With great joy and sadness Kenya welcomed home its troops. Joy for the troops that made it home alive and sad for those who died in the line of duty. We cannot thank them enough for all they do for our nation and what their families go through while their loved ones are deployed. The return of soldiers is always a
great encounter but often the most difficult. Here are some critical points that we don’t often consider with the deployment and return of the troops: the readjustment from the family unit. Whereas the greatest gift for that family is to have their loved one home and safe, we often don’t consider the reintegration
and readjustment process that both parties have to endure.
For several months at a time, the families say goodbye to their loved ones with the hope that they
come back alive. During those months of deployment the family undergoes readjustment of not having that family member home. Children, as well as the spouse learn to adjust to their new normal. Upon the return of the troops; from the families side-they have adjusted to not having that person home, they have
enlisted help perhaps from other friends and other family members such as aunt, uncles, grandparents who have stepped in to help mitigate the gap. From the soldier`s side, they return to a new system that has been functional without them and he/she has the challenge of reintegrating into it. By virtue of this, roles will
shift and getting back to or putting the old roles back is not always practical nor easy as the soldier more often than not will be returning to work. This brings about a myriad of emotions being experienced at the same time.
The children may be confused as to whom to go to and for what now that their parent is back. Additionally, they may be scared that their parent or sibling may be leaving again. The children would have grown and specific milestones would have been passed while the troops where away. The soldier may be dealing with the traumatic experience and at the same time is trying to fit into their family unit. Authors, Whealin,, Julia, DeCarvalho., Lorie, Vega., Edward (2008) likens this time as `going from the foxhole to your front porch`-; meaning there is profound change to be made in a very short amount of time. This becomes a very difficult
process to go through and the mixed emotions can often be too much to handle. Whereas from the outside we are celebrating the return of our troops; very difficult dynamics are being experienced by the families themselves. For the families and troops-patience, understanding and communication are of high
importance to make it through these times. Understanding that all members of the family are all adjusting and experiencing a lot of anxiety helps ease the difficulty. Understanding that the roles will change and that things cannot remain the same goes a long way in reintegration. Feelings may be hurt, things
may be said, reactions may be exposed but all in all be kind to yourselves and to the process as you are all dealing with the new normal. Family meetings discussing everyone`s fears and expectations only enhances a healthy readjustment. Reaching out for help is recommended when the adjustments prove to be too difficult. Remember that each deployment brings new fears and anxieties and thus should not be handled the same. Open communication through each time only helps to deal with the myriad of changes being
experienced. So as we continue to pray for the troops, lets not forget their families who too are making daily sacrifices for us.
Dr. Michelle, DMFT, Psychotherapist
Dr. Michelle Karume
Whealin,, Julia, DeCarvalho. Lorie, Vega., Edward (2008). Clinicians guide to
treating Stress After War. Educations and coping interventions for veterans.