I was recently contacted by Adrienne May from Military Spouse Central about doing a guest post on my blog. I love guests, so I decided I would go for it. She's discussing something that we will be going through soon enough: Transitioning from military life to civilian life. I was curious about this myself, because I have no idea and the thought still makes me nervous.
I hope you'll enjoy what she has to say!
Transitioning Out of the Military 101
Transitioning in to the military lifestyle is rarely an easy one, yet transitioning out of it can be even harder. Military life is a special experience unto itself – one that others often can't relate to. When my family and I left the tight knit community, our stress and emotions ran high. However, just as we transitioned into military life, we were able to transition out.
To help you and your family transition out of military life without feeling too overwhelmed, I've created a list of tips to help:
Prepare Yourself in Advance
When your spouse exits the military, they are going to be taking on a lot of emotion and pressure while dealing with the transition process – especially if they have been in combat. I know for my husband, he really struggled with his sense of self while transitioning. He wasn't sure where he fit career wise, and was constantly stressed about being able to support us, his family, even though we were okay.
Be prepared for these emotions to run high, and be prepared to be strong during this transition time. Don't let your emotions or worries get the best of you, and take the time prior to leaving the military to mentally prepare yourself for the journey ahead. While it isn't terrible, the journey will have a few bumps. By allowing yourself to accept this fact ahead of time, you will be less likely to stress out when you have to jump a hurdle or two.
There are two main things that you need to educate yourself on prior to leaving the military: what your soldier and your family is entitled to and major issues that commonly affect transitioning military members. When my husband first left the military, we were clueless about the paperwork that we needed in order for him to get adequate benefits, and because of it, battled the VA for months to get benefits. Be sure to check out these tips on cutting through the red tape at the VA benefits office.
Prior to leaving the military, make sure that you have all of your husband's medical records. Keep detailed records of everything – including anything that a doctor may have said in passing during a visit. The more information that you keep, the easier it will be for you to expedite the benefits process.
Also before you leave the military, you want to attend any educational programming you can regarding transitioning and conditions, such as PTSD. Knowing the symptoms of PTSD, and how to cope with it will only help you and your family to help your soldier. It is not just PTSD either, my husband does not suffer from PTSD but he did experience quite a sense of loss and struggled with the feeling that he lost purpose in his life. Depression, anxiety and other complex emotions are all common. Knowing these things in advance will also make it easier for you to seek treatment and support should you need to. Remember, knowledge is power, and the more you know, the easier transitioning will be.
Join a Support Group
When you are living on base or have a spouse active in the military, it is easy to find a strong support network of women and spouses who are experiencing similar lives. However, when transitioning into civilian life, many spouses tend to lose that support system as they are now living off base and away from other military families. When we first moved off base, I felt incredibly alone. Although I could still connect with old friends, the different places in our lives made finding support amongst them difficult.
Because of the high stress and dramatic changes often met during transition, it is important for you to find other women experiencing the same. A local veteran family support organization can be very helpful. Veteran spouses were able to offer me support in ways that directly catered to my needs as a transitioning military wife, and they understood where I was coming from.
To find these support groups, check out the community boards at the local VA center or look into military support organizations in your area.
Transitioning back in to civilian life is a unique experience to every family, fully equipped with your own set of trials and tribulations. But if you take the time to adequately prepare yourself before, and practice understanding and patience while transitioning, you will be able to get through without too many bumps in the road. Simply consider transitioning just another chapter in the life of your family, and no aspect of it will seem too great to overcome.
Adrienne May is a military spouse and mother of three. Adrienne is also the featured author for Military Spouse Central andMilitary Family Central, two blogs proudly sponsored by Veterans United Home Loans. Connect with Adrienne personally onGoogle+ or Twitter!