Dealing with Difficult Talks Before Deployment: Death Wishes, Wills and More

I love being an Army wife. This way of life has taught me to be stronger than I ever thought I could be…to “take the bull by the horns” and to make tough calls when needed.

I’ve grown and learned so much.

The military trains their soldiers to make difficult decisions. Actually, I believe that they sometimes have to make THE toughest decisions. Soldiers learn to compartmentalize emotion and rational thought in order for judgment to not be clouded.

couple smiling and looking at each other during deployment talk

This is key to their survival in many cases, so it is important to have that skill down pat.

Being a military spouse exposes us to some of these things. We get to see them having to separate heart and brain many times. Sometimes, we try to imitate this skill and learn from our spouse, but it is a lot harder than it appears to be.

Our Family’s O-C-D Code of Ethics

In our home, we always live by three main principles: Organization, Cleanliness and Discipline (we call it our very own OCD, not to be confused with the disorder). We strive to practice these worthy character traits ourselves in every area of our lives.

We try to instill them in our children daily. My husband and I are always looking for “teachable moments,” where we bring these up and explain why they are important to have in life. 

But when it comes to organization of important papers (such as living wills, death wishes, substitute guardians for the kids and such) we are the worst procrastinators! It is completely out of character for us!

And I know exactly why.

When Life Gets Tough

Yes, life can be tough at times. We get into debt, our kids get sick, we live far from family and the list goes on. But the kids of “tough” that I am referring to is not a physical one. It is a psychological one.

Thinking about making decisions about the end of our lives is very difficult. Granted, we never know when that will be, but having to plan for it NOW? Why?! We are so young, full of energy, with so many years ahead of us and with a few little ones to raise!

I remember that sinking feeling when I first thought of all this as newlyweds. My husband remembers it, too. I was a bit of a mess because I couldn’t fathom the though of losing him or him losing me. But it had to be done.

We had to make decisions.

When we were single, it was easy to just put my parent’s name on everything. But now, things changed. Suddenly, I am having to read paperwork and sign it. I had a stack of Power of Attorney, Living Will, Deeds and more.

It Didn’t End There

It got worse when we had kid and suddenly, we had to deal with what would happen if my husband dies suddenly, if I die and if we both die. That was the scariest thought of all. What would happen to our kids?

We mulled over this for days. My husband would bring it up for a bit and then we’d quickly drop the subject. Then I’d bring it up a day or two later and we’d drop the subject again. It was tough.

Let me be completely honest:

I think that deep down we thought that if we weren’t ready for it that it won’t happen. We kept putting it off for weeks. After agonizing over it, I am proud to say that we did get most of it done together and that we got through those tough talks.

But how?! 

Let me share with you what worked for us.

couple looking and smiling at each other in sunshine

1. We gathered all the paperwork that we needed and printed it out. 

We spoke to the JAG on post and got everything that we needed. This link may be helpful to you. Get plenty of good black pens and, if you can, make 2 copies of every form, in case you make a mistake.

2. We went through the bulk paperwork at a glance and decided to split it up into 4 stacks.

This way, we could have a beginning and end time, we won’t get overwhelmed trying to do it all in one sitting and it gives us time to think things through when these tough questions clutter our minds.

3. We hired a babysitter in bulk. 

We blocked off four Thursday afternoons in a row and made sure she was able to watch our kids on those days. It made it harder for us to bail on getting this done, knowing that she’s coming in and that we are paying her.

4 We went to a quiet restaurant that we never frequent.

If we went to a restaurant we went to often, then every time we go, we’d be thinking about filling out that difficult paperwork. So we went to a new place, out of out usual route. Call me crazy, but it worked for us.

5. We worked and talked a lot.

We ordered some good food (sometimes, we only focused on working. We told ourselves that we have 2 hours to get it done. If we finish it in 1 hour, we can then hang out, laugh and enjoy ourselves for half an hour and then use the last half hour to review the paperwork we just finished.

6. We took our paperwork to get notarized by a professional.

Having it in writing is great, but it was also important to make it official and legal. We notarized 2 copies of everything. We submitted what we had to at my husband’s office and the other stack is in a safe place.

7. We made unofficial copies of certain paperwork to give out to interested parties.

For example, we gave a copy to the agreeing couple that we chose to raise our kids, in the case that something happens to both of us. Also, make it clear that things are subject to change and that we might make changes to these documents throughout the years.

We made some real headway with this method!

It was exciting to see stacks of paperwork moving from “To Do” to “Done.” But you know what was more of a win for me, personally? The peace. Yes! The peace of mind that I actually felt once that was done and behind us.

It was a har mountain to climb, but the summit was as majestic as ever. It was wonderful to now know that we have a plan, that we have it in writing, that it is official and that the parties involved are in the know, too.

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