Freeze… An unusual PCS state of mind thanks to COVID.

The glass is half-full. That’s my general outlook on life. My husband’s too, but being a natural worrier, he jokes that his glass is half-full of “something that will kill you.” We are wired differently and our differences make us who we are. I’m a list-maker and will add things to a list that I’ve completed just so I can check it off. Organization is a valuable asset when it comes to moving seven people and 14,000 pounds of household goods (HHGs) across the world every few years.

On January 29th we found out we were moving and by February 29th (yes, 2020 had one of those) we had everything planned out. We had flights, hotels, pack-out dates, and a house in Brooklyn secured. One month, people. I had it squared away.

All was moving along smoothly and Matt went to DC for a class he’s taking and during that week I decided that I needed to take a weekend for myself to finish up project I’m working on and recharge my batteries. I got it scheduled and began looking forward to it.

On the 10th we got Parker’s Military ID made (huge milestone for MilKids!) and on the 12th “the Virus” really began to mess with our plans. Amber and I canceled lunch plans we had made a month prior because she was working on getting her mom a flight back to the US and we really didn’t want to be out in the public. I also called and pulled Anna from hourly care. She went a few days week just to give me time to work with the bigs and it wasn’t absolutely necessary, so we figured, “Why take the risk?” My weekend alone got canceled. Church moved to 100% online. Our Financial Peace University and Be the Bridge classes were canceled. Playgrounds closed.


April: Month of the Military Child. Dandelion: Official flower of the Military Child. Photo at our soccer field which we’ve been using as a make-shift back yard.

A few weeks into this situation I was doing things I don’t normally do: large, challenging puzzles on the weekends, binging TLC shows, napping in the hammock that hangs so conveniently on our balcony. I had lost all momentum with regards to our PCS. Before this mess we had already eaten through our pantry goods so that we’d have on hand only the foods I was planning for meals. I had sold/donated/tossed hundreds of pounds of things we no longer needed.

And then I froze.

I don’t usually do that, so when I read this article I was able to see actions for what they were.

If you’re feeling apathetic, numb or dissociated, you’re most likely in a freeze state, which occurs after it becomes apparent you can’t fight or run from a threat. …

… The numbness may give you a way to temporarily avoid difficult emotions about COVID-19 until you’re in a better place to start process what else you’re feeling.
~Renee Fabian (author of the article titled “10 COVID-19 Emotions You’re Not the Only One Having”)

This isn’t an enemy we can fight or even flee from. It’s everywhere and invisible, and even if you’re one of those who doesn’t believe it’s a big deal, you can’t argue that it exists and that it has greatly impacted our entire world. So, when I recognized that was what was going on, why I needed to find a few minutes a day to hide from my kids (what? you, too?!?) I relaxed and just let it be. I figured my brain would eventually catch up.

And it did.

We were contacted by transportation and given a new set of pack-out dates. Our original April 6-8 dates were thrown out the window as was our June 4th fly date. Once we got a new set of pack-out dates (May 18-20) and a new fly date (mid-July) my brain restarted. I was able to wrap my mind around things, make judgement calls on what to buy/not to buy before the movers come.

What many people many not realize about PCSing (moving), especially overseas, is that a family has to think about every single item in their pantry/fridge/freezer/basement/closets and decide if it’s going to stay or go. It’s wasteful to have to throw out or give away an entire fridge of food and it counts toward our “weight allowance” to pack our pantry items. Every item has to be considered and the person managing the PCS (usually the wife) has to decide if it’s going to be shipped, tossed, or given to neighbors before the packers come. That date is critical!

With a new set of dates I could begin to organize (again) and make concrete plans.

And then… two words entered my world that threw me for another loop.

Stop move.

We were told we can’t move any of our stuff until July.

Our fly-date is mid-July. If we have our HHGS picked up 1 July, they won’t arrive in New York until September. When moving from the US to OCONUS locations, military families are given temporary furniture and the houses are equipped with a washing machine and dryer. When going the opposite direction, military families just do with an empty house until their HHGS arrive. That is why we wanted our stuff picked up so early… so that we could give our belongings time to get to the US while living in this house with the temporary furniture that our Garrison supplies.

With the stop move, we could potentially get into our house mid-July and not have beds, couches, chairs, a kitchen table, the vast majority of our clothes, until the first week in September. Either that or pay out of pocket to stay in a hotel for 2+ months waiting for our HHGs to arrive. (We personally know people who are literally stuck in a hotel and believe me, it’s not glamorous after about 10 days, even though housekeeping does come clean and take the trash out for you.)

Even with the painful disappointment I felt, my “glass-half-full” mentality kept me mostly in check. I kept reminding myself of our many blessings (which I mentioned in the first COVID post I wrote). I know we have it made and reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank reminds me that we really are in a good situation, all things considered. I get that. And if we weren’t moving, I think I’d be having an even easier time with everything. But reminding myself of all those blessings juxtaposed against my emotional state just made me feel confused.

I wrote this on Facebook on the 29th of April:

It’s so hard to grieve a place when you’re not sure when you’re leaving. My heart has no idea at what point in the grief journey it’s supposed to be on right now… not that grief is exactly linear but at least normally there’s a process through which we physically go through. Eventually our hearts catch up to our physical circumstances but in this, our physical circumstances are so confusing that our hearts are beyond confused.

And if you are confused by that paragraph, you’re not to blame… I just don’t think there are adequate words to really describe what my heart is experiencing.

My eyes were full of tears as I wrote those words but I refused to let them fall because Parker was in the room. Actually, he was in the kitchen washing the dishes for me, a totally spontaneous, sweet gesture. What I really needed was a good cry but every single room in the house was occupied. I had nowhere to go, so I didn’t get the relief in tears that I needed.

Fortunately, reading the responses of friends when I’d pop back in every few hours was a great comfort and gave me a bit of the community I needed. (Facebook isn’t all bad.)

As of this moment we are seeking an Exception to Policy (ETP) because of the hardship we will face if we have to live in an empty house for over two months.

Your prayers are coveted as we wait to hear if it is approved.

I can’t tie this post up with a neat bow. I don’t have one. I don’t know if we’ll be granted the ETP. I don’t know anything regarding our PCS. My “glass-half-full” tendencies make me want to conclude this post with a positive spin but I think I’ll leave it as is. Unfinished. Incomplete. Confusing.

I’m living a cliff-hanger.

I tell you what, though. If you want to read an article that will perfectly describe the way many military families feel, read Claire Wood’s post about this. She’s a fellow Chaplain’s wife and we only know each other online for now, but we will meet in person someday!

Her words unlocked my tears after 43 days of being frozen. When a PCS and a Pandemic Collide.



About Jennifer

"Yes, they're all mine." The answer to the question I hear most often.
This entry was posted in depression/blues, family, germany, military, moving, travel. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Freeze… An unusual PCS state of mind thanks to COVID.

  1. Pingback: Unfreeze… (almost) | thehamricks

  2. Pingback: Red Light! Green Light! | thehamricks

  3. Pingback: Mother’s Day 2020 | thehamricks

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