Whether you’re the one moving on to another adventure at a new duty station or the one left behind to continue on your current adventure, Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season can wreak havoc on our nerves and do a number on our hearts.
Since many of you are already painfully aware that the stress of frequent moves is a staple in military culture, let’s take a look at the other side of this Pretty Crazy Situation: being left behind.
Military life has often produced a tribe-like mentality where new friends become surrogate family members in a matter of months. Fellow military families can be that lifeline during deployment or even the antidote to Murphy’s Law. They become part of daily life, so when we are faced with saying ‘see ya later,’ it can seem as though our social support system is dwindling right before our very eyes. It can be difficult on both sides of a PCS, but the outgoing family will at least have the logistical distractions to keep them busy for the time being. The one left behind may feel like their world is spinning out of control.
Both friends will, again, realize that the only constant in their lives is change.
In an article written in Psychology Today called “When You Lose a Friend,” the author explains that our response to this life-changing event is completely dependent upon how close were, the history we’ve shared, and whether or not we have other resources in our lives to help with our current stressors. Movers and Stayers alike will require time to adjust to this form of loss.
But what happens when this type of loss occurs all the time? Sure, military families are nothing, if not resilient, but how is it that we are we able to cope with PCS loss time and time again?
- We never say ‘good-bye,’ we say ‘see ya later.’ That phrase may not be the magic words you were looking for, but it will help you to endure life without your bestie for the foreseeable future. Why? Because the military is small and you could end up at the same duty station again. Because your list of road trip venues just expanded to include the state they’re moving to. Because… technology! How AWESOME is it that you and your surrogate sister (or brother) can still ‘take it to the porch’ with a glass of wine thanks to Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangout?
- Meet new people. While you may think this one is easier said than done, you also might be overlooking the obvious. How did you meet your friend who’s moving? Were they your neighbor? Did you strike up a conversation at an event or the store? Maybe through mutual friends? That doesn’t mean your favorite milfam can be replaced, it just means that maybe someone else is looking for a friend like you. The point is, there are more awesome people out there who may do well to know YOUR awesome self as well. You weren’t disappointed before, so maybe give it the old college try again?
- Our bonds are stronger than distance. Living the military lifestyle often means that we may find ourselves in some pretty hairy situations. Our fellow military families are in the same boat and we all close ranks when it’s least expected. The bonds that are formed have withstood paper thin walls in housing, Murphy’s Law, and family crisis. Many of us have been the stand-in Lamaze partner, the shoulder to cry on, and the God-send who sees the potential in everything they do. That’s a bond that can rarely be broken without significant effort, and a cross-country move is pretty far down on the list of the things that can.
So, whether you’re the one moving on to a new duty station or you’re the one left behind to continue on where you’re at, PCS season really can wreak havoc on our nerves and do a number on our hearts….but our bonds can’t be broken and we will never be replaced. Until next time…”see ya later.”