Have you ever had a friend announce she was moving and – within three weeks – she was gone? Have you ever had your spouse deploy with 24 hours notice?
Have you ever left a unit feeling like you didn’t get a proper goodbye?
Closure feels like a missing element in the military lifestyle.
Maybe it’s the missing element that leads to the overall adventure of this life, but it often feels like everything is changing and you don’t get a chance to have a proper goodbye. If I were to look at all the change that has occurred in my army wife life, there are probably 100 doors left wide open.
Sitting at a Hail and Farewell, my husband was being “farewelled” by our most recent unit. As is custom, he was invited to say a few words, and he said everything he needed to in order to “move on” in that moment. Then, during his Change of Command ceremony, he gave a seven-minute speech where he got to give his final word.
I proudly sat there, listening, grateful for his opportunity, but almost wishing I had been given the same chance to say a few words myself – but if all the soldiers and spouses were given the opportunity to speak, we’d be there ‘til midnight.
But, still, a greater opportunity for closure would be nice. Our entire lives are uprooted for our soldiers’ career and service – literally everything about our life is contingent on their job.
A unit has the opportunity to make or break your life’s day-to-day happiness.
If your soldiers likes their superiors, their counterparts, and their job, and the environment is relatively healthy, they will be happy. If they are regularly disrespected and unheard, they are unhappy. Because the life of a service member is typically a 24/7 job, that happiness or unhappiness doesn’t end at 5pm.
Your involvement in that unit (at least for me) also typically includes FRG volunteering or leading. That’s a big job that, in many cases, you were voluntold to do. You, too, have made many direct sacrifices for that unit. A military unit is more than what meets the eye.
Not only does your unit dictate the quality of your life when your soldier is home, but if your spouse is deployed or away for training, you also fulfill the duties of your absent spouse on the homefront.
So, for better or worse, you owe it all to that unit. And not getting to have a final say at the end of your time at a unit, job, or duty station is like not getting to speak at your grandmother’s funeral. We should at least be given the opportunity.
“Hey, thanks for making my life great!”
Or, “Hey, you guys absolutely suck.”
Maybe you’re reading this thinking, “I wish I could stand on the table, middle finger in the air, guns blazing, and yell peace out!”
Possibly even more important than our ties to the unit are the friendships that we quickly make and become deeply invested in, and then we make a quick goodbye.
Military friendships are quick, but I’d argue they are the truest and most authentic friendships of life. We have to let go so often and with very little notice. One second your friend is helping you clean up from your daughter’s first birthday party, and the next you’re helping her pack boxes for tomorrow’s PCS.
By the grace of God, we are able to hold onto some friendships through intentionality and hard work – but it isn’t easy. We all know this. Saying goodbye often means that the entire dynamic of your friendship is about to change. Sometimes I have closure or hope in those farewells, and other times a goodbye dinner has to be enough.
Change is the air we breathe as military spouses or service members, and while we aren’t given many opportunities to “close doors” ourselves, we have to find ways to create those opportunities. Many handwritten cards have been my key to closure.
Learning to be at peace with things I cannot control has been a skill I have had to learn.
What are some practical things you’ve learned along the way to give yourself closure?