PCS Grief

Hey Friends,

It’s been quite awhile since I last posted and I humbly beg your forgiveness…the full-time job thing has been very eye-opening.  I think, no–I know–that I am gaining a newfound respect for those of you out there who do it all.  I’m also learning how central being organized is to keeping all the plates spinning at once (and how easily one plate can get knocked down by something unforeseen).

Enough about work, but it does affect life and how often I’m able to get over here to post.

Recently, I read a book that many of you have probably heard of:  Brene Brown’s Rising Strong.  The subtitle of the book interested me:

If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall.  This is a book about what it takes to get back up.  

The chapters deal with different painful pitfalls we all deal with at one time or another and how to “rumble” with the uncomfortable feelings and move past them.  The chapter that most struck a chord with me though was the chapter called “The Brave and the Brokenhearted”.  It’s about grief and the grieving process.

Most of us think about grief only in terms of losing someone.  Death.  Grief is about more than death, though.  We can feel grief and go through the stages of grief for any loss that affects our life–even the loss of something we can’t quite define.

In Rising Strong, Brene Brown categorizes grief in this way:

  • Loss
  • Longing
  • Feeling Lost

As I read her descriptions of loss, longing and feeling lost, I had a lightbulb moment.  Maybe you’ve all realized that what we experience after a PCS is grief, but I have never thought of it in that way, and I was taken aback.  As a spouse, I feel like we aren’t allowed time or space to grieve–we are expected to pack our house out, move across the country or around the world, adapt to a new environment and do it all with an “I’ve got this!” smile on our face.  One day our life is in Stuttgart, Germany and the next day, it’s in Norfolk, Virginia.  And we don’t miss a step.  Very possibly, there is no time to grieve between finding a new house, signing the kids up for school, moving in, finding Starbucks and a new salon and a new job and the perfect park.

When is there time to properly process grief in the middle of all that?

Here a few quotes from this chapter of Rising Strong that made me think of military spouses and grief.

On loss: “Grief seems to create losses within us that reach beyond our awareness–we feel as if we’re missing something that was invisible and unknown to us while we had it, but is now painfully gone”.

On longing:  “Longing…is an involuntary yearning for wholeness, for understanding, for meaning, for the opportunity to regain or even simply touch what we’ve lost.  Longing is…an important part of grief, yet many of us feel we need to keep our longings to ourselves for fear we will be misunderstood…or lacking in fortitude and resilience”.

Feeling lost:  “Grief requires us to reorient ourselves to every part of our physical, emotional, and social worlds”.

Wow.  Maybe that didn’t quite capture your attention as it did mine…but I was left nodding.  That is exactly what moving feels like:  losing something that was unknown to us while we had it (it doesn’t matter whether you love or loathe that duty station–I promise you’ll still grieve “normal” life).  Cue the longing:  it’s where you lived when you were first married, you had a child/children there, you bought a house there, it was your “favorite” duty station–whatever transpired, life is encapsulated between a set of dates on a certain point on the globe.  Feeling lost:  literally, feeling lost–having to adjust to a new home, new neighborhood, new schools, new culture, new time zone, everything NEW.

Grief can crop up at the oddest of times, when you least expect it.  Just this week, I was missing Japan.  There are times when I’m homesick for Germany or wish I could be in Newport, Rhode Island on a sunny summer afternoon.  I miss homes that we’ve made, friends that we’ve made, everyday life in various places.

Everyone’s lives change…it doesn’t matter if you never move or move every two years, but I think that as military spouses, PCS carries a special kind of grief and that we need to be open to the truth that it really IS grief and that it needs to be processed and not ignored.

What do you think?