Significant stresses and issues for the member include:
Psychological – anticipatory grief reactions. Emotionally there can be anger and even depression for both the person deploying and those left behind. Children can have these reactions as well. There can also be an element of fear, not only about the dangers of the mission itself, but also about the impact of the separation on a couple’s relationship and the family generally.
For the member there can be significant excitement in anticipation of the opportunity to put their training into action. Consequently there can be a significant ‘disconnect’ emotionally with what a spouse, if married, or parents, if single, may be experiencing – such as anticipatory grief. There can be impatience on the part of the member to simply ‘get going’ while the remaining family wishes that the day of departure never arrives.
Spiritually, there may be an issue of anticipatory grief. The emotional preparation for separation might be a new experience in the relationship. There are often concerns around fidelity, both for the partner deployed and the partner at home. Plans must be in place for extended family support. Farewell parties and gatherings may mask deeper issues of the separating family members. If active in the faith community, there is the need to build connections with parishioners and other spiritual support networks.
There will certainly be critical moments of ponderings and reflections. Special family times alone are very important.
Financially there is often less stress because the deployment often means additional income – but this means that there could be financial issues post-deployment if the received funds were not well spent by the deployed member or family back in Canada.
How the parish can help at the pre-deployment stage:
Chapels and local congregations may wish to put up signs to remember those members during a deployment; tie yellow ribbons at the front of the church or hang a banner within – to recall the coming deployment, to be reminded of those deployed during an operation, and then meaningfully take down these types of symbols after the deployment is completed.
The Military Family Support Centre and the Deployment Support Centre will be conducting family briefings prior to deployment. It is a good opportunity for local parishes to attend one of those briefings to have an overall view of the resources available to families during the deployment.
The pre-deployment phase affords a good opportunity for local parishes to become identified as resources for the families of the deployed.
Brochures and literature are available for distribution with contact numbers listing ‘What to Expect’ prior to, during, and following a deployment.
The Parish can be especially helpful if in their Sunday liturgy the deployed and family members are always prayed for. To be intentionally remembered in prayer is very helpful to the member deployed, knowing he or she is prayed for, and to the families who are grateful that prayers are offered for their loved one and for themselves.
Pastoral visits to the family during deployment are important and need to be done routinely, i.e. not just following a critical incident in theatre. A visit to the family is always useful when there is any incident in theatre, even though not involving the family. This provides comfort as such an incident usually arouses concerns for the family. Routine visits will be much more beneficial and will allow the pastor to become aware of other, non-tragic issues that may be troubling a family, either with children not coping, spouse not coping, etc.
Generally, the parish leadership and members can make an effort to learn about the typical psychological rhythms of a military member preparing to leave and of the family preparing for the absence.
It is generally possible to talk to a military chaplain to get particulars of the specific operational environment to which the member will be deployed.
Of course there are very practical ways to show support. Simple initiatives like the sending of cards to the member in theatre, and the putting together of personal and ‘homey’ care packages not only encourages the member in theatre but also demonstrates the parish’s supportive attitude to the family at home.