friend Leann came and made me get up and took me to a movie. Not sure what I did for the other deployment days but I will never forget that. I do know I didn’t crawl into bed or self pity ever again.
  29. Watch the boat leave then dinner out somewhere . I don’t always do the same thing each time just however it hits me that day.
  30. Typically I am running around getting last minute items my husband seemed to forget and needs before they leave from the pier. Then we go watch them leave. Once they are gone a few of us will usually go grab something to eat and then I pray nothing starts to break.
  31. I typically don’t go home right away, I will spend as much time out side of the house as I can. I’ll make plans with a friend or just go shopping.
  32. I left straight from the pier to go home and cry it out for a few minutes. I can’t stay to watch the boat pull away, it’s too much for me. Then, I pull myself together and hang out with the wardroom spouses, both before kids and after having them. It was a perfect balance of having a private moment for myself and then surrounding myself with some amazing people that made me smile. And we always made sure to make plans/discuss our plans at our deployment day gathering.
  33. Lots of the same as above! The last deployment? After I knew the boat was ACTUALLY leaving, I went straight to the bathroom and opened his drawers and literally pushed his stuff crowding the master bathroom sink into them. I organized them later. I always put clean sheets on the bed, straighten up a bit, then just eat junk for the night.
  34. Pre-pandemic- watch the boat leave then take the boys out for a “fun” dinner at the arcade.
  35. Pizza and pajamas! A decade long tradition.
  36. My hubby doesn’t like Hawaiian pizza or broccoli or coffee so I eat all those things while he is gone. I like to start on a project I’ve been putting off that will consume my day… like putting together an elliptical or organizing the garage. All the things!
  37. I get a drink with the ladies.
  38. Me and our son skip school and work and go to our favorite restaurants and to the movies.
  39. Go for a super long run and cry and run and cry and get it out.
  40. It’s changed as the kids got older. But I have tried to make it more of a celebration. Either with the kids’ favorite foods at home or favorite restaurant or inviting some wives back to our house for a toast to a good deployment. There’s typically some insomnia the first few nights. The kids and I typically plan a special trip during deployment whether a port call or theme park, I make sure we all have something to look forward to other than homecoming.

How do you spend the day? Comment below!

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