It was the hardest hug we ever had.
I know we hugged, I’m sure we kissed, but the entire goodbye was so shaking that it was an instantaneous blur. The moment his arms slid off me, my heart crumbled into a million pieces. I got back in the car and watched him walk away for Basic Training Camp. I burst into tears and sobbed harder than I have ever cried. We had only been married for three weeks.
I don’t feel the need to share this with you because I think I’m the only one and somehow my story might make a dramatic impression on your mind. I feel like I need to share this because I know that I’m not the only one. I’m one of the thousands of girls every year that had a goodbye. A really, really hard one. One that American girls have been doing since 1775. Your man is going off to be a soldier. And though you want to be that proud Army-strong girl– in that goodbye moment–you are simply just his girl. And it hurts to let go of that hug. Because it hurts to let go of him.
Some of you have asked me if it gets better. I can honestly say yes and no. Missing him never goes away. Loving him never changes. Feeling like your world isn’t right when he’s not there will continue on, throughout this separation and into the next one. But what does change is you.
It’s hard to believe that, because he’s gone and you’re still the same person that he left behind. Or are you? I bet that you didn’t know that it would feel quite like this. And in examining that, you’re learning more about yourself. About your emotions–maybe even an emotional side of you that you’ve never discovered before. And learning to face them is definitely an exercise in change. You might have tried to distract yourself with something–and that’s developing a new skill or interest in you. It doesn’t have to be a new crazy activity like skydiving. Even just picking up extra hours on your shift to pass the time by is you doing something different. It’s YOU changing.
The thing is, we all know that we can’t change our soldier’s situation. He can’t accelerate through Basic and come home early. He can’t stop training and come home for our birthday. And no matter how much we wish he could, he can’t just pick up the phone for a goodnight check-in. But we can change our situation. And like I said above, a lot of times we change our situation (or ourselves) without realizing it.
The first night home alone, I cried myself to sleep. And I’m not going to pretend it was the only time I cried while he was gone. But I will say, I didn’t cry myself to sleep every night. And it’s not because I stopped missing him. It’s because my heart started learning how to cope. It’s almost as if my heart got stretched, all the way from Virginia (where I was) to Georgia (where he was). At first, it hurt terribly. My heart was so, so sore from the stretching. But over time, it became limber. I began to feel how flexible my heart was. How I could indeed be sad, but how I could also spend many days happy.
The easy days didn’t come automatically, and they didn’t come early on after he left. But eventually, a few weeks in, I was able to begin making my peace with our situation. I could either fight within myself for all 16 weeks and feel gutted, lonely, and crushed. Or I could begin to become the Army-strong girl I always pictured myself being. I had to do this, because I knew that he would walk out of Basic Training camp with 16 weeks of change in his heart and on his shoulders. I didn’t want him to be the only one that grew. I wanted to change with him.
I think I want to share a post about all ways I learned to change, and things I did to help my heart cope with the cure. But for now I at least want to say that, to the girl who just said goodbye to your future soldier: thank you. Because people will stop your soldier throughout his service and thank him. And they should. But almost nobody will thank you, and you’re the loving force behind his service. I’m not making that up either. Your soldier will tell you that he couldn’t have done this without your support. And he really means it. His leadership will also tell you that. They always do, and they always mean it.
I’ve always felt this about us Army-girls: “Behind every great man is a great woman.” And I think any soldier would tell you that’s true. So let’s be gentle with ourselves, right now, while we’re hurting. But let us take comfort in the fact that one day, our hearts will learn to stretch. We will grow and change and somehow learn to cope along the way. Because this is only the beginning of our journey in supporting a great man, for our great country. And we can really, truly do this.
~~ Now go get your pens and start writing him a letter! ~~