Recently, an interesting and legitimate question was posed to a group of military wives (including me) via Facebook. To note, this impromptu question-answer session followed an article regarding really insensitive questions and comments people make to spouses of deployed soldiers (most of which I’ve been asked/told). One of the women asked what one should say to a military wife when her husband is deployed. I think this is a totally legitimate question, and deserves an honest answer.
- Offer small help. And mean it.
When my daughter became terribly ill while my husband was off at deployment training and I suddenly and desperately needed some help one afternoon, all the people who’d offer to help were busy or could not come. You don’t need to rope the moon, but making a dinner for the family or give them the gift of your company makes all the difference. The other night, a friend stopped by with a tub of ice cream. I nearly cried.
- Put yourself in our shoes.
If your husband were in a dangerous place for an extended period of time with severely limited communication, what wouldn’t you want to hear? “Are you afraid of your husband dying?” “You are so blessed [to have Skype] or [that he’s in Iraq]” (from a civilian). Not helpful. This should be common sense. No spouse of a deployed soldier wants to hear this form a civilian wife who has her husband at home in their bed every night. Think before you speak.
- Pick up the phone.
Simply calling and checking on us means the world. It’s so easy for us to feel forgotten, like you are swimming against the stream alone. For someone to remember you in their busy lives is so reassuring and comforting. And you’d be surprised how easily people forget to do this.
- If you life far away from a military spouse, send cards.
When Richard left, I was overcome by all the mail from others that arrived in our mailbox. People who I was close with, and people I hadn’t spoken to in years were offering prayers, Masses, thoughts. It was the nicest gesture.
- Admit you don’t know what to say.
Military wives don’t expect anyone to have the answers or magic words to make this lifestyle better. To tell the painful truth, we don’t have all the answers. Each day is a guess, a gamble. If you don’t know what to say, say that: “I am sorry. I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” How comforting, how reassuring, oddly, that statement is. You aren’t trying to tell us how good we have it, or how blessed we are. This lifestyle stinks, and it’s nice to hear from others the same thing.
I firmly believe, at least for our little family, that the prayers have brought us thus far. The last two months have been difficult in moving forward through this deployment, and we’ve had a lot on our plate. I can feel the prayers when I start to get overwhelmed. It’s also nice to hear someone is praying for you.
I can’t imagine how tough it must be to respond or communicate to a military wives when coming from a totally different perspective. Our lives are so strange and, admittedly, abnormal. It’s tough. But, the aforementioned suggestions might hopefully help others reach out. Because, though we are a proud and sometimes defiant group, we secretly long to have someone reach out to us. Oftentimes, that’s the only thing that gets us through.