Faith or spirituality can be a cornerstone of a military family unit. However, where most civilian families have the benefit of stability within their religious community or like-minded group, military families have a constant flow of people going in and out of their lives.
That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to build on your faith while you’re on active duty. In fact, the Joint Services Support Psychological Health Program heavily emphasizes just how important spiritual wellness is to the overall health of our military families.
Spirituality can be classified in a variety of forms, and the word (or concept) may mean different things to different families. Spirituality can be tied to a religion or a moral philosophy, or it can exist by completely independently.
Whatever faith or spiritual following you identify with, developing a plan to grow that faith, as you progress through military life, is important to your—and your family’s—wellbeing.
Why It’s Important
Spirituality may offer a sense of meaning and purpose to many people. It can be a comfort and a source of strength during stressful times or events. That can be extremely valuable when you (as an adult) are coping with some of the more challenging and stressful aspects of military life, such as deployments, long separations, PTSD, injury, and loss.
Faith-based groups or spiritually oriented organizations can help provide a sense of community to individuals and families who are separated from friends, relatives, and even other members of their family.
Faith and spiritual wellness can be especially helpful to children. It may, for example, be able to give your children valuable tools that will help them cope with challenging situations such as having to say goodbye to their friends every few years, reintegration after deployment, and adjusting to a parent’s injuries.
It can also provide additional stability in your marriage and can serve as a type of platform for making decisions that can affect your family’s mental and physical wellness.
How to Find Support
Finding a support group or a mentor within your faith can go a long way to making your spiritual journey a positive growth experience. Support groups can offer prayer, encouragement, and perspective that may help military families cope with their feelings and struggles.
Military members and their families tend to adopt an independent, “I can do it” attitude. That resiliency, which is so often found in military servicemembers, spouses, and their children can be a wonderful benefit to the overall health of their families. But why stop there? Finding a compassionate and understanding support group can help the family cope even more effectively.
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a number of resources specifically aimed at helping military members and their families connect with support groups and spiritual leaders in their faith of choice. From guidance on how to find a chaplain to group prayer sessions and meditation, there’s no shortage of ways to connect with other members of your faith.
There may also be a great benefit to visiting and getting to know some of the faith-based organizations near your current location. Even if you have to move every few years, at the end of your stint in the military, you may find yourself with a very large “church family” all across the country (and potentially beyond). Those friendships could prove invaluable throughout all the changes you’ll experience throughout your military (and post-military) life
Growing On Your Own
Faith and spirituality are very personal things, even though they play an important part in what makes your whole family tick. That’s why it’s a good idea to reach out to your chaplain, pastor, priest, or another spiritual leader. You need a safe space to express your concerns and needs. Anything that helps you as an individual will also help your family.
Reaching a place where you feel stable and secure in your own spiritual life and beliefs can help set the tone for how everyone else in your family handles their own spiritual growth.
The important thing here is to take some time to come up with your own definition of what faith and/or spirituality look like. Some people are able to do this on their own, relying on yoga, exercise, meditation, or some other type of self-care. Others are more comfortable with a mentor or accountability partner who can help guide them. There’s no right or wrong here; it’s completely up to you.
Growing As a Family
Not everyone in your family will be on the same page when it comes to faith and spirituality. Chances are, your family will be the most consistent part of your life as you progress through your career. So it’s important to always be respectful and understanding of others’ views.
Studies have shown a connection between resilience in children and their immediate relationships and stability. When everything is changing around your family, finding that common ground to build upon can help to promote adaptability in your children. It can also play a positive role in their education and outside relationships. When children aren’t sure how to handle a particularly challenging situation, having a foundation in faith can offer a starting point for them to get their emotional bearings.
Do What’s Best for Your Situation
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how (or whether) to integrate faith and military life. Each member of your family will have a different perspective, and there’s a good chance that you and your spouse come from different backgrounds.
Talk to your family about their spiritual goals and where you’d all like to grow as a unit and as individuals. From there, you can reach out to the appropriate resources to build on your faith regardless of where the military takes you.