CONTRIBUTED BY DASHA GARIEPY
Wait a minute. That wasn’t on my “To Do” list!
Filing for Early Return of Dependents is usually not on anyone’s to do list. So how does one react when it happens? I’ve found that there are different answers to this question. If the situation is medical, or in “The Plan” (as in a new graduate returning stateside for college or work) then it’s okay to talk about it. Families in a medical emergency tend to talk freely about the medivac process, either expressing their gratitude or their frustration with it. Dependents returning for work or school are also eager to share their plans.
But there’s another reason dependents return home early. It’s because they’ve gotten in trouble and are asked to leave the post or host country and not return. They’re getting THE BOOT. Families with a child in trouble face a social stigma of shame and embarrassment. If their situation is talked about at all, it’s in hushed tones with furtive glances to see if anyone else is listening. I know, because we are a family with a child in trouble.
I know we’re not the only ones. Our son is not the first to be told he’s leaving, and he won’t be the last. But I’m going to break the taboo and talk about it. Hopefully this will help those who are in this situation, have been in this situation, or will be in this situation while they are stationed here.
Our trouble started three weeks ago with a ten day suspension at school, and will end this Sunday when we catch a flight back to the states. He has a one-way ticket, mine is round trip. It’s heartbreaking to say the least, but I’ve managed to work through the phases of grief these past weeks.
Shock: WHAT?! YOU DID WHAT?!
Denial: It’s not TRUE, it can’t be true! You’re making this up for attention!
Bargaining: We can fix this, there’s gotta be a way to fix this.
Guilt: It’s all my fault; I should have been a better parent.
Anger: How could you DO THIS to our family?
Depression: Just let me sleep, it doesn’t hurt when I sleep.
And finally, Acceptance and Hope: This is where we are right now. It’s not the end of the world. We just pick up and go on from here, one step at a time.
Speaking of steps, I sat out on our porch steps with our son tonight. The moon was gorgeous; bright, shining and full. I held his hand and told him a story about my last night at home as a girl. My mother, sister and I all stood in the driveway looking up at the exact same kind of moon. We made a promise from that day on to always think of each other when we saw a full moon. That way, we’d always be thinking of each other at the same time.
So I looked into my son’s eyes, told him how much I loved him, and said that now, whenever he saw a full moon, no matter where he was in the world, he would know that I was thinking of him, too.
I wish no one here would ever have to tell their dependents goodbye. But life happens, and so we find ourselves in situations like these. If you’ve had to tell a child in trouble goodbye, or are in the process, please don’t feel ashamed. You are not alone. We’re here to support you. And we’d love to hear your story, too.
Who knows? Maybe we’ll start a full-moon club. Er, scratch that. NO! I mean (muttering) oh, nevermind.
This post was originally published on Okinawa Hai, but we think it relates to life here as well. Overseas Yes and Okinawa Hai have no legal or managerial affiliation; please see the Legal Page for more information.