Family Reintegration After Deployment

Both service members and their family members know the risks of serving in the military. One of which is the possibility of being deployed overseas. Most people are also aware of the potential issues that service members may experience once they return home including but not limited to; alcoholism, drug usage (both prescription and recreational), depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and survivor’s guilt. The act of coming back from deployment and getting used to normal life again is called reintegration. It is very difficult to come back from deployment and many people struggle more than they imagined they would. It is also hard to predict how you or your family will manage until you actually experience it.


What about the family members?

Service members will obviously go through a lot mentally and emotionally upon reintegration, but what about their family members? The family members can also be affected by the reintegration process with the development of their own mental health issues or bad habits that they may pick up from the service member or develop as a way to deal with the service members actions. It is important for service members to understand that although their family members may not have gone through the experiences of deployment that they will still have to go through the reintegration process along with the service member which includes handling these various issues. Families struggle with missing their loved ones during deployment and it can be equally difficult when their loved one’s return and don’t seem to be the people they were when they left. There is help and hope for family members too.


What can family members do to help reintegration?

It is important for family members to understand that even though they may be excited about their service member coming home and want to pick up where they left off or throw parties with lots of family members and friends, the service member may not be ready for that much attention or excitement. The easier and slower the family goes, the less intense the reintegration will be for them. The family members may not be fully prepared to have their service member back either. When a parent deploys for a long period of time, roles will shift within the household and the family members will adapt to a new day to day routine. Shifting back may not be as easy for some members within the family which can cause additional stress on the reintegration process.


Resources for Reintegration

In addition to a better understanding of the reintegration process, military families should also be aware of the various resources they can use to help when the process doesn’t go as smooth as expected. Family and individual therapy are great ways for the service member to overcome some of the issues they may be dealing with as well as a great way for them to help communicating these issues to their families. Therapy is also a great way for the various family members to understand better how they are dealing with the reintegration and work through some of their expectations that may not have turned out the way they were hoping for.


There are also numerous military resources and support groups for family member within the military including Family Readiness Groups for each individual unit. Family Readiness Groups are active in each unit whether the unit is deployed or not and will hold events and provide help for those who are struggling throughout the deployment as well as the reintegration process. If you or your family are struggling with acclimating to civilian life, there is hope. Please contact our office or reach out for help to take that first step to feeling like yourself again.

September 2019, Amelia Forsmo, Administrative Volunteer