November 5, 2010
- Mental health professionals talk about the stages of reintegration.
- Communication, bonding with family and accepting change are central to post-deployment resiliency.
For the Soldiers and families of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team at Vicenza, Italy, it has been a long year. But the year of deployment is coming to an end as groups of Soldiers have been redeploying since September, 2010, with more troops to arrive in the coming weeks. After a year in a combat zone, integrating back into home life can be a challenge, but Soldiers have a lot of help along the way. "If you are like many Soldiers and family members, you will go through emotional ups and downs as you navigate the journey of reuniting," said Chap. (Maj.) Douglas Thomison, USAG Vicenza Family Life Chaplain. "The first step to a thriving reintegration and reunion is to know what stages are typical to the process of coming home and where you are in that process." There are five stages to reintegration, anticipation, reunion, realizing changes, negotiating changes and the discovering that the change and newness is OK. Chaplains teach about these phases in Battlemind and other trainings. During the anticipation phase, people may romanticize the homecoming and then enjoy a "honeymoon period" during the exciting, high time of the reunion phase. However, as time passes, the emotional high fades. In the realizing changes phase, both the Soldier and family find that things and people have changed, and there may be unresolved business from before the deployment. People begin working through those challenges during the negotiating changes phase. Thomison said confronting difficulties is to be expected. "That is fine," he said. "It is normal. It is time to constructively deal and adjust to being home. By staying positive, being a good listener, and keeping solution focused, you can come out even better. If you need help, just ask." Dr. Deanna Beech, U.S. Army Health Clinic Vicenza Behavioral Health, agreed. "Remember that they\'re likely to come back jumpy, irritable, and having trouble sleeping" she said. "They're coming back from combat. The best thing is to remember that it is a post-deployment reaction phase and it does pass." During the final stage of reintegration, families enter a "new normal" phase. This is when families can understand that things have changed during their time apart and accept it. Thomison recommends a few ways to promote positive reintegration and a healthy emotional well being. "Talking (things) out with those who have 'been there done that' is a phenomenal accelerator for healing. Informal sharing as well as formal support groups are often cited as one of the most productive (ways) Soldiers and families can lead themselves to better post-deployment health," Thomison said. He also recommends maintaining or developing meaningful spiritual connections through faith. Another way to ease reintegration troubles is to "Cultivate strong, positive relationships, particularly with one's parents and spouse," he said. "Find restoration." Beech encouraged Soldiers to use post resources to help ease their transition. "There are things you can do to accelerate getting back into a more normal baseline," she said. "Exercise and communicating are important. Mostly its cardio, cardio, cardio." Beech said Soldiers should work on remembering how to relax and building their resiliency. "ACS and Behavioral Health have classes on resiliency, and even just going out and doing social activities through Outdoor Recreation or the BOSS program can be a way to get yourself out of a rut," she said. "If things aren't settling down after awhile, then there are a lot of resources across post. Take advantage of them."