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(Not So) Good Grief

April 15, 2009

The doorbell rang when I was in the shower. There was no way I could get decent and downstairs in time to answer, so I didn’t. Then it started. What if that was the casualty notification team? Will they come back later? Call?

Dressed and on the way out of the house for errands, I passed the dining room. The table’s a mess. I really need to clean it off before they come back.

In the car, I was trying to convince myself not to feel queasy. Surely I would know if something had happened to him. I would feel it. He must be fine.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But I’m not the only person who’s had thoughts like this after a loved one deploys. An NPR interview with Kristin Henderson, the author of While They’re At War, taught me that this is anticipatory grief, and as sick as it might seem, it’s a normal part of life for today’s military significant other.

Putting a name to it, and realizing that there’s nothing wrong with anticipatory grief, as unpleasant as it might be, can help a lot. These suggestions for coping, again from Kristin Henderson, can help too.

Oh, and the doorbell? Turns out it was my neighbor, offering to till my garden. Nothing like a good deed to freak me out!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2009 1:09 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I thought I was going crazy until I read Kristin’s book and realized that all those emotions pre-deployment and during are NORMAL! Glad it was just a kind neighbor! 🙂

  2. April 15, 2009 1:10 pm

    So glad it was a good neighbor!

  3. April 15, 2009 1:49 pm

    We have Kristen’s book under the Resources tab, too.

    Been there. Had the “door bell ringing with bad news” scenario well rehearsed in my head. It felt incredibly sick and morbid at the time, but good to know I am not alone.

    And I’m so glad to see your writing here!

  4. April 15, 2009 1:57 pm

    Every spouse’s blog/website/group gathering – there is a person who hesitantly asks “is this normal” or says “I must be going nuts”. and no, you aren’t nuts, this is normal. It’s our way of coping. I had a discussion with a young woman in my office (I blogged about it somewhere..) who didn’t know how we coped with that reality. And I had to tell her that we just do, it’s part of our “normal”.

    That gut wrench, that clutch of the heart – something you don’t forget, and it’s something that doesn’t go away. When he left on this deployment, I really thought that since I’d gone through this once, I’d be less prone to this… No way. The UPS guy knocked, I froze for a second. I don’t know too many people who would come to my door without calling to say “on my way” because of the security gates.

    In case it makes you feel better, I was told by a wonderful Casualty Assistance Officer who ran the CAOs in MN, that (at least with her unit) they won’t go away if they know you are in there – i.e. the car is there, and you can hear the shower going. They’ll wait. When I talked to a cop at some gathering or other, she told me that their policy is the same. We aren’t alone in this – every cop, firefighter etc is on this edge too. We can learn from them – how to cope. and we all do it with the help of the “family” we create.

    gah -getting off soapbox


  5. April 15, 2009 2:02 pm

    I bet spouses of police officers and fire fighters go through the same thing, don’t you?
    How stressful.
    I’ve not heard of Ms. Henderson’s book. Thanks for posting about her work.
    I hope digging in your garden will push those scary thoughts out of your mind for at least a little while.

    • April 15, 2009 3:55 pm

      There’s another book up in the Resources sections (In Harm’s Way) written for spouses of military, cops and firefighters – I think so many of the issues we face are very similar.

      • April 15, 2009 4:15 pm

        During my sweetie’s first deployment, I got to know the wife of a Chicago police officer. The issues are very similar, and she was a relief to talk to.

        Back in my single days, I refused to consider dating firemen or policemen because I thought I would worry too much. Joke’s on me now, isn’t it!

  6. April 15, 2009 2:48 pm

    Kristin’s book is great… it is what helped me figure out that a) I was normal in my reactions and b) gave me good coping techniques. It really calmed me down and helped me deal… of course that was before I found you all!

    Thanks for the info LAW… that is good to know. I get nervous every time I turn the corner to walk down my street on the way home… I have dark government sedan phobia. Ugh.

  7. April 15, 2009 3:15 pm

    After September 11, before the deployments started, my husband’s WONDERFUL commander would come to the spouse meetings and answer questions from all of us nervous, anxious, frightened wives. One of the things he had us do was to write down the name and contact information of a person we wanted with us if the worst happened and we needed to be notified. They didn’t want us to be alone or to have to find out in front of small children without a friend there. As much as I hated thinking about that, I realized what a good idea it was.

    OMG. I’m tearing up just remembering those days. All of you with loves deployed right now ~ you’re in my thoughts every day.

  8. April 15, 2009 3:18 pm

    Jennifer – your CO sounds like a wonderful person. Wish we had one like him now.


  9. snarkynavywife permalink*
    April 15, 2009 4:18 pm

    Bette – thanks so much for sharing this with us. I, for one, would love to see a series on anticipatory grief. It’s so common, and like LAW said, it seems like none of us realize it’s a normal part of our lives now until we find out we’re *not* crazy or morbid or inviting trouble.

    My own mother, wife to a Marine, shushed me when I voiced some of my AG to her during my hubby’s IA. Even she didn’t think it was normal or okay to feel this way.

    Maybe getting this info out there, in all its ugly glory, would help others?

  10. FOW permalink
    April 15, 2009 10:39 pm

    The common thread that ALL milspouses seem to be able to agree on is that worry when someone unexpectedly knocks on your door. My hubs is a flyer so even though he’s in the Navy everytime I know his feet aren’t on the ground even when he’s not deployed there’s a small part of me that still waits for his call to ask if there’s anything that I need him to bring home before I’m relaxed!

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