The experience of war is not one which can be left behind at the battlefield. No matter which side wins or loses, every soldier brings back a baggage of memories and emotions from the frontlines. So if you have just been informed that your husband is on his way back home from the war, here are a few ways to prepare yourself and the family.
You may have just received the happy news that your husband is coming home but you may find it strange not to have a particular hour or even day specified. In fact with service personnel returning from overseas deployment, there is never a definite time to expect them when they return home. There is normally a "window" of about a week where they could be returning. So make sure you are prepared and ready to go when you receive the call or email informing you of the exact time they will be arriving.
Make yourself easy to spot
When you go to the airport or port to receive your husband, make sure that you bring some kind of sign with his last name. Non-military people may find it difficult to believe this, but when the helicopters fly in (or boats arrive) with all the service personnel, the men on board often look all alike! So it may be difficult to spot your husband the instant he lands which is why Holding up a sign will make it easier for them to find you in the mass of people that will be there waiting for their loved ones. Also be prepared for the outbreak of emotions on such an occasion - Everyone will be pushing, and running up to get that first hug and kiss. It could mean a tearful time for you too since people aren't always ready for the emotion that flows out when they see their loved one for the first time
Don’t expect to hog him
After your soldier has been deployed for many months, and sometimes over a year, it is only natural that once he comes home, he stays home. However men and women that return from deployments, aren't immediately given time off. They may be expected to report to an official for debriefing purposes, medical checkups or simply as a way of slowly bringing the soldier back to a normal way of life. This can be extremely difficult for the family which may have been expecting him to spend all his leisure time with them. So be understanding of protocol since it is not in your husband’s power to break them.
As your husband returns from deployment, keep in mind that despite your happiness and relief, the adjustment period can be difficult. He could be a little impatient with the kids, or even withdrawn. After he returns, just allow him to take back the responsibilities he had before deployment, at a pace that he is comfortable with. It may take time, but have faith that things will go back to normal.
Then there is your own position to consider; as the wife of the deployed soldier, you have had a lot of pressure on you too! You have had to deal with the kids, the house, the bills, and every little thing that went wrong while you were alone. It is normal for you to want to instantly pass off the kids and responsibilities to your spouse. Difficult though it may seem, avoid doing this. Your spouse and the children will need time to become reacquainted and readjusted – it is best you allow the transition to happen slowly.
Then again, you and your kids may have formed some new routines in the absence of your husband. Don’t expect him to fall into your routine the moment he arrives home. Give him time to unwind and reconnect and then he can adapt to the new situations.
Give him what he needs
Different families have different ways to celebrate the return of a member from deployment; while some would like to throw a party and call extended family members and longtime friends, other would like to take off on their own to a quiet holiday to reconnect with each other. What you decide to do will of course depend on both your husband’s personality and what your family would like but ideally let a few days pass before launching into a major event like a get together or a vacation. Sometimes the stress of war conditions is so great that all your husband may wish to do is rest at home. However it’s also possible that he hasn't had good food in a long time. So he will want to eat all his favorite dishes - Be prepared to do a lot of going out and cooking during the first week home.
Look for signs that he needs help
However even after several weeks, if you notice that your loved one has not returned to normal, you may want to consider counseling. If the soldier has been on the front lines in battle, or seen fellow soldiers injured or killed, it is imperative that you get him help right away. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is very common for soldiers that witnessed these kinds of tragedies. PTSD is a psychological condition brought on by an experience which involved actual or threatened death and which the person found highly traumatic. The most common symptoms of PTSD include reliving the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, emotional detachment, sleep abnormalities like insomnia, avoidance of reminders and extreme distress when coming across such reminders of the incident. The condition may also result in physical problems such as nervous tics, repetitive motions, headaches, muscle aches, even dry mouth and blurred vision in some instances. Try and be understanding when you see your husband exhibiting nervousness, irritability, antsy movements or erratic behavior at home or out. Don’t make too much of it but at the same time don’t nag at him for being unable to come to terms with the past event. Learn to empathize with your partner and gently try to divert his attention on to something else. One of the most common characteristics of a person with PTSD is a state of hyper-arousal as a result of which he seems jumpy or easily startled, for apparently no reason. Thus while going out it would be a good idea to choose places with soothing and pleasant environments instead of those which have an excess of stimuli or which may remind him/her of the unhappy incident. Eventually though no matter how much supportive you are, if your husband is suffering from PTSD, then therapy or counseling may be the only way to get better.