PCS season is stressful.
I feel like our military family goes through the Five Stages of Grief every few years as we pack up and move to a new location.
The Five Stages of Grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
As soon as PCS season begins to loom, I go into denial. I don’t want to purge, clean, organize, pack out, and travel to a new location.
We’ve tried to extend a year at several locations…and DENIED.
I go about my business as usual.
I pretend it won’t be happening until I can’t pretend anymore.
After getting denied our extension…and realizing others had been granted theirs…
I got angry.
I got angry at the military, at the assignments officer (who even teased us with a phone call and messed up our orders), at God, at my husband for dragging us all over for 20+ years.
I’m angry at myself for being angry.
I’m angry that we didn’t get to stay another year, even though my daughter is a senior. I’m angry we didn’t get orders to anywhere I want to go.
I’m angry about silly things too.
I regret the places we didn’t get to go. I regret so many things.
It’s not like we have any real bargaining chips.
We have to go where we’re told.
Even if we’re excited about the new location…
I go back and forth with possible packout dates, car shipment, what to do with the cats. All the checklist items like transferring mail, packing suitcases and backpacks, clearing the pantry. So much to do!
How much can I fit in a suitcase? Usually we’re living out of suitcases for 3+ months and it’s hard to determine how little we need, what we can live without.
If we’re not thrilled with where we’re going…
I go back and forth in my mind, wondering what we could have done differently.
Did we put the wrong locations on the list?
Are we paying for some forgotten sin?
Is there a reason we’re being sent there?
Can my husband deploy or volunteer?
And I start to think of the next station. Surely, it will be better? We only have to be at this station maybe 2-4 years. We’ll transfer as soon as we can.
Reality sets in.
I get depressed.
I start to slowly organize, purge, donate, sell items we won’t need.
I snap at my husband who always waits until the last minute to do anything.
I get anxious about our cats.
I get anxious about money.
There are so many unknowns.
I halfheartedly look at housing at the new location. I research places to visit for day trips. I join Facebook groups.
I start to distance myself from the current location.
I realize I have to say goodbye to my houseplants. I’m sad because the new people won’t love my houseplants or herb garden the way I do, the way they deserve to be loved!
Once the household goods are packed and shipped, the house always feels cold and dark and silent. Ominous. I have trouble sleeping in an empty house. There’s little for me to do to keep busy. No beds to make, no projects to complete.
This is usually the stage when I get physically ill. The stress that has built up becomes too overwhelming.
I spent one packout completely bedridden, except for rushing to the bathroom to vomit or have diarrhea. The girls were trapped in the bedroom with me since we didn’t have anyone to help. This was the one location my husband wanted so much, to be near his family members. Such a disappointment that was! It was also the worst packout we’ve ever had, with “cousins” and “friends” arriving the last day to rush the pack job and stealing some valuables I hadn’t stored properly. Because I was sick!
We’ve also had some rental horror stories.
We’ve never lived in a nice house. Most houses have been so embarrassing that we never want to invite anyone over for any reason. We’ve kinda resigned ourselves to having absentee landlords, lazy landlords, wornout and poorly kept rental houses, renting sight unseen…until we retire. We are always sure well get our deposit back from the landlord…we do our best to keep everything as nice as possible.
In the house in Utah, we’d made some expensive upgrades to lighting in the kitchen and removed wallpaper from the kitchen and living room and painted it a nice neutral color, but he kept making petty excuses. He wanted the lawn mowed and edged to perfection. In the dark! Our goods had already shipped and we hadn’t had a working lawnmower for over a month since he refused to pay to fix it. He even wanted my kids’ welcome chalk drawings power-washed off the sidewalk! We enlisted the help of neighbors to talk to him and we finally got it back later that evening.
In Germany, we had this weird fiberglass wallpaper in the kitchen. Nothing would clean off some grease spots and they had told us it was ok and could be painted, but then they tried to keep our entire deposit of two months’ rent. The housing office had to go back and forth with the landlady several times to work it out.
We are always devastated to realize how cruel some people can be. Deposits are our financial lifeline to move into a house in our new location.
The packers came. I’ve done all I could do. Luckily, we’ve been blessed with amazing teams (except that one time!) who make jokes, have fun personalities, and appreciate the snacks, drinks, and meals we provide.
I accept our fate as I stroll through my empty, cold, echoey house, awaiting the move date.
The last few days are always hard, stressful, anxiety-ridden. So many loose ends need to be tied up in such a short period of time.
I feel poignant about the memories we share about this location. The places we’ve been, the meals we’ve eaten, the people we’ve met.
I start to look forward to a new beginning.
You might also like: Dealing with Disappointment.
Michele Morin says
I’m so thankful for this shared perspective on absorbing a huge disappointment. This is an area that I definitely struggle with.
I do struggle with disappointment. So, so much.
Jennifer, ((hug)) Bless you. Thank you for sharing the vulnerable side of service. It can’t be easy to uproot your family over and over. May God bless your new location. May your daughter make fast friends and enjoy her senior year at her new school. May you be blessed with new fellowship, community and memories soon. Prayers for you and your family. ((hug))
Thank you for your prayers and virtual hugs!
Penny Struebig says
Oh my goodness — I can’t even imagine how I would feel if I were in your shoes. Moving is so, so stressful!
It is VERY stressful, but at least packers and movers are provided and that helps relieve a little bit of it. We only did one partial DIY move and that was our first one and it was ROUGH.
I have learned a little about the challenge of military life through your post. Your honest words show the steps that lead to resolution of disappointment. May God bless your family for service to our country.
Thank you so much. I love how you put it: “steps that lead to resolution of disappointment.” That’s what it is!
Thank you for sharing this! My family is grateful for your family’s service. I didn’t realize all the struggles and the stages you have to go through. I said a prayer for all military families giving up so much in service!
Visiting from #Grace&Truth
Great perspective to apply to so many of our disappointments in life Jennifer!
Emily @ The Mommyhood Moments says
Awh! ((Hugs!!)) I pray everything gets less stressful one day. Thanks for sharing such a vulnerable part of military life.
Tina at Mommynificent says
I resonate so strongly with this post. We’ve gone through this in missions work a number of times and once quite recently. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
Debbie Kitterman says
Jennifer, one of the military families from our church is preparing to leave and I find myself stuck in stage 1. Even though we’ve known about this for a while, it still doesn’t seem real to me and I can only imagine how they are feeling. Thank you for providing insight into your journey and thanks for linking up with #TuneInThursday this week. See you next time!
Marissa Writes says
Jennifer – I am so glad I came across your post on Encouraging Hearts & Home – Its been a while since I’ve read your posts.
This is going to be featured on EHH and I hope to stop by more often…
I feel your pain. Been there for 25 years as a military wife. In a short 6 weeks we are retiring and moving to a different state. We have no home, no idea what city and will be living in my father in laws RV for up to 3 months. My husband, myself, my son, 2 dogs, 2 cats and my daughter for 3 weeks until she moves into a dorm. I thought this one would be less stressful but it is turning into the most stressful. Good luck on your next adventure as a military wife, as mine is coming to the end. Enjoy and good luck.