I have had such a phenomenal response from friends all over the world saying “I’ve been there” and “This is normal” and “I’m praying for you, friend.” One person even said that I am processing through this much faster than she did even though her hardest PCS wasn’t an overseas move. Apparently, this grief isn’t tied only to the fact that it was a very long distance… short distance moves can be just as challenging.
I believe most of my healing has come due to tons of prayer, mostly on the parts of those who love me most, including my parents. They hurt when I hurt. My friends are also praying. But while going through this blue time, I’ve also been reading and writing. The book I just finished was Platform by Michael Hyatt. On page 124 I underlined something that seemed written in there just for me, something I’ve shared on this blog before:
If you are writing you are achieving greater clarity about your life, your work, and what matters most. That’s enough.
Writing has helped me process through this, and sharing it here gave me proof that I am not losing my mind… that there is a natural grieving process that is oftentimes associated with moving and leaving friends behind in a place we loved.
I listened to Michael Hyatt’s podcast while I ran last night and he discussed the four steps to handling difficult circumstances. I could barely pay attention because I was so taken aback by the fact that I was listening to that episode at this time in my life. It certainly was timely, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
I believe we all go through trying times and our first questions are often, “Seriously? Why, God?” or “Why me” or even, “Why now?!?”
Michael Hyatt shares why those questions, though natural, are not helpful. He then provides four steps to take in the midst of a trying situation. I hope you’ll take the time to listen. I subscribe to his podcast via the podcast app on my iPhone but you can also listen to it through his website by clicking here.
But I bet you came here for the Poll Results, huh?!? Here you go!
20 people responded. FUN! Thanks everyone!
Q1. Have you ever moved back to the US after living overseas (or in Alaska or Hawaii… I know those are American states but they’re still quite segregated from the mainland of the US).
- We were living in Wiesbaden for 5 years. My husband was originally sent for a 3 year tour, then extended in place for another three year tour, which would have brought him up to within one or two years of retirement. However, it worked out to be advantageous for us and for Big Army for him to relocate back to the States after 5 years instead of 6. From my perspective, living in Germany was a *blast* for all the reasons you described, and more. But it was hard on my husband, who is a true home-body, to be on those 90-day deployments two and three times a year. He jokes that *I* spent five years in Germany, *he* only spend 2.5 years there.
- We have moved back from Wiesbaden twice now.
- I also found myself at Ft. Leonard Wood and that was as remote as the dewline.
- Lived in Giessen, Wiesbaden and Baumholder totaling 7 years.
- We haven’t had an overseas duty station yet.
- lack of closeness to others in the unit You work together but don’t really get to know them or the family.
- This is my 4th time living in GE.
Q2. Where was this PCS to/from:
- We had a great mix of people moving to/from Germany, Hawaii, Korea, retirement, and all over the continental United States. (I got a kick out of the retirement answer… here’s why… in the military people can retire so young and I can imagine that getting out of the military (for us in 13 years) will be difficult. I don’t want to do anything else, but there is a time limit on this job. While it’s not necessarily an overseas PCS it’s a major MAJOR life change. I don’t even want to think about that yet.)
Q3. Which move was the hardest move?
- From overseas back to the states: 16
- From the states to an overseas location: 3
- one participant skipped the question
Q4. Please share what your felt was the hardest aspect of this PCS. (I’ve edited some answers for readability and removed some personal details to respect the writers’ privacy.)
- Not knowing what to expect or how things would work when I got to Europe was the most difficult part. I worried about the financial cost, where I would live, how I was going to get from point A to point B prior to getting a drivers’ license. You name it, I worried about it. I was less intimidated about moving back to the States. In fact, I was looking forward (on our return) to the conveniences I had missed while in Europe. I had a place to live before we even got off the ground in Germany. Rather than remind myself (as I was saying goodbye to some of the best-best friends I’d made in my life) that I was going to miss my friends beyond belief, I chose to focus on what I was getting back by moving home: family closer, grocery stores that I can navigate without having to learn a foreign language or rely on my poor language skills to find something close to what I needed (Germans don’t have baking powder), cost of living is significantly reduced in the States, and not having to do business with AAFES, if I didn’t want to. I also know that the Army is very small and that it is very likely I will see them all again! I took comfort that I would do whatever I could to see my friends from Europe whenever the opportunity presented itself. Within days of arriving back in the States I had Christmas dinner with one of the Soldiers from my unit. (I bet you know who this is now!!) Lastly, the reason it was most difficult for me to move TO Germany rather than FROM Germany was that my husband and I were not together on the first. Having your family with you really does matter the most… I hated leaving him as a start to our life together. The PCS move home was a much better experience.
- Not being able to immediately (re)establish my life in Austin. Meeting people/making friends.
- The whole time I was in Germany, I knew we were approaching my husband’s retirement, and I envisioned returning to the Austin area, as that is home for us (we’d spent most of our married lives – since 1984 – in Austin, Texas, where my husband flew with Army National Guard, while also working a civilian job.) However, when we returned to the States, he wasn’t sent to Fort Hood, which would have allowed us to move to the Austin area. Instead, he was assigned to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. (Just to clarify, this really *is* the ‘center of the sun’!) El Paso is a *very* different demographic than Austin, Texas, to say the least.
- So we moved to El Paso, where we have a lovely house, and I’ve re-assembled all my belongings (household goods, items left in storage, etc.) which is good. But I’m 30 minutes away from post, and I’m not working so I’ve allowed myself to become somewhat isolated. At first I was struggling to unpack everything. Then it was because this (rental) house needed so much work I spent amazing amounts of time scheduling, and waiting for workmen to come fix this or that. (Literally, the first six months.) I’m glad I had the time to do all that, (it wouldn’t have happened if I had gone back to work) but, hindsight being 20-20, it would have been wiser for me to establish a routine of exercise classes (I go to water aerobics at 8am three days a week now and I’ve met some lovely ladies) and volunteering in the local community right off the bat so I could start making friends and associations in the local area. This is something I’ll have to be sure to do right away when we move to again in about 3.5 months, if I don’t wind up getting a job right away… Meeting people: In order to meet my neighbors, I coordinated an enormous block party to get all of them together after I’d been in our El Paso house about six months. I put out flyers and gave everyone ample time to plan ahead. Every single couple I invited, came, and it provided an opportunity for them all to get re-acquainted with each other, and to meet my husband and me. (Some serious partiers in that group!) Very successful.
- A lot of things changed for me in Germany. I went to rehab in Germany. I gained sobriety and a better understanding of myself. I made true friends and a great support system. I do not think it was Germany itself that saved me from a life that I was heading for but the people Jesus put in my path while there. My life was forever changed. I was injured while overseas so my Army career was ended while there. I was medically retired. Leaving my friends, support system and the Army life to go back to the civilian life was the hardest thing. I closed up and isolated myself. I am just now coming back out of my shell.
- For Q3, my answer differs. The first move, TO Germany was the hardest, I didn’t adjust well. This one, moving back was a little harder. The first time, I didn’t get out and experience living there. And this latest move, we had work issues that made leaving sad, and we had a great group of people.
- Leaving the closeness of friends. Leaving the routine and easy travel days to get away. Having to deal with family wanting us to do all the traveling to visit them, instead of them coming to us. Having family constantly complain about how much time the other side gets compared to what they get.
- The hardest part was seeing my child suffer in a high school from “h.” Returning from Nurnberg we found ourselves in Tulsa, Ok. My spouse was with a branch of the Army that is often in the civilian community with no base nearby. People didn’t understand us. Even the cleaners thought my husband was in some kind of militant group. They hadn’t seen uniforms. But hardest of all was to see my wonderful son lost in a high school where boys and girls carried guns and used dope in the halls and being neither jock nor an A+ student meant you were a nothing. The school was so bad that a movie was made about it and I cannot recall the name of the movie but Patrick Swazie was in it and there was a character called “Pony Boy.” We nearly lost our child there as his coping methods were not good. It took years to recover. Taking a child out of a military community and into a civilian world can be a shock for kids.
- Once back in the US and even in my hometown I felt like no one cared about me and certainly didn’t have time for me now that I was around because for so long I had been gone. Where do I fit in? Does anyone care? I thought these people were my friends and family and everyone is too BUSY for me! It was a hard transition and I knew we had another move looming over our heads to Colorado so I couldn’t get too comfortable. Fast forward to Carson-I expected Germany. Where people were open and welcoming to new people, but was greeted with the opposite. More people consumed my their own lives. Slowly I got myself out there, started PWOC, went to church, got my boys involved in soccer/tball, etc and started meeting women. It’s not Germany, that’s for sure but it’s getting better with each passing week.
- Moving the pets.
- While overseas there were no outside distractions. All we had was each other. Coming home life just wasn’t as simple.
- Pulling my kids out of a place they felt to be their permanent home after almost 6 years
- Well, first it was the move. (Remember the broken leg, snowy airport, and two kids in diapers all by myself?!) Then it was the unpacking while my husband couldn’t even walk without crutches. Then it was the lack of support system. Then it was making new friends, while discovering we did not like our new duty station, his job, nor the surrounding areas.
- I missed the deep friendships that I had made there. I missed my German friends and the amazing experiences we had there. I missed the closeness of the community even though I didn’t recognize this as a positive when we were in Germany!
- That my husband was to able to help with all of it due to work responsibilities. Being glad that I was back in the States, but feeling totally disconnected.
- Going back to question 3, I had grief on both sides of the pond. My husband returned from a 15 month deployment in April and we were on a plane to Germany by mid June. We did not have time to adjust having dad back when we were trying to fit into a new culture.
- Returning to the states, I was so excited to be back “home”. I did not anticipate the feeling of loss that I did. Germany did feel like home, I did not realize it till I left. I also realized I liked some aspects of Germany better, such as when the traffic light turns yellow before green and when you go to a restaurant more than once they treat you like family.
- Nothing was easy! Couldn’t figure out how to get phone service, or anything like that. I was depressed for the first 6 months. A precious friend prayed me thru it
- Really I don’t know what was harder. There or back again. What I hated and I will always hate is that we never seem to make good friends until we only have a year left and then we have to leave or they have to leave. Sucks. I too miss all the connectedness.
- The first time around I was all but 18 and when I went stateside I was back with my sister and her family. I knew I was only there a short time; couldn’t hang living in the US and wanted to get back to Garmisch. Second time, I moved with my husband to Ft. Bragg. HATED it there. We were together and that’s all fine and dandy, but I HATED that city. Didn’t like my job and didn’t feel safe. Missed the simple life Garmisch offered. Bklyn was uneasy at first because I was picturing moving into a real life CSI meets Law & Order episode. Found out it was awesome. We made friends. I had prepared physically for the move and had been working out so had a lot of positive energy that way. I love my life in Europe. The quality over quantity. I’m not close to anyone here now like I had been before, but still it wasn’t what you had.
- Leaving tight knit community, and traveling
Q5. What was your favorite part about living overseas?
- Traveling– it still seems surreal that we got to see so many places while over there.
- Friends– really, really good ones.
- The ‘instant community’ and going on outings/attending functions with the Spouses’ Club.
- The atmosphere and Architect of the towns was by far my favorite part of living overseas.
- More peaceful, relaxed weekends. Close bonds between friends/neighbors.
- The FRG, church groups, or just friends that you make. Everyone is closer and reaches out more than they do in a stateside move.
- Our family time. Travelling together and starting little family customs to compensate for no nearby family. We loved the freedom of celebrating thanksgiving by sharing it with German families. We even loved the confusion of trying to explain things when neither party had a common language. Living overseas made us better Americans – more consious of how we appeared to others and how we represented our country.
- What’s not to love???!?!?
- Food, culture, food, travel, food, wonderful Germany neighbors.
- The adventure.
- So many things, hard to name them all.
- Friendships. Hands down.
- Travel and the friendships
- Traveling and living in my little community. It made life simple.
- Our favorite part about Germany was the traveling. We love to travel and we did it as much as we could.
- Travel and food. I hated living over there. Couldn’t stand it, but I knew when I left that I would miss the travelling and the friends and the food. I felt so very isolated over there. I spent two winters suffering under the gray skies and finally our last winter we had wonderful friends that brightened the days.
- Quality. Scenery. Watching crazy (and dumb) people and being glad for a change it wasn’t always Americans! hahaha.
- Cultures and a variety of them. Food.
- It’s not a microwave society that we are force fed in the states. The work isn’t always a walk in the park, but I am good at separating my life from work and leaving it when I leave the building.
Q6. What was your least favorite or most difficult aspect of living overseas?
- I wasn’t fluent in German, so I was continually frustrated with my inability to communicate effectively with those who brought services to our house. Talking with the phone company, electric company, and oil people was aggravating because I didn’t understand them and they didn’t understand me. Basic language skills don’t get you very far in more detailed/ complex issues.
- Dealing with German TV/Phone/Internet vendors – and their ‘low-tech’ way of doing business compared to the norm in the US.
- Low-tech, and somewhat inconvenient German banking system. Some major department stores do not take credit cards.
- Wiesbaden had probably the highest cost of living in all of Germany. While most food-related necessities could be purchased at the Commissary, *clothing* your family from the PX’s somewhat limited resources could be challenging. Same for home decor (curtains, etc.) Thank goodness for online shopping! On the plus side, things like wine, beer, chocolate and flowers were dramatically *less* expensive in Germany! 🙂 Also, I always found it interesting that after leaving Wiesbaden to go to an acknowledged tourist vacation spot, like Garmisch, you would notice the restaurant prices in Garmisch were actually *lower* than in Wiesbaden.
- First missing my family in the states. Second the language difference.
- The scariness of not being able to speak the language, and that can make people feel “trapped” on post.
- Adjusting to the commissary hours and lack of things I wanted from US (ie food delivery and air conditioning)
- Buying clothes. Hard to find a Prom Dress for daughter. There may have been other things but that was the most frustrating.
- The extreme amount of time and money it took to get back home
- parking and narrow streets
- Being separated again and going back into the unknown.
- Baumholder, our first duty station in Germany. We made the best of it, although after having gone through a year-long deployment a year before we moved, we were going to have to do it again.
- The desire to travel without having the means/availability. (Ie. two babies born there, over 12 months of deployments there, not a lot of money.)
- The inconvenience at times of being unable to get something, find it locally or being way out of the way!
- Being so far away from family.
- Housing, we are private people so stairwell living is not for us.
- Being so far from family. My daughter got sick and was hospitalized during a deployment and no family members could come
- Isolation from others. We lived on the economy and the distance to others. We are also a different denomination from most of the other homeschool families and so there were many differences in the way we “did” church and no one understood us. We didn’t go to church with these families so we never saw them. I hated hated hated hated the weather too. Especially the fact that it was July and it was still cold.
- Not fully understanding the language, but it was by choice. I had taken several classes to learn until I came to the realization “life is too short to learn German” and then I try a bit here and there and find that I do alright at the end of the day. Not the quality I would expect of foreigners living in the US, but I don’t lose sleep over that! When I first moved here it was being away from my mom; I was 17 and then with my sister and her family.
- Language barrier