Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Five Stages: Denial

This is the second in a series of blogs based on Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief. These, however, are the Five Stages of a Deployment, or extended TDY, or any time our Soldier is “away”.

The time frame for these may vary depending on the spouse and on the individual couple. For example, when we first got married and I had moved halfway across the country, our first CQ involved all five stages because it happened the first day in our new home. Now, I don’t really do many of these until about the third week, or they pass so quickly it’s a mere bad mood.


I am purposefully not doing the stages in the usual order, because even Kubler-Ross says these stages aren’t necessarily complete or chronological. Each person is unique.


During a deployment or other “away,” denial doesn’t mean that the spouse pretends her Soldier is still home. We might be lonely, but we haven’t quite lost touch with reality. Well, not yet.

When a spouse is in denial, she tells herself that it’s not a big deal that her Soldier is gone. She might go so far as to pretend that it’s easier when he’s away.

This is when she spreads all of her stuff across the bed, across the bathroom counter, and is most likely to make some larger changes in their home, such as redecorating or painting. One of my friends put a humongous hole in one of their walls, she was so determined that she could and would get their house the way they wanted it while she was on her own.

Superwoman, thy name is Military Spouse.

Denial can last the entire “away”, sometimes. The spouse can cook what she likes (or that he hates, such as the dreaded pork chops my own husband despises), she can watch what she likes, and she can set up new rules for the kids. (Bedtime at 7 every night!)

Denial, in this case, can actually be very healthy. It allows the spouse some time to be on her own and to discover her own sense of accomplishment. New skills (such as hole-patching) might be learned. Denial helps push away the darker feelings and stages of any “away”, and keeps the lonelies at bay.

This is when we eat a little too much chocolate or watch a few too many hours of our favorite shows. Denial is when we make plans with friends for movies, or coffees, or makeup parties. We sign up for classes to fill the time.

Denial is most likely to come at the beginning of a long “away”, after the initial shock and despair have passed. Sometimes it comes before the Soldier has even left, when we begin making all those plans to fill up empty hours. Denial can reappear at other times during the “away”, whether it’s a two-week field engagement or a 15-month-long deployment.

Denial should not be confused with acceptance, which comes later and accompanies different feelings and experiences. Denial is when we believe we can do anything and everything. Denial is when we are more inclined to overdo, overextend, and overcompensate for that huge hole in our lives.

So what is your coping strategy?

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