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Updated : August 1, 2022 3.5 mins read

Coping with deployment

Updated : August 1, 2022 3.5 mins read


One of the biggest challenges we can face as an Armed Forces young person is when our serving parent is deployed.

One way of explaining what we may be feeling during deployment is the cycle of deployment. This model was developed by Kathleen Vestal Logan in 1987 and aims to contextualise how we may be feeling when one of our parents is deployed. Before we delve deeper into this model, it’s important to know that this is only one way of explaining how we’re feeling. Our experience may be different, and we may not experience any of the emotions being described in the model. This is normal and is nothing to be concerned about. We are all individuals, and experience things differently.

With that being said, let’s explore The Emotional Cycle of Deployment deeper.

As you can see, there are 7 different emotional stages that you may experience when your parent is deploying.

The first stage, called Anticipation of Loss, might happen between 4-6 weeks before your parent is deployed. You may feel more worry or anxiety than previously, as well as feeling anger at the situation. You may feel guilty for some of the thoughts you’re having, especially if they’re negative towards the deploying parent. You may start to feel some pressure in regards to home, and whether you need to take on more responsibility to look after the parent staying at home. During this time, you may feel the need to shut yourself in your room for a while, or wanting to spend more time away from home. You may also feel tearful unexpectedly.

The second stage, called Detachment and Withdrawal, may happen in the final few days before your parent deploys. You may feel the same way you had been feeling for a few weeks, or you may find that you experience more sadness during this time.

After your parent has deployed, you may go through the third stage, Emotional Disorganisation. During this stage, its possible that you may be feeling shock, or you may not feel anything at all (also known as numbness). You may feel overwhelmed by what’s happening at home, or a sense of confusion. You may find that you struggle to concentrate at school, or that you’re getting in trouble at school. You may be sleeping less or more, and you may be noticing differences in your appetite.

Once your parent has been deployed for roughly 2 months, you may find yourself feeling happier and regaining a sense of normality. This stage is called Recovery and Stabilisation, and can be generally characterised by getting used to the new routine you may be in. You may feel increased confidence and independence.

A month or two before your deployed parent is scheduled to return home, there may be a mixture of feelings that you go through. This is the fifth stage and is called Anticipation of Homecoming. You may feel joy and excitement about your parent’s return, as well as apprehension and nervousness. You may have some worries about what things might be like when your parent returns, or you may feel guilty about things that have happened whilst they have been away. It’s normal to react to these feelings by not wanting to get involved with homecoming preparations.

After homecoming and in the first few days, you may experience a shift in your emotions again as you need to adjust to your parent’s return. This is known as Renegotiation and is the sixth stage. You may feel as if the family is back to normal, whilst also feeling a loss of your freedom and independence. There may be some resentment and anger and a general feeling of being unsettled. You may feel the need to retreat to your bedroom, or you may feel that your negative feelings are directed to the returned parent.

The final stage of this cycle is Reintegration and Stabilisation. This usually occurs between 4-6 weeks after homecoming, although it can take longer depending on what type of deployment occurred. During this stage, normality seems to be resumed, and the family unit may feel more relaxed and comfortable.

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If you are concerned about your mental health, or if you have found yourself feeling concerned about someone else, you can:

Call 111 – NHS 24

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or other people, you should call 999 or present to your local A&E department.