The Emotional Cycle During Deployment

Section One: The Emotional Cycle

All Service Members and families will go through the emotional cycle, but each situation will vary based on relationships and previous experiences.

The current model of the emotional cycle of deployment has 7 stages. The first two stages occur during Pre-Deployment, the next three stages take place during deployment, and the final two stages occur after the Service Member returns home. Understanding that there is a cycle that each person goes through can facilitate supportive communication and maintain healthy connections. Select the Resources tab to download the handout, The Emotional Cycle of Deployment. In this handout, each stage is described in three columns explaining what you can expect, what you may be feeling during each stage, and how to cope with each stage. Roll your mouse over the image to the right to discover the feelings you may be experiencing during each stage of the emotional cycle of deployment.

Reflecting on experiences before deployment can aid in understanding feelings and behaviors during deployment.

Your Service Member probably worked late getting ready in the unit, while you were home knowing that he or she would be leaving soon. You were probably moody and slightly depressed which caused friction between the two of you. Many of you may have known that the stress and anxiety didn’t help matters, yet you couldn’t help feeling that way and hated yourself for it. Were you at each other’s throats even when you knew in your hearts you should be cherishing each day together? The coping strategies you learned before deployment provided help for you during those challenging times.

Immediately before deployment you experienced detachment and withdrawal.

What about the few days before the actual departure? All those feelings you both had for weeks rose to a peak. You knew there were a million things to do before the deployment, but just couldn’t find the time or energy to complete even the smallest tasks. All the arguing had taken its toll on your level of intimacy. You both began distancing yourselves from each other without consciously knowing it. Everyone said it was normal, but you began to wonder. You both wanted the final weeks before the deployment to be perfect, but life seemed to get in the way. Fortunately, most of you learned how to deal with feelings of Detachment and Withdrawal based on the coping strategies in the Emotional Cycle of Deployment. Even as you now experience new stages and learn new strategies, that earlier advice will be valuable.