Lizann’s two kids using their umbrellas on a rainy day

Finding Hope When Military Life Feels Dreary

There are days when military life feels overwhelming. Maybe you are living in a difficult location, your service member has a challenging job right now, or you are dreading an upcoming move. You could be preparing for a deployment or exhausted from long stretches of solo parenting.

It’s okay to feel frustrated and disappointed with military life sometimes. In those moments, it helps to step back and get a fresh perspective on your situation.

Just as it takes time for the world to emerge from the cold, gray, muddy days of winter to the warm, colorful, flower-filled landscapes of spring, it may also take you some time to warm up to your current situation. You must look for ways to build hope and encouragement into your military life.

Finding hope in a dreary situation isn’t always easy, or obvious. That’s okay — you don’t have to do it alone! Military spouses are an incredibly strong community full of individuals who have faced numerous challenges. If anyone can inspire you to find the silver lining in your current situation, it’s a fellow military spouse. So, let’s do this together.

Encouraging Messages for Military Spouses

In my book, Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses, you’ll find positive messages to meet you right in the dreary middle of common military life challenges. Each letter provides a positive message to help you move forward so you can “open when” you need friendly advice or support.

When military life feels dreary, let the words of a fellow military spouse guide you to a brighter perspective.

  • For the military spouse struggling with an upcoming PCS move. No one can make a PCS move feel “easy,” but learning what strategies others have used can help you feel more organized and prepared. “The best way to feel calmer and in more control of your move — even when you don’t know all the details — is to plan ahead … Remember you are a team and the two of you are going to get through this together!”
  • For the military family with orders to an “undesirable” location. Every branch has a dreaded duty station that can throw spouses into despair. Even when you don’t have control over PCS orders, remember that you always have options. You get to choose how you react and what activities you pursue at the next assignment. “Military spouses will tell you every assignment is as good as you make it. Sometimes the places we might consider to be the worst are the places where military communities are strongest. You never know what treasures a community holds until you move there and give it a chance.”
  • For the military spouse who is solo parenting. Whether your service member is away for deployment, a long training, a required class or a TDY assignment, you may find yourself struggling to manage the kids and the household tasks on your own. Instead of trying to do the work of two parents every day, focus on taking care of yourself and building a support network. “You can’t pour from an empty cup. You are a parent, but you’re a person first, and you need to take care of yourself before you can truly take care of others … There will be days when you simply can’t do it on your own, and it takes a strong person to admit that. I hereby give you permission to share the burden and ask for help.”
  • For the military loved one in a long-distance relationship. Military life involves so much waiting and long-distance love! When you’re frustrated by distance, take comfort in knowing many other military couples have faced this same obstacle. That means there are numerous creative ways to work through it. “Your relationship doesn’t need to stand still when you are apart. It can continue to grow and develop … Fill your life with positive people, activities and work you enjoy, so you don’t dwell on the negatives of spending time apart … The distance between you is painful right now, but you can do this!”
  • For the military spouse facing a long deployment. Deployments are an enormous challenge, and everyone has bad days sometimes. Getting through deployment takes more than simply being strong or keeping busy. Instead, focus on the people and activities that give you strength and encouragement when you need them most. “Deployments will challenge you in every possible way. Some days you will want to break down and cry, and that may be just what you need. Feeling alone magnifies all the struggles of deployment, so it’s essential to have someone to talk to. Interaction and connection will help you feel less alone — because you are not alone — and ready to handle the deployment days ahead.”

Lizann’s son standing in front of moving boxes

Whatever challenges you are facing, military spouse, remember that you are always part of a larger community of military loved ones. We all face dreary days and frustrating setbacks. But together, we can help each other through them!

A couple holding hands in front of a globe

How To Strengthen Relationships During Stressful Times

Just this morning over breakfast, my husband and I were debating the Personally Procured Move or partial PPM. Our move is three months away and I’m already stressing. There are so many decisions and conversations for any move or move type. Even if you have all the right communication, you know there will be curve balls thrown in during the move. The last thing anyone wants during a PCS is to be at odds with their spouse. So, let’s chat about things that can strengthen our relationship during all the stress, and cling to the hope of having the best PCS season yet!

  • Sharing the Burden. Starting the conversation early helps get everyone on the same page upfront. It’s so easy for miscommunication to happen when everyone is stressed. Talking about all the decisions beforehand can help alleviate loads of decisions during game time when it is easy to get chippy. I bet your partner’s biggest stresses are different from yours. Maybe you have different concerns this time around than you have had before. Sharing all these things can help you work out a system to support each other. Maybe you can handle the things that stress them out the most and vice versa. Lastly, both committing to a shared goal of having a strong, peaceful relationship during the transition can set in motion a lot of intentionality and mutual support.
  • Simplifying. The great purge before the move can also cause some tension. Commonly, there is always one person in the relationship who tends to get rid of items and someone who has more sentimental attachment to things. There are also those who fall into the category of despising any type of organizing (totally my husband!). What does the most peaceful process look like for you and your spouse? Everyone handles this in their own unique way. But make sure you both know what the plan is and ways to help each other out. For us, I don’t mind doing the organizing and purging by myself, but not having child care or dinner to worry about on those days is a huge support!
  • Stress Check. Once the packing, loading or movers show up, I think it’s important to check in with each other throughout the day. At the very minimum, carrying on a conversation in PCS memes will help lighten the load even if for a moment. If you can tag team the day, I would encourage you to try it. Catching moments together to share the misery is a quick, easy way to feel more connected. It’s not you against each other, it’s your team against the world and unpredictable events that might define the day.
  • Silly Sides. This is where inside jokes are created. Fun memories made amidst the chaos will eventually be the memory that defines that PCS. Think of ways that will help you both decompress at the end of the day. Make a list of the last things you want to do before you leave that duty station. Do you have a favorite restaurant or bar you want to go to one more time? Do you want to try a new place you never had the chance to go to before? Stow away a favorite game to have an epic tournament between you two. Binge your favorite shows on a phone while you try to figure out how to get the phone at the best position on that air mattress. Go for a fancy dinner in your PCS grunge wear. Do something unexpected and fun. Most likely you both will not feel like doing anything, but I bet you won’t regret it a bit once you do. By the way, this is totally doable with kids, too. Be creative and make memories.

In conclusion, stressful times are a good opportunity to build stronger bonds. It’s easy to get lost in a cycle of arguments when amid PCSing, but don’t we all want to be in sync with our spouse instead? Have conversations, make decisions and create some memories. Cheers to a strengthened relationship during this move cycle!

A person walking through a park with a child on their shoulders

Military Resources, Perks and Benefits

If I had to use one word to describe military life it would be rich. By rich, I mean that we experience a full spectrum of unique experiences while being part of a collective that has so much in common. We face challenges, build resilience, cultivate friendships, encourage and support each other, and we make a lot of sacrifices. We also receive a lot of perks and benefits in exchange for those sacrifices, and it’s important to know where to find them and how they work.

The following are some of my favorite benefits. You may know some of them or all of them. I would also encourage you to always ask if the places you go to or shop at offer a military discount. Many of them do and it never hurts to ask.

  • National Parks: Many national parks offer free admission to military personnel. You have to get it in person from a park but it’s still a great deal.
  • Provides digital identity verification to help government agencies make sure you’re you —and not someone pretending to be you — when you request access to government services online. I like because many companies offer a military discount, and you can access it while online shopping using an login. I just ordered a pair of Oofos sandals and got a great discount by verifying my military affiliation through
  • Child Care: Child Care Aware offers assistance with paying for child care when it isn’t available on post.
  • Transferability of the Post-9/11 GI Bill: Current service members and veterans up to 15 years after discharge are eligible for higher education funds, thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. However, you don’t have to use the benefits exclusively on yourself or at all. Some or all of the funds can be transferred to a spouse or dependent children with approval from the Defense Department.
  • Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance: Should you be permanently disabled as a result of service, your spouse or children may be eligible for tuition assistance. This program may be used for up to 45 months of education in degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship or on-the-job training. Some beneficiaries may be eligible to combine this program with the benefits of the GI Bill, effectively providing 81 months of tuition assistance.
  • My Career Advancement Account Scholarship for Military Spouses: If your spouse is looking to further his or her education, the MyCAA Scholarship can provide tuition assistance. It provides up to $4,000 for military spouses seeking a license, certificate, certification or associate degree for high-demand, high-growth portable career fields and occupations. Many careers qualify for the program, including nursing, construction, information technology and legal.
  • Military OneSource: An amazing resource for all things military, including:
    • Health & Wellness Benefits
    • Financial & Legal Benefits
    • Moving & Housing Benefits
    • Space-A Travel
    • MWR Digital Library
    • Stress & Mental Health Support
    • Survivor Benefits

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