We all knew the day would come. Even as we spent random evenings together playing games, made Waffle House runs, went to Zumba, took spontaneous trips to Tropical Smoothie, and even helped each other stay awake when switching to and living on the night shift. We knew that these days were not permanent, that we would not always be in Goose Creek.
I don’t think we really considered the weight of the difficulty of being friends as Navy spouses until we had to. I think we each held onto the hope that maybe we would all wind up in the same place. After all, our spouses were all ET nukes who would be assigned to carriers. There are very few bases in the world that support that job for sea duty. In fact, there are only four. The chances were high that we would not be separated.
Unfortunately, we were.
When orders came in, it was both an amazing and difficult day. My husband and I were both very happy with where he had been assigned to go. However, my excitement became a bit marred as our group chat lit up with announcements of assignments. My husband and I were going to one base, and everyone else in our group to another. Two would even be on the same ship. Mixed feelings ensued, and I began to feel the frustration that I’d been trying to prepare myself for but clearly hadn’t. And I braced myself for the impending inevitable but immensely difficult task:
Saying good-bye is one of the hardest things you will have to do as a military spouse. And you will do it frequently. Whether it’s to your spouse, your friends, or your family, there is always another good-bye to be said. If your spouse isn’t going out to sea, then your closest friend at your current duty station is moving away. Or maybe you’re the one moving from a duty station close to your family to one that is thousands of miles away. Basically, it feels like every time you turn around, you have to say good-bye to someone.
It’s really easy to let these constant good-byes bring us down. I know I have. I have absolutely been the wife who cries her eyes out because she’s about to be 3,000 miles from every Navy spouse friend she has. It’s not a good look. But it is a realistic look.
Here’s the thing: it’s okay to be upset about saying another good-bye. Really. If you need permission, here it is. Let yourself be sad, let yourself miss your husband, friends, or family (or some combination of these). Don’t force yourself to keep your chin up right away, and please don’t let yourself get calloused. Dealing with difficult emotions is part of being a military spouse, and it is okay to have these emotions.
But don’t wallow. Don’t let good-bye ruin your week, your chances at new beginnings, or an opportunity to grow as a person. Don’t put the brakes on your life because your husband is out to sea. If you’re not working, find a hobby or find a goal to keep yourself occupied and active. Don’t become a hermit just because your best friend at duty station A went to duty station B while you went to duty station C. Use this opportunity to reach out to a new Navy wife, or even go to an event where you’ll meet other wives. Take this chance to be an encouragement and friend to someone who may desperately need someone on their team. And don’t let yourself become consumed by being away from your family. Family is forever. They are always there. They are always a message or a phone call away. But use this separation as a chance to go on new adventures, and try new things. That way, you’ve not only branched out of your comfort zone, you’ve also done something you can tell stories about to your family the next time you talk!
Good-bye is hard. It’s one of the hardest things a military spouse has to say. It can get discouraging and put at peak loneliness. But instead of letting it cripple you, let good-bye be the thing that helps you reach out of your comfort zone to try new things. Let good-bye be an opportunity, instead of an end.
Finally, do not let good-bye harden your heart against new people. Constant good-byes can make a military wife cynical, and wonder if it’s even worth making new friends. It is always worth it to connect with those around you. Build community where you are at. Bloom where you are planted. Take the pain of leaving and good-bye, and make it into something good.
You may not be able to escape the difficulty of good-bye, but you can choose what you make of it.
We have said our good-byes. My friends have moved on to their next place, and my husband and I are preparing for our own move. It’s been immensely difficult, no doubt about it. Saying good-bye to the amazing people I have had the pleasure of spending time with here is just a taste of all the good-byes I will have to say as a Navy wife. But I am choosing to let it make me better and to make me stronger. Because I have been through good-byes, I can encourage another Navy spouse who may be struggling with it. Good-bye is not an end, it is not a death sentence to your happiness, and it is not a reason to grow callous to new opportunities. Good-bye is the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. And you can rejoice through it. Even through good-bye.