I can pinpoint the exact moment that it all hit me. All of the fear and anxiety and uncertainty that is military life hit me like a ton of bricks.
I didn’t know them more than a casual, run-into-them-socially (sometimes) kind of way. But I knew them. We crossed paths. And it happened to them.
The knock on the door.
The condolences from a “grateful nation.”
Suddenly, I was terrified. I could easily – too easily – picture myself in her shoes. It literally brought me to my knees.
I couldn’t seem to shake the sadness for weeks. I couldn’t move past my fears. I knew I had some decisions to make. I needed to choose whether I wanted to continue to live in a place of unending fear or find a different path.
7 Tips for Facing and Fighting the Fear of Military Life
1. Find an Outlet
What do you love to do? What makes you happy? Whatever that thing or activity is, go do it. For me, I run. I started running right around the same time that I became afraid of the “what-ifs” of military life.
On a bad deployment day or when we are waiting on PCS orders to hit, I run. When I run I have control, something that escapes me as a military spouse. When I come back after a few hard miles, it seems a little bit easier to handle the unknowns.
My friends do different things. Some craft, making beautiful decor or vinyl creations. Others lift weights or go to spin class. Still others dive deep into creative entrepreneurship, running amazing businesses in photography, art or writing.
We all have something that makes us happy. Go find yours!
2. Trust Your Spouse
This one is hard, especially when we live in Whatifville. But truly, trusting my spouse has released a lot of tension. I know that he has trained and prepared for months, if not years, for exactly these situations. I know he understands his job and won’t take unnecessary risks.
Keeping all of this in mind when he deploys or trains or goes TAD helps to combat my fears.
3. Understand the Process
When an Osprey went down in August, fear once again gripped my heart. Our friends were connected to that float. We know a good group of Osprey pilots. Again, the uncertainty took over.
But once I really understood the how’s and why’s of notification and media releases, I felt so much better.
Now, I know that the command and public affairs follow strict protocols to ensure utmost respect for affected military families and units. I truly inhabit the phrase: “No news is good news.” I understand that the system needs to work.
Sometimes, it all gets to be a little much. Especially for my family, these last few months have been rough. We’ve had connections to several of the devastating accidents the military has experienced this year. We live in the communities impacted.
It all got to me. The constant Facebook news feed posts, the 24-hour news cycle and the never-ending updates that weren’t really updates.
So I stopped.
I stopped reading Facebook obsessively. Instead, I logged on to work on my professional Facebook page and hopped back off. I no longer watch the news or check my news apps. I just can’t anymore.
5. Be Kind to Yourself
When you struggle over something, whether it is not knowing where you are moving next or deep fear about the scarier unknowns, it is OK. It’s OK to be afraid.
Acknowledge your fears. Admit, out loud or in writing, what exactly is bothering you and why. It’s hard to do this, to really unpack a deep fear and work through it.
So be kind.
When you are afraid, seek comfort from a friend, a religious leader or a military family life counselor. Ask for help, because your military community is here for you.
Take some time to pamper yourself. Take a hot bath, get a pedicure, read a book, watch a comforting movie or retreat to your bed. Whatever makes you feel secure and loved, go do it. I enjoy reading a trashy magazine and sipping hot cocoa (or wine), pulling back from the world for a little while. It gives me the head space I need to process my feelings.
6. Help Someone
Our friends and neighbors lost a dear friend in the crash off Australia. There isn’t much to be said that can heal that hurt.
But I can certainly bring them dinner. It’s one less thing to think about while they grieve. I can watch their children so that they can assist with final arrangements. I can offer a hug and a shoulder to cry on. I can empathize because I understand that pit in the stomach feeling.
If you are afraid or live somewhere that is hurting, reach out. Offer to help in any way you can. Redirecting your fears and worries into actions for others can help you to process.
7. Choosing a Different Path
When I was afraid, brought to my knees with fear and grief and worry, I decided to go a different way. I chose to not live in that dark place.
I went for a run to the ocean and cried just a little bit more. Then I invited friends over for dinner because I knew we would be stronger together.
Together, as a community, we can combat the fears and unknowns of military life.