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    7 Ways Military Spouses Can Face the Holidays Alone During Deployment

    As I write this, Christmas jingles are playing on TV commercials, the town center nearby has its holiday decorations up, and I’m sure someone (not me!) already has their holiday cards addressed and stamped--maybe even mailed.

    Feeling the holiday spirit yet? If so, great!

    But for some military spouses, the upcoming holiday season may not bring thoughts of joy this year. During my husband's last deployment, I often expressed the wish that I could pull the covers over my head in November and wake back up in January so I could simply skip all the trappings of the holiday season and feigned interest when my heart wasn't really in it.

    And this year? COVID. Enough said. The pandemic has made the already lonely time of deployment even lonelier, with the isolation from normal activities and friends. If you’re facing a deployment during the holidays, coupled with distance from extended family or living in another country, consider some alternative ways of celebrating Christmas...and maybe you'll find a little bit of that holiday spirit.

    7 Ways Military Spouses Can Face the Holidays During Deployment

    7 Ways Military Spouses Can Face the Holidays Alone During Deployment 

    1) Skip the gifts this year. 

    What? (I heard that gasp.) Perhaps this is the year to think outside the box, literally, and decide on one collective family gift. Think about an event to attend together later, tickets to an event you wouldn’t normally go to, or plan a fun family trip to look forward to when the military member returns home. 

    7 Ways Military Spouses Can Face the Holidays Alone During Deployment

    2) Give to someone else.

    Maybe you don’t need or want any gifts this year or just can't bring yourself to face holiday shopping, even if it's just online. Consider giving to a military oriented organization such as the USO or a local organization. Giving back can help you feel like you’re making a true difference in other people’s lives.

    3) Living overseas? Go local! 

    If you’re stationed overseas, embrace the different-to-you celebrations in your area and experience the holidays in a whole new way.
    Whether it’s at the beach on an island or strolling through a Christkindlmarkt in Europe (which I highly recommend, by the way!), trying a new food or activity might help you get out of the holiday funk for a little while.  

    Christmas market in Germany

    4) Focus on quality time. 

    For all of us, this may be the year to accumulate experiences rather than piles of more stuff. Some simple ideas:
    • Combat the dark winter days by watching a sunrise together, coupled with a mug of your favorite hot beverage.
    • Surprise your kids with an ultra movie marathon of their favorite holiday movies.
    • Gift everyone a new book and spend a quiet day reading. 
    • If you’re recently moved, host a cookie exchange with your new neighbors--socially distanced goodies, anyone?
    • Load up the kids, dog, and hot cocoa in the car on Christmas Eve and take a drive to look at lights, as this will likely be the day they’re at their brightest!
    Making goodies for others

    5) Look outward.

    Drop off goodies or cards to other deployed spouses, elderly neighbors, or the local nursing home. Likewise, holiday yummies or handmade cards may be appreciated by those working during the typical "off" days, like the military installation’s security forces, gate guards, firefighters, and others.
    dad baking

    6) Create new memories. 

    If you’re currently going through a deployment or long separation from your spouse, it may feel important to keep some of your regular traditions for everyone’s sake. But maybe it’s time to add a new twist? Decide to spend the day in pajamas or get takeout for Christmas dinner, rather than preparing a large meal yourself. Then reward yourself with a long winter’s nap!
     If your spouse is deployed, give yourself permission to take a break if you need to.

    7) Give yourself permission to handle the holidays how you choose...without apology. 

    Whatever you decide, remember that the holidays during deployment are stressful and sad. This year has thrown an extra wrench into with social distancing, travel plans canceled, and all of our normal activities gone.
    Don't add to the burden by placing unrealistic expectations on yourself. Next year's holiday season will roll around again before you know it!
    While you may be feeling more Grinch-like than festive these days, approaching the holidays creatively can help make the holidays less of a time to slog through so you can get past them and instead become a surprising time of making great new memories. We wish you the best holiday season, no matter where in the world your military family is stationed.
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    Jen McDonald


    Jen McDonald

    Jen McDonald is the Content Editor for MilitaryByOwner Advertising. She's a longtime writer, the author of the book You Are Not Alone: Encouragement for the Heart of a Military Spouse, the host of the Milspouse Matters podcast, and has been published in several books and numerous national publications. She was a military spouse for nearly 30 years and is the mom of four (including one son in the military). One of her happiest roles now is being a grandmother. She and her newly retired Air Force husband have been stationed all around the world from Europe to the Pacific and won’t count how many houses they’ve lived in because that would be too depressing. Her passion is encouraging young military spouses and regularly sharing about topics like military life, parenting, homeschooling...and now grandparenting! See more from Jen at her site, Jen McDonald and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram , and Pinterest.

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