How are you doing?

I get this question a lot. Usually accompanied by a sympathetic stare. I am surrounded by good women, many of them military wives as well. They know. I don’t know why they bother to ask.

I’m reading a book right now (review to follow) written by an Army wife as she suffers through a deployment. It is brutally honest. Too honest. I keep wanting to tell her to shut up. We don’t talk about these things.

This morning I had a very short email from my husband. He’s written similar emails in the past.

I want you to know that I’m safe and what you read in the news doesn’t involve me but it does involve those I know.

The other times he has written something like that, I picked through the major news networks. Nothing. Not a single thing.

Can you imagine your husband, son, best friend going off to war and dying and nobody hears about it? The news networks are too busy gossiping about a singer who collapses on stage or discussing which teams are going to the World Series. Important stuff that. As your world crumbles around you, nobody really cares.

Today, I did manage to find the news event to which he was referring. Helicopter crashes. My husband has been traveling and had told me he would be flying yesterday. I am grateful that he had access to a computer and could fire off that email. I would be in a panic right now. Even with his email, I am in a panic right now. That email was 4 hours old. There were two crashes – was he in the second one? Utter nonsense, of course, but this is how an Army wife’s brain operates.

There is a term: anticipatory grief. Your loved one is alive, but you have all the symptoms associated with grieving his or her death. It’s quite common in spouses of deployed soldiers, especially when tragedy strikes close to the soldier. It’s emotionally difficult to live with that grief for a long period of time. And there is no closure, because there is no actual death. You just keep spinning in the misery until it concludes – one way or another.

It’s time for me to shut up now. We aren’t supposed to talk about such things.

And how am I doing? I’m fine. We’re all fine. Only two more months. He’ll be home soon.

22 thoughts on “How are you doing?

  1. Hi Michelle,
    I read one book you recommended about deployments and thought it was worth the read. Wish I could remember the name … “While They Are Away”?? Something like that. The one you're reading now sounds good.

    It's hard being on the other end. My husband was supposed to deploy but didn't. Now he is home while a few of my friends are without a husband. Reaching out is something I've always done … asking “How are you,” just feels stupid – perhaps showing up and insisting on helping? It's a fine line and I would love some guidance. I've been on the other side, too. I stayed with my parents while my husband deployed for “help”. The problem was their version of help vs. mine wasn't the same. Towards the end I was frustrated and VERY ready to go HOME. Not enough communication, I guess. What suggestions do you have … not all of us think alike. In what way could we help you?

    God bless your husband, you and your children. Our prayers are with you every single night.
    Angie K.

  2. “While They're at War.” Have it right here, actually. Good book.

    I ask how someone is doing, too. It's an opener. What else do you say?

    Personally, I have a lot of help and support. (Maybe it changes, but the wife in this book seems utterly alone – no local friends or support, and that is bad). I definitely appreciate those who watch my kids, call me when they run to the store, invite me over for meals, and are always willing to chat on the phone when I need a lift.

    But as for the emotional aspect, there's not much anyone can do. I do appreciate the prayers and I am sure that they are what is keeping me from losing it.

    Angie, I am sure you will be a good friend in need. I am experienced enough to humbly accept offers of help (much of the time). Hopefully the women you know will be too. I will say that it is easier to say yes to specific offers (can I take your kids to the park tomorrow afternoon?) than it is to pick up the phone and call someone out of the blue to ask for promised help. If you can anticipate needs (for example, an infant well-baby appt and you offer to watch the other children), that is probably a great way to get someone to accept help.

  3. Saying a prayer for you and your husband. God bless!

  4. Some particularly neurotic mothers of college students experience anticipatory grief, for almost no real reason. Maybe I know one. Feeling just a wee bit of your pain. You have my prayers, dear.

  5. Michelle,

    We are not a military family and have not been through what you face each day but we are profoundly grateful for your husband's bravery and the sacrifices your family makes each day. Although you would not know it from watching the news, I believe the majority of the people in the country feel the same way.

    I hope our prayers and the prayers of so many others give you peace and strength. Your country really does care about your husband and his family. God bless all of you and thank you from our family to yours!


  6. Anticipatory grief. That's exactly it.

    I love you, Michelle.

  7. Anticipatory grief. It's nice to have a name for it.

    Praying for you, Michelle. I have a firm standing rule of never reading/watching the news and no one is allowed to call me with news about what has happened overseas. It helps a tiny bit since my imagination is quite fertile.

  8. Anticipatory grief – that's a good name for it.

    I agree with Angie. I try not to watch/listen. Of course when you walk into the break room at work just when they are talking about the chopper crashes, my too fertile imagination kicks in also.

    I am so glad Bill e-mailed you, Michelle. That's a relief.

    Also, I'm on the phone with Dad & he feels that Bill is Ok – he says he would feel it if he weren't – something he inherited from his mother.

    Regarding help, when we come down the weekend before Thanksgiving, we can stay as long as you want us to – I'm taking off the next week & don't have to rush back. We can come down Friday night after work.

  9. P.S.

    Just got through my weekend e-mails. The woman who started our Thursday morning knitting group (I go on my lunch hour) is in the hospital with swine flu & is having trouble breathing. This is complicated by the fact that she has MS. Please pray for Maggie Obert. Thank you.

  10. Prayers coming your way, my friend.

  11. Just to be clear, Bill has emailed since I posted this, and he is truly fine.

    He's fine. I'm fine. Kids are fine. It's a beautiful, sunny day here in VA.

  12. Whew! Thank you for letting us know.

    Prayers of gratitude time up here in Penna.

  13. Michelle, I just saw the article to which you are referring and immediately clicked over here to make sure you were all okay. Continued prayers for your family!

  14. I have been reading your blog for a while, but I don't think I've ever left a comment before. I, too, am a military wife. My husband has been deployed 3 times so far and when I saw the news this morning, I immediately came to your blog to make sure everything was OK. Also, I didn't realize you used MODG until I got my roster and saw your name right above mine! Just wanted you to know you have another family praying for yours.

  15. Hey Michelle,
    Didn't realize Bill was deployed right now– guess I haven't been reading your blog enough. I will pray for his safety and your sanity.
    Karen Molloy

  16. We (fellow military wives) ask how you're doing because we already know the answer. We've been right there with you. 🙂
    Good days and bad. Easy ones and ones that make you want to pull each and every hair out. It's an opener and also a question filled with support.
    I remember loving getting the phone call from a fellow navy wife each morning just making sure we were all up and moving. Someone should check in on us, she would say. 🙂

    Of course we were thinking of you this morning when I saw the paper. I'm so glad to hear all is well…..we're praying for you constantly and we will pray for the families of all who are over there. Hang tough, Michelle. You are doing a great job!

  17. I'm glad to hear he wasn't involved, though my heart goes out to the families of the soldiers that were. I can only imagine how hard this must be for you. Know you and your hubby are in my thoughts and prayers daily. I wish there was more I could do…

  18. God bless you Michelle. We have 4+ more months, but with a not so dangerous deployment. You are so frequently in my thoughts and prayers.

  19. Hmm, maybe I'm one of those wives you'd want to shut up because I do occasionally blog about anticipatory grief 😉 Isn't it better to let that stuff out than to bottle it up? Glad your husband is ok…as ok as he can be.

  20. Dear Michelle,

    I have taken seriously your request to pray for Bill; I am honored to do so for a soilder and his family who are sacrificing for our country. Every time I hear about the waffling and the deaths and the politics I get so furious and then I decide it is better to pray. Thank you for letting us know that Bill is safe. We are all with you. Wish I could bring you a nice meal and keep your kids as you go get a massage. Meanwhile, angels around you and the kids and Bill and all the other military families and their loved ones fighting for our freedom.


  21. Michelle –
    Anticipatory grief – that is a good name for it. I've never known what to call that feeling.

    I am relieved Bill's ok – and you're doing aok.

    Keeping you in my prayers as always.
    Barb S.

  22. …and some of us don't bother to ask, because she think we already know.

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