Whether you are a single or a married soldier, a single-parent soldier, a spouse, or a child, you will face certain stressors associated with reunion. Below are some of the normal stressors you may face, along with some hints to help you adjust to the changes in your life.
# Emotional letdown
# Restlessness or sleeplessness
# No one understands what I have been through.
# Was my spouse faithful?
# Did my spouse miss me?
# My friends seem different.
# I didn’t expect things to change.
# Other people’s concerns seem petty.
# I feel like a stranger at home.
# How will the children react?
# Will the role I have filled change?
# Were my children treated well by their guardian?
# Can I make up for lost time?
# Did I handle things the right way?
# When will things feel normal again?
# I am concerned about finances.
# I am concerned about future deployments.
# The children appear confused and uncertain.
# Accept that things may be different.
# Talk about your experiences.
# Go slowly—don’t try to make up for lost time.
# Spend quality time with your children.
# Reassure your children. Change often frightens them.
# Curb your desire to take control or to spend money.
# Accept that your partner may be different.
# Intimate relationships may be awkward at first.
# Take time to get reacquainted.
# Forget your fantasies. Reality may be quite different.
# Take time to readjust.
# Communicate with your partner and your family.
The following stress danger signals focus on the medical and physical symptoms common to tension stress. Your physician can best determine your medical condition, but these guidelines will provide you with a general indication of your stress level. Check those signals that you have noticed:
# General irritability, hyperexcitability, depression
# Pounding of the heart
# Dryness of mouth and throat
# Impulsive behavior, emotional instability
# Overpowering urge to cry or run
# Inability to concentrate, flight of thoughts
# Feelings of unreality, weakness, dizziness, fatigue
# Floating anxiety, being afraid and not knowing why
# Emotional tension and alertness
# Trembling, nervous tics, easily startled
# High-pitched, nervous laughter
# Stuttering, other speech difficulties
# Bruxism, or grinding of the teeth
# Hyperactivity, increased tendency to move about
# Excessive sweating
# Frequent need to urinate
# Diarrhea, indigestion, queasiness, vomiting
# Migraine headaches
# Pain in neck or lower back
# Loss of appetite or excessive appetite
# Increased use of prescribed drugs
# Alcohol or drug abuse
# Accident proneness
The more signs that are present, the stronger the likelihood that there is a serious problem. See your physician if you are concerned about these symptoms.
Reunion Stress-Coping Strategies
Most military families find that reunions are at least as stressful as separations. This seems to be true for couples with children, couples without children, single parents, and single soldiers coming back to friends and family. Following are some coping strategies that may help:
Expect to have a few doubts and worries.
# Your partner may think you don’t need them anymore.
# Anxiety is a natural and normal part of reunion.
Forget your fantasies.
# Give up any fantasies or expectations you may have about what reunion day should be.
# Take it easy, and let things happen naturally.
Don’t expect things to be exactly they way they were before the separation.
# You’ve changed; your spouse has changed, and your children have changed.
# Don’t get upset by things that are done differently.
Tips on helping children adjust:
# Children can get angry about their parent being gone.
# Toddlers and preschoolers may act like the returning parent is a stranger. They might not understand about “duty” or “mission.”
# Elementary school children and teenagers may understand but show anger or fear by “acting out.”
# Get reacquainted, and take things slowly.
# Children are resilient.
Accept and share your feelings.
# Talk a lot about your feelings, and let your partner talk, too.
# Really listen. Make sure you fully understand what your partner is saying before you respond.
# Communication is the key.
See things from the other person’s point of view.
# An awareness that the soldier no longer feels a part of things helps us to understand why they can be upset by even the smallest changes.
# Recognition of the pride a partner feels in the way he/she handled everything alone will help the soldier to understand the importance of accepting changes made during separation.
# Children are people too. Try to understand how they feel. Change and uncertainty is often very frightening for them, so be patient.
Your family relationships should regain normalcy in a few months. However, if you had problems before you left, those problems may still be there when you get back. If you continue having problems adjusting after a few months, seek help through one of the following offices:
# The Army Community Service Center
# Family Program Coordinator
# Family Readiness Group leader for referrals
# Chaplain—a good source for confidential counseling, community contacts, and family support programs
# Red Cross
# Social Work Services
# Community Service agencies—see your local phone book (e.g., Mental Health Department, Social Services Department)
If deployment was to a war zone, natural disaster, or urban riots, be alert for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of this disorder include:
# Depression—chronic numb or flat feeling
# Isolation—feeling withdrawn from family and friends
# Alienation—absence of meaningful contact with others
# Avoidance of feelings—inability to feel or express feelings
# Rage—bouts of unexplained anger; may be internal or acted out
# Anxiety—unexplained nervousness, tension, or hyperalert feelings
# Sleep disturbances—insomnia, nightmares, etc.
# Intrusive thoughts—recollections of traumatic experiences that appear for no apparent reason
# Startle responses—unusual, involuntary reactions to loud noises, i.e., automobile backfires
PTSD probably won’t go away on its own. It needs to be treated. If you or your spouse experience four or more of these symptoms regularly, seek professional help through one of the agencies listed above.