“What’s Next?” Military Families Deal with Anxiety and Stress from Continued Uncertainty

A new study released this month finds uncertainty makes people more stressed than knowing for sure something bad is coming. Of course, everyone deals with some degree of uncertainty in their lives—we can’t control traffic and weather. But what happens when that “something bad” is much more serious… much more life-changing and impactful?

When an U.S. Osprey went down almost two weeks ago off Australia’s coast with 26 service members on board… what were the families of those service members going through? Shielding their children from news reports and silently, relentlessly praying that their loved one is alive? Jumping out of their skin each time the phone rang or there was a knock at the door, terrified of the message on the other end?

The lead author of the recent study on uncertainty says it’s “difficult for the brain because it makes it hard to figure out what to do [and] what decisions to make.”

This is exactly what Lyndy, an Air Force spouse who recently moved her family of four across the country to a new duty station, recently described. She spent months in a hotel room, working from her laptop to maintain her job duties, and just recently moved to a small apartment until their house is ready in another month. Her four kids will soon begin new schools, join new sports teams, and make new friends (they hope—more uncertainty).

“I’ve literally had my life turned upside down. I’m trying to find something I can control, and hold onto and be sane,” Lyndy said describing her current state of affairs.

Trying to find something to hold onto in a world of “what’s next?” is a common theme for military families.

Amanda, an Army spouse and mother of 3, is juggling a full-time job plus all family duties during her husband’s 9-month deployment to Afghanistan. Stationed in Texas, her closest family members are thousands of miles away. When her husband was in Alaska for a weekend… she packed up all 3 kids and made the trek because that was one certainty. They could see their dad—their hero–for that one weekend.

While military families continue to sacrifice, their civilian peers and counterparts still struggle to understand today’s military family. Our nation’s families are tired of the uncertainty… constantly worried about their loved ones while trying to hold it together on the homefront.

It has been 16 years since September 11, 2001… yet nearly 300,000 service members are currently deployed, many still fighting a war that started that day.

Families are dealing with their third, fourth, and fifth deployments and worry what one more will do to their lives. Each time a service member leaves… uncertainty. When they come home… more uncertainty. How will that mother, father, husband or wife who has been away so long fit into a family forced to go on without them.

With so many uncertainties looming for our nation’s service members and their families, we know one thing that you can help with: support and encouragement. Do you know a military family in your church or neighborhood? Reach out and offer a helping hand in a way that makes sense for them. Offer to babysit, mow a yard, cook a hot dinner, wash a car. Not sure how to help? Consider a donation to the National Military Family Association. We make it our mission to strengthen and support military families around the world as they stand behind their loved one in uniform.

Are you a military family? How do you explain the constant worry and uncertainty to your friends and family who might not understand what you go through? 

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