How to Cope When Deployment Means Missing Family Milestones

The Internet has become an incredibly important tool for the military community to document and share their experiences. Personal blogs and social media have given everyone an opportunity to share their story. National Guard wife Ali Gibbs uses her blog, Better Together, as a springboard for her thoughts and feelings.

And that insight can amount to a lot of unique feelings that come with being married to the military. How do milspouses cope with love, loss and leaving?

Christmas Card from Ali Gibbs

Ali still wanted to send out a family photo in their yearly Christmas card even though they were spending the holidays apart. We love her creative idea!

“My husband, Trevor, missed his sister’s wedding during his first deployment. I know it’s still hard for him when he thinks about missing it.  It’s hard for his sister, too,“ she said. An issue constantly affecting military spouses and service members alike is learning how to deal with missing big events.

A fine line must be straddled between being open enough so there is no resentment without bringing it up so much no one can move past it. It seems the best course of action is to be open with your feelings without dwelling on a negative event and focus on something positive.

“For the last New Year’s he missed, I still went to a party with friends and had him on FaceTime on my phone all night.  (My phone) was passed around and he got to talk to everyone at the party and we rang in the New Year together the best way we could.”

It’s this kind of dedication to making things work that keeps spirits high, even when someone can’t be there for something big, but you can’t always pull off the best surprises alone. Ali enlisted the help of her husband’s friends to help celebrate their third wedding anniversary.

“A friend of ours, who was also deployed at the time, came up with the idea to throw Trevor a surprise anniversary party and have me on video chat,” she said. “About 10 guys got together and grilled…and had me on video chat.  It was morning here, so I made myself a nice, big breakfast and a mimosa.  Even though we were on opposite sides of the planet, it was a very special anniversary that neither of us will ever forget!”

Missing Big Events in Military Families

“We’ve never had a problem making an important event special regardless of circumstances.”

Every Event is a Big Event

It’s not the big stuff that gets Gibbs, it’s the little stuff. And lots of little events can add up. She confides in the community she has around her to cheer her up.

“Any event missed by a deployed service member seems like a big one to me,” says Gibbs. “When my best friend was deployed with her husband, I went along on their son’s preschool field trip to the local food co-op.  I don’t know that any parent would see that as a major event in their child’s life, but when neither mom nor dad can go, it’s a big event.”

Sharing Your Story

Gibbs’ blog has been a great help to getting past these military hurdles.

“Some of the longer, more popular military-related posts were sparked from speaking with our state chaplain,” she said. “He reminded me those struggles are so common and other families could surely benefit from hearing our story and encouraged us to write about it so we did.”

The blog has grown over several years to include several crucial life moments like missed events, getting engaged, deployment, reintegration and most recently, having a baby.

“I guess, at the end of the day, this is our life and I love it.  We have met some wonderful people, learned some very important lessons, and become such a strong couple.  Our ability to effectively and respectfully communicate with each other is second to none,” said Gibbs.

Photos courtesy of Ali Gibbs