Alone for the holidays as a military spouse in Costal North Carolina, I was exactly 1,051.3 miles from my family in the Midwest while my husband was deployed.
It was the most difficult holiday season of my life.
Working as a critical care nurse, I had a life that was filled with responsibility and obligations. It wasn’t all that easy to pick up and leave simply because Christmas rolled around.
I talked to my husband about it, and we agreed that it would be better for me to work the Christmas holidays while he was deployed. We hoped it would allow us to spend the following Christmas together as a family.
I worked Christmas Eve.
Then I worked Christmas Day.
And each night after work, I returned to an empty house.
It was as lonely and pitiful as it sounds.
I had snap out of it.
Sitting around North Carolina having the pity party of the century wasn’t helping me any. So I booked a spontaneous trip back to the Midwest in order to spend some time over New Year’s Eve with friends and family.
Arriving back at my parent’s house, I started to feel better already. The familiarity of burnt dinner rolls and a cheap red wine somehow gave me a strange sense of holiday comfort.
Eating my burnt dinner roll on my first night back into town, a high school friend called up and re-invited me to her New Year’s Eve wedding. Originally, I did not plan on being in the local area to attend the wedding, but when plans changed and I found myself in the Midwest, she invited me to once again share in her special day.
Of course, I said yes.
I felt pretty excited getting to dress up and attend a special event with lots of familiar faces.
The best part?
I got wear a special pair of black pumps for the wedding. These weren’t just any shoes. These were shoes that my husband bought me, and they were beautiful. It sounds silly saying that a pair of women’s high heeled shoes were in some way special to us as a couple. But when you are in the middle of a deployment over the holidays, you cling to even the most unusual things—like black pumps.
The ceremony was beautiful; the food, amazing; the company, perfect. I was having the time of my life, dancing the night away. Unfortunately those darn shoes weren’t made for dancing. Heck, those shoes were barely made for walking. Determined to continue onward with my grand ‘ole time, I kicked them off and headed back to the dance floor.
It was almost midnight.
After hours of dancing, I was spent. My feet ached, my eyes were heavy, and I felt a bit like I was about to turn into a pumpkin. I started gathering my things. I just needed to find my shoes.
Except my shoes were missing.
For nearly an hour, I looked everywhere for those “special” shoes. After searching and searching, it seemed like a lost cause. Someone took my special black shoes.
I was devastated, and I had the tears to prove it. First, just a few tears streamed down my face. Then, a few tears turned into a waterfall. And finally, I just went into full blown ugly cry mode. I was in the midst of a complete and utter deployment meltdown—all over a pair of black shoes.
Surviving the holidays during deployment.
Surviving the holidays alone as a military spouse is one of the toughest parts about military life. You try your hardest to keep it together and stay positive. But after a while, it starts to get to you. And before you know it, you’re having a 3-hour meltdown over high heels.
As a military spouse, I know exactly where you are coming from. It’s not easy to navigate, but these are a few tried and true ways to get through the holidays alone, without suffering from an ugly cry.
Send those unconventional gifts | I remember sending my husband tuna fish and a bread machine as his Christmas gift. I laugh now thinking back because it was such a ridiculous gift to an outsider, but to my husband that bread machine helped lift his spirits during deployment.
Open gifts over video chat | If you are able to video chat, try to open gifts together and make it a virtual holiday. It’s imperfect, but it’s a great way to try and feel connected again. If you have kids this is usually very special for them.
Plan a special trip | With my husband deployed, my mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law and brother-in-law and I planned a special trip to NYC together in early December. It was the perfect way to get our minds off the deployment and focus on something magical: NYC during Christmas time.
Volunteer | A great way to feel fulfilled during the holiday season is to give back to others. My grandmother always said, “The receiving is in the giving.” Look for ways to donate your time to The Salvation Army, a local soup kitchen, Toys for Tots or another great organization.
Set your default to “Yes” | When someone invites you to do something, make your default answer “yes.” Staying inside during the holidays alone will only bring on the pity party. Commit to attending everything you are invited to for at least one hour. If you want to go home after an hour, you can always politely excuse yourself and leave.
Seek out those special events | Christmas tree lightings, caroling adventures, cookie exchanges: Look for those events in your local area and try to attend at least one or two even if it’s outside your comfort zone.
Remember those shoes?
About 3 days later, a guest from the wedding called up and shared that she accidentally left with my shoes on her feet. And a few days after that those beautiful black pumps found their way into my mailbox in North Carolina.
But I think we all know my tears and epic meltdown were not really about those shoes.
My tears were about something much deeper.
My tears were about missing someone I loved very much. My tears were about the challenges of deployment. My tears were about working on Christmas and coming home to an empty house. My tears were about going to a wedding without my husband to share the evening with me. My tears were about the void that sometimes comes along with military life.
And that’s okay.
Because if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that having a good cry from time to time over the struggles of military life is normal. Spending the holidays alone is not always rainbows and sunshine.
Let yourself feel sad for a bit and have a good cry.
Then remember to dry your eyes, choose happiness and say yes to that Christmas caroling event, that special trip, that Skype date, that volunteer opportunity or that New Year’s Eve wedding.
You are going to make it through this.
But whatever you do…
Don’t lose your shoes.
This post is sponsored on behalf of Lincoln Military Housing. All opinions are my own.
Want more on military life?
- 3 Telltale Signs You’re Friends with an Awesome Military Spouse
- The Real Reason Being a Military Wife is So Hard
- How to Stay Sane and Happily Married During Deployment
- Are Military Spouses Unknowingly Violating OPSEC?
- 30 Holiday Games for Kids That’ll Keep Mom Cheering
What’s your best tip to survive the holidays during deployment? Let’s chat in the comments!