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When Loved Ones Get Deployed

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You’ve read about wars in your history books and learned how they’ve changed history. But learning about wars in class — or even seeing images of them on TV or in the movies — can be very different from life during an actual war. That’s especially true if a member of your family or someone else you care about is in the military and gets deployed.

Many men and women have chosen to serve in the military during the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. These honorable men and women have chosen the difficult responsibility of serving and protecting our country and its citizens. Hundreds of thousands of men and women in uniform already have been sent overseas — and many have now returned home. Still, even if they have chosen to go, it’s difficult having someone you care about sent overseas.

Common Concerns and Reactions

It’s scary to think that someone you care about could be harmed. That’s true even if you know that he or she is well trained and well equipped, and that every effort will be made to ensure the person’s safety.

If people tell you to not think about it, they’re not being very realistic, even if they mean well. Until your relative or friend comes back safe, you’re going to worry sometimes.

If worrying gets too intense, though, it can interfere with the everyday activities of life, like sleep, appetite, or ability to learn or concentrate. Anxiety can affect grades too.

Worrying about others can cause people to act in ways they normally wouldn’t — like being short-tempered, irritable, forgetful, or distracted. Too much worrying also can cause physical problems, like headaches, stomachaches, or tightness in the chest.

When worry is intense, telling someone close to you how you’re feeling can help you get the extra support you need. You might find out he or she is thinking about that person too, and sharing thoughts is a way of remembering your loved one.

Whether your worries about war are mild or intense, it helps to know how to deal with them. That way, you can do your best while those you care about are away.

Coping With Concerns

You can try some things to feel better about the situation. Here are some tips to help you deal with your feelings:

  • Recognize that you’re worried. Sometimes worry — and the things that come with it, like sleeping or eating problems — can creep up without you even realizing it. Once you realize that some of what’s going on has to do with your feelings, you can do something about it.
  • Get support. Talking about how you’re feeling with a friend, parent, teacher, or counselor can really help.
  • Exercise, eat, and sleep. Worry can sometimes cause people to seek comfort in foods that are not too healthy or get lost in TV or video games. Good exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep can help you stay at your best and strongest.
  • Limit your news watching. And talk to someone about what you see and hear. It’s important to stay informed, but a steady diet of news watching might make you feel worse.
  • Do something for others. If you’re worried about a loved one, chances are others in your family are too. Tune in to what family members might need and pitch in to help. This might mean helping with extra chores, watching younger brothers or sisters or helping them with homework, offering to help a parent, or surprising someone with a small kindness.
  • Take action. Send a letter or email to your loved one, volunteer in your community, or do something that helps others. You know that your loved one is doing something for others. Doing the same can make you feel connected to the person you’re missing.
  • Express yourself. Draw, paint, or write a journal entry. Or send a poem or a letter to someone you care about — he or she will appreciate it.
  • Join others to talk. Some communities and schools have support groups and services especially for families of service members. If you don’t have one at your school or church, see if you can start one. Other people might have the same concerns that you do.
  • Do things that help you feel calm. For some it might mean listening to music, playing an instrument, reading a book, enjoying nature, relaxing quietly, or spending time with a pet —whatever soothes you best.
  • Spend moments in positive reflection. Many find that holding their loved ones in their thoughts and prayers helps them feel better. Make a scrapbook or organize an activity that your loved one overseas would like. Keeping busy helps make the wait for your loved one’s return seem to go faster.

It’s natural to worry about your friend or relative — at least some of the time — until the danger is really over and he or she is back home. Until that time, keep yourself healthy and help support your family as best as you can.

Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: January 2012