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When Loved Ones Get Deployed

You've studied wars in class and learned how they've changed history. But learning about wars in class can be very different from hearing about conflicts and violence that break out in the world during our own time.

If someone you care about is in the military and is deployed for duty, it's natural to worry about their safety. That's especially true if the person is going to a place where there might be fighting.

Worries and Responsibilities

It's normal to worry. But if worry starts getting too intense, it can interfere with life. People who worry a lot might have trouble sleeping or eat more or less than before. It might be hard to stay focused on things like schoolwork.

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

If you have a parent or sibling in the military, it's also natural to think about how things will be different for you and your family while your loved one is away. If your parent is deployed, you may be asked to help out more at home.

When there's a lot to do, keeping up in school might be challenging. If you feel overwhelmed, ask family members for help. Let adults and siblings know that you need to find ways to balance your new tasks with studying. It can also help to tell your teachers and school counselor what's going on. They might be able to offer advice on how to handle everything and help you prioritize.

Ideas for Coping

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 are aware that some of what's going on has to do with your feelings, you can do something about it.
  • Get support. 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. Sharing thoughts is a way for both of you to feel better. Talking about how you're feeling with a teacher or counselor can really help too.
  • Exercise, eat right, and sleep well. Worry can sometimes cause people to seek comfort in foods that are not too healthy or get lost in TV or video games. Exercising, 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. If your loved one is somewhere dangerous, you want to stay informed about what's going on. But constantly looking at your news feed might make you feel worse.
  • Do something for others. If you're missing a loved one, chances the rest of your family is 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. You know that your loved one is helping others. Doing the same can make you feel connected to the person you're missing. Volunteering in your community or finding ways to help other people can help you cope too.
  • Express yourself. Draw, paint, or write a journal entry. Or send a poem or a letter to the person 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 people find that holding their loved ones in their thoughts and prayers helps them feel better. Make a scrapbook or photo album that your loved one would like. You can also try a loving kindness meditation as a way to feel connected to the person who is away.

It's natural to worry — at least some of the time — until your friend or relative is back home. Until then, keeping busy and taking care of your health can help make the wait seem faster.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: July 2015

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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