You may not know what is awaiting you when you move to a new duty station but over time you often come to love that place, no matter how long you’re there for, where it is or how far away you are from family, but it becomes home and you never want to leave.
While this military life of ours brings us to places that we never thought we’d live or love, one day it must take us away.
So how do you say goodbye to a duty station that you fell in love with?
Every time I move from a place I love I find myself going through the same 6 stages: “do we have orders yet?” followed by the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Do we have orders yet?
Even if you love a duty station, when you know those orders are coming, you JUST WANT TO KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING. You want to plan, you want to do some online house hunting and school shopping, so you wait and wait and wait…
When you’re waiting, you’re probably constantly asking your service member, “heard anything yet?” and your friends are asking you, “heard anything yet?”
Instead of getting bogged down in when those orders will show up, focus on enjoying the time you have left where you are. Start checking off those final things on your bucket list, because once those orders arrive – your time will be filled with packing, goodbyes and more packing. So get that list out and don’t say you’re going to do it, go out and do it!
When the orders FINALLY arrive you FINALLY realize you have to leave the place you love. That voice in the back of your mind that was secretly hoping the orders would say you get to stay or just come really late, was wrong and you have to leave everything that you love about where you are – that’s when the denial sets in. You just say NOPE.
This is the time that I throw myself into doing all of those things that I love where we are – finishing up my job on a high note, eating another meal at my favorite restaurant, soaking up the sun in my favorite park.
Enjoy and savor those days where you live and pretend that instead of moving you’ll get to do this for a lot longer.
Once you realize that you’re really leaving, probably about the time your service member tells you what day the packers will arrive, you get mad. My train of thought during this time usually goes like this:
Why are you making me leave? We can’t leave. I love my life here. We can’t move!
You have to let these thoughts happen, no matter how much they hurt. But while angry, channel that energy into something positive. You know you need to start organizing things for the move, so why not start organizing and beginning that necessary purge?
Start making bags or boxes for trash and donation. Make space for your “Do Not Pack” room and start sorting out what comes with you and what gets put in a box.
Next comes the bargaining. How can I stay here longer? PLEEEEASE? Can the orders be changed? Maybe it can be pushed back 1 more week?
Our last assignment was a short one and I contemplated staying behind at a job that I loved, but I knew that for us that moving was the best decision, so I PCS’d even though I not-so-secretly wanted to stay a bit longer.
Remember that when bargaining to think short and long term. Does going geo-bachelor make sense for you and your family? Answer those serious questions and have long conversations about what it would entail before jumping in feet first.
This always hits me as my house is in boxes.
I miss my kitchenware. I love takeout as much as the next person, but not every meal, every day, for weeks on end.
I don’t like seeing everything packed away. I like my house exactly how it was and seeing it all in boxes makes the move real. Like really real.
I think about the amazing memories I’ve made there and…*Cue tears*
But these happy memories will always be with me, no matter where we go and how many more PCS moves we endure. Get together with friends before you leave for one last goodbye.
Talk about how you’ll stay in touch, plan a vacation together and discuss when that first FaceTime or Skype date will happen once you get to your new duty station.
With acceptance comes some excitement, excitement for what’s next, for the next adventure. Yes, your time in the duty-station-you-loved is ending but it’s time to see where to go from here.
This is when I know it’s OK to say goodbye, for reals.
Yes, I will be back to visit.
Yes, I will miss it dearly, but how much fun will we have in the next place?
Start researching activities in your next duty station for you and your kids, like parks, museums, spouses clubs and volunteer organizations.
And yes, start your job hunt. Start getting to know your new home, you may not love it as much as the last place, but it can still be fun, and who knows – maybe you’ll love it just as much.