Salute to Spouses Blog

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For Those Left Behind

It’s PCS Season, which in our little military world, means change is coming. It’s the cause of house-selling, purging, nerves and adventure. Well, at least for those who are moving.

Sometimes the hardest part of PCS season isn’t moving, it’s being left behind. 

When you PCS, there’s a whole new, well ... everything. New house, new duty station, new unit, new friends. It’s as exhilarating as it is tedious, this fresh start that begs you to make the best of yourself with every box you unpack, every crystal wine glass you find that the movers didn’t break.

But when you’re the one not PCS’ing, things can look a little different, because everything where you are is still the same – but it’s not. Most of what makes a duty station amazing are the friends we make there, and they begin to define that assignment for us, that portion of our lives. When they leave for their next post, the base around us doesn’t physically change, but the way we relate to it does.

Staying behind means watching your friends leave one by one, saying farewell one dinner, one hug, one tear at a time. It means explaining to your children time and again, that it’s just a part of this not-always-beautiful life that they live, and hoping they’ll see their friends again one day. It’s waking up the day after your best friend leaves, and feeling just a little sad and empty, like there’s a gaping void that it’s impossible to fill. 

And when you watch a good chunk of your friends PCS at the same time? Well, it kind of feels like you’ve become this giant slice of swiss cheese, unsure which hole you’re supposed to try to fill first.

But we have to fill the holes. 

Cheese not your metaphor of choice? Okay, how about trees? Everyone loves trees. If we’re these giant trees, growing, thriving, then surely our friends are our roots, nourishing and supporting us, keeping us from toppling over when the storms hit. Sometimes PCS’ing can feel like your roots are being cut off one by one, and while your friends are transplanted, doing the whole “bloom where you grow,” thing, you’re kind of withering and dying.  

I’ve been there, and it sucks. 

But once you get past your initial tears and wallow moments, it’s time to take stock. Yes, being left behind can be a royal pain in the …well, you know, but if there’s one thing that the Army has taught us, it’s that change is constant. If you live in base housing, then you know that house next to you won’t remain empty for long. Welcome that new spouse, even if you don’t feel like it, because you’re part of her new adventure, and as a good friend told me once, you never know who might be your next “person.” 

Fight the urge to hermit away and swear off friends. You don’t do that? Oh, then it must be just me. I get in this funk, where I feel like making friends in the Army isn’t worth it when I just keep losing them time and time again. Then I look all around the world and see these amazing women I’ve had the opportunity to call friends, and I can’t let myself regret a single laugh, or even the torrent of tears when they leave. Get out, and give someone new a chance.

When all else fails, remember that technology is awesome. We’re never further away than a phone call, a Skype session, a Facebook IM away from each other. I can honestly say that I maintain some of my strongest, truest friendships far away from our duty station because distance doesn’t determine friendships. Just because I can’t see these awesome ladies doesn’t mean they’re not still there, ready to lend support through a phone call, or even a cheer-up-during-deployment visit. You may feel like a rootless tree, but maybe your roots just grew longer, stretching to cover the distance between you, and just maybe you’re stronger for it.

So for those of you who are being left behind this summer, have your moment, your wallow, your tears for the physical loss of your friend. After all, a measure of how much you miss someone is really how much you loved them in the first place.

Then take a breath and push on. No duty station lasts forever, and it’s your turn to PCS next.

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