Impacting Our Personal World to Better The World by Meryl DeLena, LCSW, Military Marital Consultant
Sometimes when we least expect it tragedy ensues. But out of that tragedy can come a lifetime of better choices and success. For me it was June 28, 2005. With my wedding only four months away and my husband gone on a secret mission with Army Special Operations, I was already at a high stress level. That evening our national news ran a story about a Special Operations Chinook helicopter that had crashed in Afghanistan, no survivors. Immediately I felt like the world was moving in slow motion. I became confused, almost disoriented. I couldn’t remember where my husband was. Then after the blood in my ears stopped pounding, I remembered he was in Iraq. For a brief moment I felt relief. Then I realized that the rest of our friends were in Afghanistan. Next the phone rang. It was my husband’s best friend notifying me that we had lost eight men. One of whom was the Medic which was in our section of the unit. I hung up the phone and sat staring at the wall with multiple fears and anxieties surging through my body. In a daze, I wandered across the street to my neighbors, rang the doorbell and told them what had happened. I was frozen on their stoop. They walked me back home as we tried to get more information. I found out the names of the dead. Four of them had wedding invitations in the mail.
Once my husband returned and we went through all the memorials, my thoughts turned to the spouses of the deceased. I visited the spouse of the Medic regularly and happened to be there the day the Military Assistance Officer was going over her paperwork. She looked so strong. I began to wonder who was going to be there for her when everyone went home.
Within six months of working on the Army Post in Savannah, GA, I grew increasingly frustrated with only having access to counsel Active Duty soldiers. So I quit my job and went into private practice. My goal was to take Tricare insurance and see as many spouses as I could. I started on this journey by running groups for women whose spouses were deployed. The rest I saw individually to help with multiple stressors related to being a military wife.
A couple of years later when the economy went bad, I found myself scrambling for another source of income. I took a job in San Diego, CA counseling the Marine Corps. Unfortunately, once again, the clinic would only allow me to see Active Duty. I presented to the Department Head the importance of relationship stressors in the military and how it would be beneficial for the spouses to join their husbands for counseling. A month later I was the Marital Counselor for the clinic. It was very important for the well-being of the entire family to be able to counsel them together. This would allow me to teach marital skills that would strengthen their relationships to help them deal with the complex military lifestyle.
I learned so much from these couples that I took on a bigger venue and started to write for the hospital newspaper. I was advising spouses on how to cope with holiday blues, multiple deployments, PTSD, Depression and Stress. It was such a success because I was able to reach more women than just what the clinic would allow. Then I got a great idea to use social media to reach spouses all over the world. So I started a Facebook Page. “Supporting Military Spouses and Their Relationships” began in December 2010, and now supports almost 1,000 spouses both male and female on every military installation in the world. Everyday spouses can logon to a free resource, connect with other spouses and get advice from a trained professional. It is not used for clinical treatment, but as a resource and educational tool to help deal with issues related to being a military spouse.
This is my real life story about how personal tragedy enabled me to create a gift that gives love and support all over the world. Learn more information at www.meryldelena.com.
Meryl De Lena is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Military Marital Consultant. She specializes in programs related to anxiety, PTSD, deployment issues and reintegration stressors for military spouses and families. An author and public speaker, she administers a Facebook page, “Supporting Military Spouses and Their Relationships,” to help military spouses. Meryl makes her home on the West Coast with her husband who is a Special Operations Army Veteran.