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Questions and Answers | Help for Military Families

My husband serves in the military and was deployed overseas for two years. We are thanking God for his safe return. But since then, I've noticed changes in his moods. How can I help him?

First, I want to thank your husband for his service to our country. Second, I want you to know that these types of transitions can bring significant challenges to our emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual health.

When people return from military deployment, they often experience post-traumatic stress. This can occur after a traumatic event is over (i.e., war, combat, or natural disaster). It triggers a range of intense emotions, anger, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even distressing nightmares.

In this life, we encounter many stressful situations. In John 16:33 Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We cannot avoid difficulties, but we can have peace, knowing that God is with us and is our source of strength. Psalm 55:22 urges us to “cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you.”

In the Bible, we see examples of individuals who faced extreme stress. Noah navigated a worldwide flood in Genesis 9:19–27. Joshua endured endless battles. In Joshua 1:9, God said to him: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” While we cannot avoid stressful experiences, we are promised that God will be with us.

It is not unusual to notice changes in your loved one after they return home. They may experience disruptions in their mood, sleep, relationships, and regular family life and responsibilities. This can be confusing to both family members and the military member returning home. Here are a few recommendations to help ease the transition:

  1. Keep communication open. Talk to your loved one about how they are feeling and let them know they are loved. “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11).
  2. Stay connected. Share your family’s needs with believers who can pray with you and support you. Accept help to walk through this stressful time (Acts 11:27–30). Spend time in God’s Word and prayer, knowing that God sees your need: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).
  3. Find support. The military and even some local churches provide resources to help support families with transitions for returning military members (for example, Military OneSource).
  4. Seek counseling. A counselor can be a great help in navigating these issues and strengthening your family during this season.

BY Dr. Valencia Wiggins, PhD, L.P.C.

Valencia Wiggins grew up in Ohio and graduated from Wheaton College. She earned a Masters in Clinical Psychology at Wheaton Graduate School, and PhD in Clinical Psychology at Walden University. She has taught at Moody Seminary for four years. In addition, Dr. Wiggins works in private practice as a clinical psychologist. Her clinical work includes sexual abuse, trauma, grief and loss, eating disorders, family issues, depression, adolescents, and women’s issues.

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