*This guest post is written by Courtney Woodruff of Courtney at Home, where she shares all about military life and her travel adventures. Welcome, Courtney!
“Please keep in touch,” I spoke over the lump forming in my throat as I gave my dear friend one last squeeze before turning to walk back to my car. I’d given her a ride back to her temporary accommodations after we’d enjoyed one last dinner together at my place: a simple meal of grilled cheese sandwiches because I knew it was one of her favorite comfort foods.
As I drove home, I thought about how stressed, exhausted and downright excited she must be feeling. I knew she’d been dreaming of moving back to this particular city for a long time; she would be living near family, again, and she and her husband had plans to become first-time homeowners. I was thrilled for her … but, at the same time, I was surprised – and even a little ashamed – by the overwhelming pangs of sadness, jealousy, and panic that filled my chest.
I’d been on the other side of “goodbye” plenty of times, but staying behind was an entirely new experience for me.
Over the last couple of years, this sweet friend and I had experienced so much together. We’d seen each other nearly every day, we’d celebrated holidays and successes at work, and we’d even grieved a devastating loss together. Naturally, her family had become my family. When she moved away, her absence left a gaping hole in my daily routine for a long time.
When friends are there one day and gone the next, those of us who stay behind during PCS season go through many of the same mental and emotional upheavals as those who leave. Our addresses may not be changing, but we are also being affected by the waves of military families moving in and out of our communities — especially when we have to say goodbye to people we love.
Friend, if you are struggling with being the one staying behind this PCS season, know you aren’t alone.
Give yourself time.
It’s completely normal to experience a kind of grief when you have to say goodbye to a close friend, and this process takes time. Allow yourself to feel emotions fully, and seek healthy ways to work through the sadness, jealousy and even anger you may be experiencing. Write in a journal, connect with other spouses online who have been through what you are going through, or talk to a professional if you need to.
Keep in touch.
It can be easy to shut down and build walls around yourself when you are dealing with heavy emotions, but do your best to resist the urge to lose contact with your friend. Give yourself some space at first, if you need to, and be honest with her if she asks how you are doing. Remember, she is going through a major transition, too. Be there to support one another.
Be happy for your friend.
Military moves are extremely stressful, but they are filled with plenty of exciting moments, too. Celebrate with your friend as she experiences all of the big and little milestones that come along with a PCS. Congratulate her when she receives the keys to her new home, cheer with her when her household goods arrive, and sigh with her when the last box is unpacked. She will be the first one to do the same for you when it’s your turn to head to the next duty station.
Look for the positives of staying behind.
Even if you aren’t exactly thrilled with your current location, it isn’t difficult to find silver linings in not having to move during PCS season. Rejoice in the fact that you don’t have to learn a city all over again, find a church home, switch your children’s schools, or build a new community of support for your family.
Befriend a milspouse that is new to the area.
When you’re ready, open yourself up to forming new friendships. Remember how it felt to be the new spouse on the block. Use your experiences to help a newcomer adjust to your duty station. Invite her to church, give her tips on where to find the best services in town, take her to your favorite restaurants, and help her feel comfortable in her new surroundings.
Better yet – don’t compare her to the friend who moved away.
No one can replace the amazing milspouse you had to say goodbye to. It is important to remember this so we can approach new friendships with an open heart and mind. Judgment and comparison have a way of stealing our joy and ruining a perfectly good opportunity to widen our circles of companionship.
Trust in God’s will for your life.
Sooner or later, it will be your time to go. For now, trust in the promise that God has a plan for your life (Romans 8:28; Philippians 2:13). He is working through you to fulfill His good purpose – right where you are.
It’s been four months since my close friend moved away. Since then, we’ve spoken on the phone and used Facebook video to catch up with all of the major changes that have gone on in each other’s lives in our short time apart. Even though I miss her every day, I’m grateful for the time we spent together, and I’m thankful we are able to continue our friendship from afar.
Who knows … as they say, “it’s a small military.” Our paths may cross again someday.
Tell us! Are you having to say “see ya later” to a good friend this PCS season? How are you coping with the change? How are you working to stay connected? Comment below. What you say might be just what someone else needs to hear!
Looking for other great PCS related content?
These posts might be just what your friend getting ready for a big move needs, or save them to Pinterest for down the road!
Courtney Woodruff is a military spouse, mom, writer, editor and web content manager currently living in Germany. She has a heart for our troops and their families and hopes to share what little she has learned along the way to help others overcome the unique challenges of military life. You can follow her adventures at her blog, Courtney at Home, or through her social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.