As a military spouse, do you find you struggle with feelings of loneliness? Especially after a PCS move or during deployment? You’re not alone because even for seasoned military spouses, loneliness creeps in. So for new military spouses, it is understandable you are struggling too.
Getting married is an exciting time and I thought a great adventure was ahead as I had married someone in the Navy. As my first PCS move, a moving company came to pack up one crate back home with my childhood dresser, the rest of my clothes, and the wedding gifts just a few days prior to us arriving on the island, but we wouldn’t have them for a while. All we had at the time was a bed, a television, and a few kitchen items.
Waking up in our basically empty apartment without my husband is not what I thought it would be like after we got married. You see, he flew out to meet his ship just a mere five days after we had married and flew to Hawai’i where we were stationed.
You probably think that living in Hawai’i is a dream come true. But when you are there by yourself, you know no one, and barely know how to get around – it’s not so great!
So I sat on the living room floor looking out the large windows from the fifteenth floor at Pearl Harbor. While a beautiful view, it was a sad view for me. I saw several ships moored to piers, but not my husbands.
I was a newly married military spouse, so you would think that someone would have reached out from the ship’s command, but alas I heard from no one. After all they all knew my husband had just gotten married. It’s not like it was a secret!
Those were some of the loneliest days as a military spouse I’ve spent in my life, the feelings of loneliness were sometimes overwhelming.
It really makes you think if you’ve made the right decision in marrying someone in the military!
I wondered what I was going to do. What would keep me busy? Who would I talk to and where would I go if I wanted to? None of those answers came to me.
Regardless of the discouragement and the loneliness I felt, I knew I had to find ways to fill my time productively. Because if I didn’t I would sit there alone, wallow in my tears of missing everyone, and become very unhappy. Which of course is not good for my mental health or our new marriage.
Although I acknowledged those feelings, knowing they were real, I didn’t allow them to influence my thoughts or daily activities. But what kept me going?
Find motivation to fill your days with meaningful Activities:
Supporting Your Service Member
Seeing the ships at the piers every morning reminded me I was now a military spouse. In that, I knew I had a purpose. It wasn’t my whole identity because I had a career path of my own, but nonetheless it is a part of who I am.
Therefore being a military spouse comes with bouts of those feelings of loneliness. But I found that supporting my husband’s military career was something that I could do. It also helped me feel closer to him even though he wasn’t there.
Knowing this I thought I’d help him out when he came home to study for his upcoming SWOS board. To prepare for “quiz time,” I found my way to the exchange and got some index cards, and began to make flashcards with the information he should know.
I think by the time I was finished and he went to the board, I knew just as much as he did if not more about being a SWOS! It also helped me when he’d talk about his job because I didn’t have to ask a million questions to understand what he was saying.
Think about ways you can support your service member. Whether helping him study for an upcoming promotion exam, college classes, or even his warfare pin will help keep you busy during the times they’re away. This also helps them see you support what they’re trying to accomplish.
Of course there are other ways you can support your service member besides helping them study for something. Be creative and surprise them when they get back home.
Letting your feelings of loneliness spill out on a blank page can truly be a freeing moment and make life feel less overwhelming. My journaling has taken me through many times that seemed like they would never end. They also gave me perspective and encouragement that I was stronger than I thought and most importantly showed me…
You Can Do This!
In fact, in writing your emotions out they now don’t have the same magnitude as they did in your head. They will also become much more manageable. Journaling is a way to work through those thoughts to help you navigate your emotions more effectively. Which in turn then allows you to let go of the negative thoughts and see the ones which are positive more clearly. The positive thoughts can propel you into other activities which bring happiness to your life.
Besides journaling your thoughts and emotions, also try including journaling bucket lists, things which you are grateful for, places you dream of visiting, or even just doodling are all ways to relieve stress and overwhelm.
Don’t Be Afraid to Explore Your Surroundings
Being in a new place can be very intimidating. I can remember feeling anxious about getting lost and not being able to find my way back home. Keeping that familiarity in my life at the time helped because I did not have the luxury of technology back then. In fact, during this time alone in Hawai’i I stayed pretty close to home or went to the base, that’s it! Pretty sad, huh?
But with the development of technology with interactive maps which give directions, you can be much less anxious and much more adventurous in your new surroundings. A favorite app I use in a new place is WAZE. It never steers me wrong. I have occasionally questioned where it was taking me, but it always got me back home! PTL!
Just because you are alone doesn’t mean you can’t find some really cool and interesting things. In fact, when your service member comes back home you can take them to the places you’ve found and experience them together too!
Streaming Beach Body exercise programs or following your favorite Instagram fitness coach are great ways to exercise. But there are also even better ways.
During my time in Hawai’i I would have used VHS tapes to do any kind of exercise in my apartment. Fortunately, I did not have a VHS player at the time. Wow, does that date me or what!
Anyway in hind site, I believe this was a good thing. It forced me to either take a walk to get much needed fresh air, go down to the apartment pool to do laps, or go to the base gym. This got me out and around perspective new friends!
The best part about exercising is it doesn’t have to be in one particular place or be anything hard. But it will get the endorphins moving and you will find your mood and outlook will improve.
The other great thing is you have the opportunity to meet other military wives when you visit the gym or walk on the track on base/post. So get up off that floor (in my case) and get moving and mingling!
Speaking of mingling…
There are many ways to connect with others at a new duty station. Yes, even back in the “dark ages” when I was a young, new military wife! Although, I have to say it is much easier today than it was back then. For that, I am grateful even as a seasoned military wife!
BUT a word of caution here…Don’t just connect with military wives online in Facebook groups for the command or duty station.
Get out and connect in person!
You are probably thinking it is much easier to just sit in an empty apartment than to get out and meet new people! Believe me, I know because that is exactly what I did as a new military spouse.
Find those opportunities to be in the presence of other military wives who understand what you are going through. It will do you a lot of good to talk to another wife who “gets it!”
Maybe you’re afraid of not finding someone you’ll connect with. Maybe feel like you’re invading other spouses’ friendship circle and they will reject you? I know these thoughts can be a paralyzing insecurity and keep you in your state of loneliness. But try to push through those thoughts and emotions!
Whatever the reason you are choosing not to connect with others or delaying it, I can tell you that the military spouse community is welcoming and generous! There are always wives who not only understand where you are coming from but have been there ourselves.
So get out there and say “hi,” strike up a conversation while you’re standing in line to get your Starbucks coffee at the exchange or with the wife on the treadmill next to you at the gym. You just never know, you might be meeting a friend you’ll have for life!
This too shall pass
Ultimately remember that everything you go through is just a moment in your life. A chapter of your story and not the whole book.
In life’s struggles, we often wonder if our circumstances will ever change. But when you recognize that this struggle is only a “moment in time” you are able to overcome anything!
Stay strong…You’ve Got This!
Elizebeth is a seasoned military spouse, educator, mentor, and mom to a blended family of four children. She is dedicated to helping fellow spouses create a life they love. Elizebeth is the creator and founder of Home Anchor Following Seas where military spouses will find advice and information to help navigate the crazy military lifestyle.