Coping with Separation from Loved Ones

Separation is a trial for most relationships, and while there is no recipe to guarantee a successful reunion and return to 'normal life' after the deployment, there are some basic steps IA Sailors and their loved ones can take to reduce the stress of an IA assignment. The most basic step to take revolves around having a communications plan (ideally, prepared during the pre-deployment phase, but never too late to implement) and then executing that plan. In other words, set expectations with a plan and then live up to those expectations with your actions. These are not only success factors for a healthy relationship, but they are also fundamental attributes for leaders who would earn the trust of other Sailors.

Best Practice Guides & Resources

While a communication plan should be the mainstay of your strategy for coping with separation, here are some additional resources/guides:

Staying in Touch During Deployment

Finally, there are a number of ways to share thoughts, feelings and daily happenings with your loved ones. Here is a brief list, along with some practical tips for their use. In all communication, remember not to disclose sensitive information, resist 'dumping' or venting frustrations and avoid sarcasm, gossip or rumors.

  • Email:
    • Can be read by others, so be sure you only include information or attachments that you and your spouse would be comfortable letting other people see.
    • Keep communications easy to read. For example, break long passages up into separate paragraphs.
    • Review your email before sending. Delete anything you might regret later.
  • Care Packages: Avoid problems by double checking the mailing address on the box, including it on a slip of paper in the box, using sturdy boxes and always packing batteries separate from the devices they power so that nothing is accidentally activated during shipment.
    • Do send personal hygiene and related items such as shaving cream, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, lotion, deodorant, sunscreen, bug spray, eye drops, lip balm, tissues, hand sanitizer, medicine (such as pain relievers), bandages, socks, underwear and undershirts).
    • Do send entertainment items such as books, magazines, newspapers, pre-loaded portable music players, headphones, CDs, DVDs, playing cards, puzzles, batteries and travel-size board games.
    • Do send writing material such as stamps, paper, envelopes, pens and blank greeting cards.
    • Do send non-perishable food such as pretzels, popcorn, dried fruit, nuts, beef jerky, gum, coffee, tea bags, drink mixes, sugar packets, noodle soup cartons, power bars, cereal, packaged cookies, crackers, oatmeal and applesauce.
    • Do NOT send:
      • Perishable food (including homemade baked goods)
      • Alcohol and tobacco
      • Cash
      • Items sensitive to heat (e.g. chocolate, candles, etc.)
      • Intimate items (as the box might be opened in the company of others)
      • Large items
  • Postal Mail: Probably the most meaningful way to communicate as they can be carried by the recipient and read any time.
    • Letters may take a long time to arrive.
    • Since multiple letters may arrive at the same time or out of order, number and date each letter.
    • Don't feel that every letter you write must be long. Short ones or even post cards are OK too.
    • Reread your letter before sending to make sure you actually answered any questions your spouse sent you.
  • Phone Calls:
    • Make a list of topics to discuss ahead of time. Start with the most important topics first in case the call gets cut short.