Dear Kathy: What does a MIL feel and need during deployment?
Q: Dear Kathy,
Thank you for helping us understand the struggles our mother in-laws endure as they stand or remain on their knees, praying for their grown son’s as they go off to war. Do mother in-laws struggle with denial and isolation too? I love my mother in-law. In years past, we’ve shared precious insights from God’s Word from many Bible Studies we’ve attended (She used to lead ladies Bible Studies) When my husband and I married over 20 years ago, she embraced God’s Word “A man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall be one flesh.” Gen 2:24. I see how her one step of faith has impacted our marriage, encouraging us to walk closely with our Lord. Little did she know the Lord would use her to equip us for deployment. She mentions He left her son at the alter years ago, in other words, she placed her son in God’s almighty hand. This is truly beautiful to see, however, I wonder as deployment draws near, if she will experience emotions she didn’t realize she still had, even though her son is grown? I would love to be able to know how I can come alongside her to help her press through these emotions.
A: Dear Sherry,
I was really blessed by your description of your MIL. She sounds like a woman that is truly striving to honor God, which is exemplified through her love, support and encouragement to you, and her son. You asked if she will experience unexpected emotions during her son’s deployment and the quick answer is ‘yes.’
Even for a mom that has dedicated her child to the Lord and trusts His plan for their lives, when her child leaves for deployment there is a change in her heart. I remember the moment prior to our son’s first deployment that he told me he had to turn his phone off because they were boarding the plane; I thought I was prayed up and prepared; yet my first thought was “how can I let him go?” After we said our good-byes, I continued to grasp the phone as I realized that for the first time in his life, he would be completely out of my reach. I wouldn’t be able get to him if he needed me or to check on him. Saying good-bye was so different than when I sent our daughters to college. I knew I could contact them if the need arose. For my son, the invisible umbilical cord that every mom has to reel in her children whenever necessary had truly been severed.
From that moment until he returned, although I accepted God’s grace, mercy and peace daily I felt a piece of my heart missing. There was a true sense of being alone even when in a crowd, of not quite belonging because others weren’t aware that my thoughts were constantly wondering about whether he had eaten or slept as well as if he was in immediate danger.
With regard to support, what you need from other military wives, she will need from fellow Blue Star Moms. So as her daughter-in-law encourage her in that direction. If there aren’t others near her, help her find some online through the different parent websites. If she is like the many other Blue Star Moms I’ve spoken with, she will benefit greatly from the verbal encouragement and prayer support of other moms enduring the same roller coaster ride. And because she is obviously a committed Christian, she will be a blessing to others as well.
Another area that is tough for moms with a son deployed is holidays and birthdays because being able to have a celebration for those special events is just what moms do. Help her to be creative in sending packages and other fun ideas to him at those times. My daughter-in-law always made sure she contacted me on those days to talk and see how I was doing, which really meant a lot. In fact, I remember one year that she called me on his birthday to thank me for giving birth to him.
Also, you can really be a blessing to her by keeping her updated on whatever news you hear about your husband. Since parents are not kept in the loop by the military as to what is happening, knowing that you will communicate with her as much as possible will be another way to help her feel included and that she’s still a part of her son’s life. She doesn’t need to know everything or don’t feel you need to coddle her, just the fact that you realize she misses him will help her immensely.
Because you are both women of tremendous faith, I believe what you will discover is that when one of you is struggling with anxiety, fear, or extreme loneliness, the other will feel strong and vice a versa. For that reason I encourage you to keep your lines of communication open by sharing your needs and praying with and for one another. After all, no one on earth loves your husband, her son, more than the two of you so by creating a bond amongst yourselves and each of you hanging on to God’s outstretched arm you will experience the peace that surpasses all understanding throughout the deployment and beyond.
To submit a question to Kathy, email her at email@example.com.
Kathy Guzzo is the mother of four adult children and the author of several articles for military families, including the brochure, “Deployment: What’s A Family To Do?” Her son served in the USMC from 2004-2008, which included deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. She is the coordinator for Hope at Home Ministry in Rockford, Illinois, serving women with loved ones in the military. She also writes a bi-weekly newsletter sharing encouragement and resources with women across the country. Kathy and her husband of thirty-two years, Mickey, live in Rockford, Illinois. She welcomes your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about her here.