What Military Families Wish You Knew About Homecoming

I laid there wide awake at 4:46 am. Couldn’t sleep. I hadn’t seen my service member in over seven months, and now he was in my bed. This is the reality of a military homecoming.

My brain and body were in fight or flight mode. I was exhausted preparing for homecoming. I desperately wanted everything to be “just so.”

The homecoming date changed so many times, it ended up being around 2:17 am before he arrived in my arms. After getting home and “settled,” I finally fell asleep to only wake again an hour later.

Following every deployment, there is a phase military family reintegration, or the period of time in which families are reunited and attempt to ease back into everyday life.

As an outsider, reintegration may seem like a fun and special time for a family to enjoy a reunion after a long separation.

While it is a very special time, there are also many factors at hand.

Factors that make seamlessly reintegrating back into a picture perfect life a far reach from reality.

Here is a small behind the scenes look at military family reintegration post deployment…

It is far from fairy tale.

Reintegration can be a little bit awkward sometimes (okay…a lot a bit).

Despite multiple deployments and subsequent reintegrations, it can bring butterflies to even the most seasoned military spouse’s stomach.

It can also bring lots of anxiety and make you wonder, how things will go after a spouse returns home. There is much excitement and happiness as well, but preparing for the return of a spouse is a bag filled with mixed emotions.

The last time my husband returned home from deployment, I was a hot mess. Even after experiencing multiple homecomings over the years, I was still nervous and wrecked with anxiety.

These feelings are totally normal.

So if you ask a spouse how things went upon return of her military service member, it’s completely normal and okay if she doesn’t seem filled with abundant joy.

Adjustments. Take. Time.

There is no switch to turn on closeness.

Imagine that you work all the time and have set aside an evening with your husband whom you’ve barely seen in the past six months.

Does he immediately start baring his soul?

Not likely.

In relationships, without quantity, there’s no quality.

After reintegration you have to free up time daily to make closeness happen again.

Depending on the length of separation, quality of communication during separation, and the level of stress endured by all family members, it may take days or even weeks or months for a family to fully adjust.

Reintegration definitely doesn’t happen overnight. Regardless of how long a couple has been together or married, a period of adjustment is inevitable.

For military kids, adjustments are especially tough sometimes.

Some kids are shy and feel unfamiliar with the parent returning home and living in the home full time again. It can be hard to switch from a single parent to a dual parent household.

It often takes a significant amount of time for parents to learn to work together again.

On the other hand, some kids do amazingly well with reintegration and seem to adjust easily. It’s often variable and based on many factors.

It’s hard on everyone.

There is no single family member that isn’t affected by reintegration in some way. Each family member experiences their own set of challenges when it comes to becoming a family again.

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For some it might be difficulty co-parenting together again after months of parenting solo in military life.

For others it may be simple nuances related to household chores and cooking being done a certain way.

For very young children, they may view mom or dad as a stranger at first and act shy or even scared. Older children may be angry at their parent for being away so long, at least during the initial phase.

Teenagers may hold back to minimize the emotional swings involved in the change. These are all natural responses for children at different ages.

It takes time to recognize areas of growth and change among each family member and learn to reconnect again.

It’s normal for military families to feel out of sync.

Support does help.

It might be hard for people outside of military life to know exactly how they could help during a period of reintegration, but a sense of community makes the world of difference to military families.

Simply asking how things are going following the return of a spouse shows that you care.




This opens the door for a military spouse or service member to talk and share their experience. Sometimes a military family member is looking for a good listening ear or hug of encouragement.

You can also simply say, “How can I support you right now?”

Military families are not always looking for advice, but rather for someone who listens and accepts them as they are.

A family may or may not want visitors.

Some families appreciate visitors right away, but I think for the most part, most families appreciate several days to a week without visitors to just acclimate and adjust to the new situation.

It’s also a great time for a nuclear family just to enjoy being with each other and experience some much needed quality time together.

So before you pop on over to visit, it’s best to ask and be conservative with visits.

It does eventually get better.

Reintegration doesn’t last forever, and yes, it is totally possible to return to a happy, healthy, thriving family in a short period of time.

It may only take a day or two of subtle adjustments to get back on track.

Other times, it takes a long time.

The return of a military service member might not go like the movies or look as pretty as everyone might think.

And that’s okay.

Want more on Military Life?

What do you think is important information for others to know about military family reintegration?

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  1. This is interesting. They show happy reunions on TV and then it’s just assumed everything goes on fine from there. Such a sacrifice every member of a military family makes. Thank you!

  2. Thank you, Lauren. I do know that there are some things we “assume” about reintegration and military families that may not be true. I always appreciate your perspective. My friend whose husband was recently deployed for a year was excited and nervous for her husband to come home, and the reintegration process didn’t go without bumps. I think especially with young children there are many adjustments. I even had one person describe it to me as an “interruption” of the routine, which makes perfect sense when you think about it. Great post.Hope you are all feeling better! Shared.

    1. That is really a perfect description…”interruption” of the routine. For sure! My husband turns family life and work on and off like a champ. I’m the pitiful one. I really struggle with the change for a few days or more after he gets back. But everyone is different, you know? Some people find it so easy and are like my husband. And some people find it to be a challenge like me. Thanks for sharing. You are too kind! Have a great day.


  3. Great post Lauren! 🙂 We always see the perfect picture reunion/welcome home parties on television. I can’t imagine how the service member handles it. My husband has typically been in transport for 36+ hours by the time he gets home. He just wants to shower and eat a home cooked meal.

    1. So true, Nichole. Just the basics is usually what my husband wants. And yes, most service members traveled a really long time to get home. I think that if often forgotten. When my husband returns home he usually doesn’t want anything fancy or lots of people. I think people sometimes think it’s a big ‘ole party! Ha ha.


  4. Yes. Yes. YES!!! This is exactly why I’ve written a workbook for couples to help them worth through some common issues. So glad you’ve shared these little known truths for the world to see! We don’t talk about how hard it is nearly often enough!! Blessings!

  5. Thank you for this. My husband and I are both military and just moved in together after 2 yrs of not being in the same country and being married only 8months we were robbed of our “honeymoon stage”. I had a lot of expectations of how happy and loving we would be once together and that just isn’t the case at all, it’s like living with a roommate you kiss and share a bed with. I’ve had 2 breakdowns/anxiety attacks and it hasn’t even been 1 week together yet. This really helped validate what I am going through and that I just need to give it time.
    So I just wanted to thank you so much for that.

  6. Thanks for this post. I just stumbled upon it. I’m not new to Military life because my mother was the service member. But now I’m the wife of a soldier and it’s different. I’m looking for support and will be visiting your page for more content. I NEED it.

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