Being Present Can Save Lives

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"Being present can save lives" by Marya Jauregui (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright Dino Carbetta 2017. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

My fiance is currently deployed. Our separation is about a total of 6 months. I am new to military life and find it quite challenging. Many spouses have longer deployments. Only 1% of our nation is active military, so the challenges are often quite unique to military personnel and their families. See these average deployments by branch:
Army – 9 to 15 months
Marines – 6 to 7 months
Navy – 6 to 7 months
Air Force – 3 to 4 months

My first deployment was rough. I didn’t know how I would react, and I couldn’t prepare for it. My reactions varied from not being able to eat and sleep to just generally missing him, and counting the days til his return. During that time we were not able to text or talk on the phone. We were only able to email. I couldn’t send photos or videos because the internet on the ship is so slow. There is something called “river city” which means all communication is dropped and you do not see it coming and you don’t know how long it will last. That is for the safety of the men, their families, and the operations. You can imagine where that is your only link, and that too is eliminated how disheartening that can be. Many movie stars and those in entertainment break up over conflicting schedules and the challenges of careers and spending time together. At least those couples have the funds to fly and spend time together during those separations and can actively communicate with all technology.

"Being present can save lives" by Marya Jauregui (CatholicMom.com)

170628-N-NB544-069 CORAL SEA (June 28, 2017) Capt. Larry McCullen, commanding officer of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), addresses Sailors on the flight deck during an all-hands call. The ship and its expeditionary strike group are operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance partnerships and be a ready-response for any type of contingency. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom/Released). Used with permission. All rights reserved.

My fiance speculated that maybe my second deployment might be smoother and easier for me. He has been dead wrong and he readily admits it. Since I remembered how difficult the first one was, I dreaded the second one. I prepared as best I could this time. I bought protein shakes that should last until he returned. I drink them every morning and take a host of vitamins to help keep me energized and healthy. I bought cases of water to work through while he was gone. I made lists of friends to visit with. I made lists of projects to work on, with one of those projects being our wedding. I have read books and taken classes on how to thrive and what to expect during deployment.

But all of the planning and preparations still leave you without your partner and best friend. You cannot talk in real time to them.  You cannot strategize for current events at home.   You cannot cry on their shoulder or even in real time.  There are no hugs.  And there is no end point within reach. Remember that Loneliness is a big contributor to depression and anxiety. But where can someone turn who is lonely or depressed, or struggling with any life challenge? Hopefully they can turn to good friends or to family. Not everyone is that lucky. For a variety of reasons, people are left without family, or without true friends. We don’t have time to get into the possible reasons for these situations, but let’s start looking at the cures.

"Being present can save lives" by Marya Jauregui (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright Dino Carbetta 2017. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

With all the being said, I want to get to the heart of what this article is meant to express. The cure for loneliness is not always readily available, but it should be. One cure at least is to make yourself present to people who need to talk, or need a friend. One thing that has always been said of  Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta and of Saint John Paul II is that when people were in their presence they felt like they were the only ones. They felt like this person was truly present to them. The friend or listening person was not distracted by other things in that moment. They listened, they cared, and it was palpable.

So often we are multi-tasking. We are being efficient. We are washing the dishes, or cooking while our children are trying to talk with us. This is just a necessary fact of life. However, as parents we have to be sensitive to those who depend on us most and need saint-like behavior of our being 100% present and showing care and concern for them. It means taking 5 minutes or more before bedtime, or at bedside, to really listen to anything this child wants to share. It means sharing with your significant other more than surface details and allowing both space and time to dig deep. Be present to your spouse. One way of making sure that others feel your empathy is to look them in the eyes while they are talking, and do nothing else. After the person takes a pause in talking, it’s good to demonstrate active listening, by body language, feedback, and by responding immediately. Remember to defer your judgment so as not to shut down the conversation.

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” —Mother Teresa

"Being present can save lives" by Marya Jauregui (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright Dino Carbetta 2017. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

During this deployment time I found a resource for military families that provides just that. It’s called Be There Peer Support and they are available 24/7 to talk to military, and their families. The call center is staffed with veteran soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, service member and veteran family members, and licensed clinicians with specific training in DoD culture. Within their site is a phrase “There is no stigma attached. No concern is too small. We are here for you.” They have been a Godsend to me personally because I usually process things by talking things out with someone. When I can’t sleep I have had conversations with them from 12 until 2 AM. They listen and validate my concerns. Sometimes they offer advice or suggestions. They empathize with the specific circumstances of deployment and the challenges of military life. I always feel like they are listening. I always feel the empathy. They make sure that they reiterate that they are glad that you called them, and that they are there to receive your call 24/7.
This week I got an email from my fiance that said he was chosen to stay behind in Japan after the deployment had ended. I was absolutely crushed. I am still trying to sort out all the feelings that include and anger and sadness that my beloved will not return with the rest of his squadron. Be There Peer Support has been there to support me. Sometimes half the battle is just having a place to vent. Once you get it out of your system you can go back to figuring out how to manage the situation. However, news like this will continue to have an impact on our lives for several months to come. There will be good days, and bad days, and I know that I have that peer support to lean on no matter when that is. It is somewhat surprising to me that an organization like this exists courtesy of the Department of Defense.  
Wouldn’t it be great if every person knew there was someone that cared, and someone they could call on at any hour to talk with them? Hotlines exist for suicide and other crises, which is definitely a step in the right direction. So I challenge you to be open to being that person for someone, where there is  ‘No Stigma, and No Concern is too small.’  
Be There!  
 
Copyright 2017 Marya Jauregui
Photos courtesy of Dino Carbetta and available for purchase here:
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About Author

Mommy to 3 high energy children, who demand her constant attention, and direction. She serves on the board of directors for a Domestic Violence non-profit. When not working, she is working out, taking the family for nature walks, adventures, or at the movies. She lives in Southern California, and feels absolutely blessed to enjoy the beauty of the area everyday.

2 Comments

  1. This is a very powerful post, Marya.

    I remember when one of my best friends was in the army and gone for about 9 months. His long-time girlfriend (now his long-time wife!) was also a dear friend of mine. She would come over and we’d chat for hours. She missed him terribly. Your post brought that all back to me. I hope I was present to her in those days. I think I was.

    Thank you for sharing, and for the reminder that we need to be present to others all the time!

  2. Thank you so much for your comment. Yes I am sure that your listening ear and safe place to vent was much appreciated.
    I have noted many military spouses just need someone to go have coffee with or to see if they are really doing well and ready to hear the truth.
    The loneliness is a relationship killer but given enough support they can limp by. Some thrive.
    Some get used to the new norm on some level.
    But everyone needs someone at some point.

    Thanks for being there !

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