“It’s my fourth time around and I should be a pro at this,” she says from her home at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas, “but it’s different every time.”
Darden’s husband of more than 24 years is on active duty with the U.S. Army, having rejoined after originally serving for 10 years before taking a 10-year break. Her son also has served in the U. S. Marine Corps. Because of this, Darden has said plenty of goodbyes and has had just as many reunions—and adjustment periods.
This time around, Darden and her husband are benefitting from the American Red Cross Reconnection Workshops, a series of educational sessions designed to provide military families with tools to help make their many transitions easier. The American Red Cross currently offers five workshops in the Reconnection series: Communicating Clearly, Exploring Stress and Trauma, Identifying Depression, Relating to Children and Working Through Anger.
Prior to his current deployment, Darden and her husband took the workshop on communication. She says that the workshop gave them insight into each other’s perspectives and provided them with tools to use in various scenarios so they could communicate more clearly with each other as they reconnected.
“When your husband leaves, you’re it,” explains Darden. “When your husband comes back, [he] expects everything to fall back into place.” But after long periods of living apart and creating new routines, that can take time no matter how happy you are to be together. “You have to learn to live as a married couple again,” she says.
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Darden credits the Reconnection Workshops with easing this process for her and her husband. “I saw how he felt as my husband, and he saw how I felt as his wife.” This has helped her to be more understanding when her husband doesn’t want to go to crowded places or has trouble sleeping at night and keeps her awake, too.
Darden also credits the Reconnection Workshops with helping her through the emotional struggles she faced after her husband left on assignment. Because she had taken the Identifying Depression workshop, she was able to recognize early on that she needed to do something to help herself. “I could tell I was sleeping more and was irritable and cranky,” she notes. “I could tell I was showing the signs of becoming depressed.”
The workshop taught her ways to help combat depression, including exercise. “I started running again,” she says, and her return to an old favorite pastime gave her the boost she needed to get back to feeling like herself.
Darden was first introduced to the American Red Cross Reconnection Workshops during an internship for her master’s degree, which she is pursuing at University of Central Florida. She was so impressed by the program that she has continued to work at the American Red Cross, volunteering in a community outreach position. She meets with community organizations to promote American Red Cross programs.
“It’s easy for me to promote the Reconnection Workshops since I have been through them myself,” says Darden, who has attended four of the five different sessions. She encourages military families to take advantage of these workshops, which have been a blessing to her and her family.
“It’s free—just take it,” she tells those she meets. “The statistics for divorce after deployment are high, and military families need all the tools they can get. You can use the tools from the Reconnection Workshops throughout your life, everywhere you go. They are a great thing.”
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