By Britt Lanza, MilSO Box
Facing deployment this holiday season with kiddos?? Click HERE to check out this post too!
When it comes to surviving the holidays alone, I used to be an expert. I moved to Arizona from Vermont in 2014, and my family did not have the funds to fly me home for the holidays each year. I learned how to be alone and on my own for holidays quickly and began to create my own traditions for myself.
However, something hits different when your loved one is on a deployment and you’re
decorating an empty home for the holidays all by yourself when you know it should be the two of you. The photos on the wall are staring at you, reminding you of the fun memories while you’re trying to keep it together – or not, since who’s going to see you cry anyway, right?
But you can, and will, get through it. The home will warm up again. The blankets will be used, the food cooked and eaten again.
A common phrase in the military community is “It is what you make of it,” and whether it’s in
regards to a new duty station location, or a change in orders you weren’t expecting, it also
applies to deployments during the holidays.
Just because your service member is overseas, does not mean you have to have the worst holiday season ever.
So here are a few tips to help you get through this (and any future) holiday season alone:
Number 1: Have a deployment buddy to do fun holiday things with.
My deployment buddy was my personal saving grace during our last deployment. Nick was deployed to Afghanistan from July-February and I only had my two dogs as companions. Then someone who I had only met once before, sent me a text to hang out and I had someone checking in on me again.
A deployment buddy can be someone you check in on during those horrifying black outs, or when you are lonely. My deployment buddy and I hung out multiple times a week. Without her, I wouldn’t have gone hiking during the deployment, and during the holiday season she became the person who went with me to pumpkin patches, make Christmas cookies, and even go to the fun neighborhood events.
Number 2: Cook the food.
Even if you end up with a lot of leftovers, cook the food of the season that makes you happy. Not up to cooking? There are services to get the food delivered, or order a delivery of a turkey dinner from a local restaurant. I remember being super sad I couldn’t cook a turkey for Thanksgiving or wouldn’t have a reason to make my Aunt’s Green Jello Salad recipe (it’s so good and a huge hit with kids – if you want the recipe, reach out on Instagram @milsobox). But there is a reason; you.
You deserve good food. You deserve food that reminds you of happy times and fun memories. You deserve it. So make sure to cook the food that makes you happy this time of year. This also applies to decorating your home; just because your service member cannot decorate, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
Number 3: Try not to feel guilty for having fun.
During the holidays, I felt guilty if I was having fun or if I was enjoying a holiday tradition while Nick was gone. But Nick wasn’t going to have fun anyway, and I needed to experience what I could. Nick told me at one point that when I was sad or didn’t have a good day it was harder on him than normal, because he felt like it was his fault I wasn’t enjoying the holidays. While it wasn’t his fault, I understood where he was coming from. So do the fun stuff.
Number 4: Set realistic expectations.
The biggest mistake I made on deployment was expecting too much from my service member. Nick had a lot on his plate – so much that he nearly forgot about Thanksgiving! I expected a call on every holiday, and I expected it to be on my time. My expectations led to resentment when it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to. The worst part? I never expressed these expectations with Nick. So I set him up for failure by not communicating effectively with him.
Instead, learn from my mistakes and provide ample communication around the holidays or special dates like anniversaries or family emergencies. What do you expect and what do they expect? Allow wiggle room for your compromise and whatever the military will throw in there because we all know if the military can mess it up, it will. Be clear about what you need and want when it comes to communication, gifts and other holiday things, as well as make sure to know what your service member needs and wants too. Figure out how to make it work together.
Decorate. Cook. Eat. Go to the events. Make friends. See them often. Communicate with your service member.
You got this, MilSO!
Britt is a military spouse, a dog mom, a business coach, podcaster, and owner of MilsoBox (a subscription box company focused on military and first responder spouses). She became a military spouse in 2019 and was thrown into military life a month later when her husband, Nick, was deployed to Afghanistan. Since then she has been a huge advocate for small businesses that are military connected as well as the military spouse community as a whole.
Get connected with Britt!
@milsobox or @newaltitudes
Facing deployment this holiday season with kiddos??
Click HERE to check out this post too!
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