The holidays can make a deployment all the more dreadful. We are fortunate enough to be able to spend the holiday season with my husband this year. In fact he is my "holiday husband" right now because that is the only time I see him. Ryan left for boot camp in October 2006 so we started our adventure into the military world in full force with holidays alone, while I was pregnant with our first child. He quickly deployed August 2007 and missed Thanksgiving. He then left again June 2008 and missed all holidays that year. 2009, 2010 and now 2011 we have been incredibly grateful for each other over the holiday season.
The key to a successful holiday season alone is distractions. Plan as many things as you think your little body can handle. If you don't have kids, take off work and go visit family. There is no reason to sit alone and mope over something you can not change. If you have kids plan fun activities. There is so much to do over the holiday season. Turkey hand prints, make place mats for the Thanksgiving Day table, ornaments, go see Santa, decorate the tree, and the list can keep on going. Think of new ways to do things while he is away.
Don't ever limit what you are involved in because you don't have your husband there to join you. I so often see wives say oh I can't do that because my husband isn't home and we always do that together. Well if you enjoy it just go with friends. We sacrifice a lot as military spouses to be at home waiting for that perfect date and time to pop up in our email. No reason to not enjoy our lives while they are gone just the same as when they are home. I seem to always find a "buddy" when my husband is gone. That one person where no matter what time of day you can talk to and complain to. The one who complains the same way to you and you don't get tired of hearing each other whine and cry over the dumbest things. A healthy way to fill the void of not being able to talk to your husband. May I suggest a fellow military spouse, possibly even one in the same unit as your husband. Makes it easy when they know exactly what and where your husband is. Never feel guilty for having a smile on your face while he is away. I promise our husbands do not want us to be sitting at home miserable.
Another key thing to remember is, its okay to be sad. It is very hard to sit at the mall watching all those people shop together for Christmas presents. Or Christmas morning alone with your kids can be emotional because their Daddy isn't there to see it. Take a million pictures and send your husband a 27 page email about the day. If he has limited time on the computer it may take him 4 weeks to read it but hey you kept him involved right? I try my hardest to think positive. When I had our first born son while my husband was deployed I never broke down. I kept reminding my self that it did not matter that he was not there for the birth because he would meet him in a few months. So many of them are killed over seas and never meet their kids. That is far worse than Ryan meeting his son at 4 months old.
Care packages are an excellent way to make you feel like you're keeping your husband involved in the holidays. Theme the box. Decorate the sides of the box with holiday paper and make everything inside go along with your theme. Let the kids draw pictures and pick out things to put in it. I'm not sure I ever follow post office instructions. I want to say you aren't supposed to send carbonated drinks but I did in almost every box. Once you start to figure out how long packages are taking to get to him you can figure out what baked goods will still be good. If he's on a MEU forget it. Send all processed food. Hell and put it all in Ziploc's because it will not make it.
My favorite care package story is when I discovered you can not send alcohol. My husbands last care package on his second deployment I shipped goody bags for him and a few friends for the flight home. I included jager bombs. Little bottles of jager and a red bull for each guy. After I left the post office I called a friend and said "Yeah I'm so excited for them to get their box to find the jager bombs." "Meridith, it's illegal to ship liquor." Oops. Not only did I ship it, I shipped it out of the country. So note to self: It is illegal to ship liquor!
I often feel like during deployments the world is crashing down around me. The kids are going insane, I don't sleep, don't have time to eat and I just want to give up. Then you read the email you got a few days earlier and your nerves are calm and back in your happy place. It's okay to break down so long as you get up, put your big girl pants on and carry on with this crazy and adventurous life style! If you'd like to read other military spouses ways of getting through the holidays, go here. Or for general military support you can go here.
Remember to keep positive and just enjoy life over the holidays, may I suggest watching Ellen. She is my sanity!! :) Happy Holidays!