Reintegration Process after Returning from Deployment

Article | May 2019

Reintegration Process after Returning from Deployment

Coming home after a military deployment can feel great, but it is also a time of adjustment. Here is information about what to expect following a deployment and ways to find support to make the adjustment easier.

What to expect:

It’s important to think of your return to life following military deployment as a process rather than an event. Just as it took time to adjust to your deployment, it will now take time to reintegrate. You may have to get used to a different time zone, climate, pace of life, and culture. You’ll also have to make some emotional adjustments. Here are some ways you may feel.

  • Tired, discouraged, with less energy than usual. There may be no one reason for these feelings. You may feel sad about the things you missed while gone. You may feel out of step or out of place. These feelings are a normal part of the adjustment process.
  • Lonely. After the excitement of being back fades, you may find you’re having a hard time relating to friends or relatives. You may miss those you were close to during deployment. You may feel that no one at home understands what you’ve gone through. This might make you feel alone even when you’re with people who care about you. Try to reach out to friends and family members even if you feel uncomfortable about doing so. Chances are they may be feeling awkward, too. If you still feel lonely, a military support group may be very helpful as you adjust to being back home.
  • Angry. It’s normal to feel angry or resentful because others were able to stay home while you were away or because things have changed while you were gone. Anger can be another part of adjusting to being home. It might help to talk to some you are close to, a trusted member of the clergy, or a professional counselor about your reaction.
  • Culture shock. Even parts of your life that you thought would feel familiar and comfortable may feel foreign to you at first. Give yourself time to reintegrate..

Reconnecting with friends and family:

It can be hard to reconnect with friends and family after being away for a long period of time. You may not know how to describe your experiences or you may not want to talk about them at all. It also can be hard to accept that life has gone on for friends and family while you were gone. Things may not return to the way they were before.

  • Tell others what you need, especially in the early days of being home. For example, think about how you would like to handle reuniting with friends and family. You may find that you’d prefer to take some time to yourself or that you’re just not ready to visit with everyone you know as soon as you get back.
  • Give yourself time to relax and return to your life at your own pace. Let friends and relatives know what you need. For example, if you would prefer a quiet family dinner instead of a big party to celebrate your return, gently let people know that you’re not ready for a large gathering.
  • Realize that different people may react differently to your being away. Some people may want to know all about your experiences while others may not want to talk about them at all. The same might be true about your travels to other countries or areas. Try to be respectful of other people’s feelings and ask that they respect yours if they want more information than you would like to give.
  • Understand that people lives may have changed while you were away. It’s important to take the time to understand how things may have changed while you were away and to be open to these changes.
  • Be prepared for some awkwardness in your personal relationships. Remember that everyone in your life is adjusting to a new normal when you return after a military deployment. It’s common for couples or family members to feel awkward with each other after being separated for long periods of time. People may wonder how or why you’ve changed and what you’ve gone through, but they may not know how to ask you about it. And you might not know what to talk about because you’re not caught up on the local news or what’s going on in everyone’s lives. Talk about how you’re feeling and encourage friends and family to do the same.
  • Be patient with yourself and with others. Give yourself and others time to adjust to your return instead of trying to make up for lost time as soon as you get back. The adjustment to being back home doesn’t happen overnight; it may take days, weeks, or months. Eventually you will settle back into your life–it just may not be exactly the same life that you had before the deployment.

Finding support:

If you are having trouble adjusting, there are places to turn for help.
These include:
  • Other veterans. It can be especially helpful to talk with someone who has been through deployment.
  • Trusted friends. Sometimes just talking about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing can help you feel better.
  • Religious or spiritual communities. Many people find support through religious or spiritual communities.
  • A professional counselor. A professional counselor or therapist can help you cope with stress, feelings of sadness or confusion, and other issues related to your adjustment back home. You can find a counselor by talking with your health care provider or by contacting your Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Returning soldier greeting daughter

This material is provided by Cigna for informational/educational purposes only. It is not medical/clinical advice. Only a health care professional can make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment plan. For more information about your behavioral health coverage, you can call the customer service or the behavioral health telephone number listed on your health care identification card.