When a PCS and a Pandemic Collide

I know that everyone has it hard right now. There are dozens if not hundreds of extenuating circumstances that theoretically feel 100 times worse because you are adding the weight of that hard and terrible thing to a pandemic. 

Within my own personal circles I know of friends who are grieving lost loved ones during a pandemic; have had a recent cancer diagnosis during a pandemic; are not living in their own homes because Mother Nature swept in and destroyed their houses during a pandemic; have lost their jobs or fear their small businesses will not rebound during a pandemic; have spouses deployed overseas with no return date in sight during a pandemic; I know–there are worse things than a military move, or Permanent Change of Station (PCS) during a pandemic. 

Life is hard right now for all of us.

That said, I can only speak about my own hard thing because that is the hard thing right in front of me and continually on my mind. For me and my family, it is our PCS that we have been anticipating for nearly a full calendar year. The building tension of change already on our radar is something we were carrying long before we heard the word “Coronavirus.”

A PCS is exhausting in every sense of the word during normal life but experiencing this during a pandemic, is, well–in a word–difficult. I write to think through the ways in which I am processing difficult situations and in doing so, maybe can shed some light on what it’s like to prepare to uproot your entire life amidst social distancing, a rapidly spreading virus, sheltering in place, all while at the mercy of the Department of Defense’s Stop Movement Order.

For those of us expecting summer moves, the months of March and April are when we begin to secure transportation, search out housing at our next assignments, research and network about schools and jobs in our new place. We begin the slow fade and long goodbye of closing up shop on work, volunteer positions, school and activities for our kids, friendships and life in our current location. The month of May rolls in with all of its ceremony and celebrations (Mother’s Day, graduations, promotions, farewells, and Memorial Day). By June, most of our houses are packed up. We get on the road. We land. We unpack. We begin the “Recovery from Relocation.” 

It’s tough. It’s emotionally draining to carry the weight of all of these changes like a heavy backpack on our backs– the highs and lows, the ups and downs, the sadness and excitement, the stress and the peace. We do it anyway and as they say, we “Soldier on!” 

This year, March, April, May, and June are different. I’m left thinking about all of the ways this pandemic is making a hard thing even harder.

Like most other people in the world, we walked away from jobs, schools, ministries, and friendships for the last time without even knowing it. Unlike most people, we won’t be picking up where we left off in several weeks or months when life returns to “normal.” (Whatever that means!) 

When others are returning back to their lives and “reopening” to their people and their communities– those of us who are military service families will be hustling to get to to our new jobs, new schools, new communities, new ministries, and new friends all in a new and unfamiliar place without the closure we have come to cherish when it’s time to say “See you later.” Many won’t get the needed leave time to reset as a family. Most won’t get to gather to say a proper goodbye or grieve the loss; a vital part, I’ve learned in getting proper closure at an assignment.

I should be doing my usual house preparations of removing and laundering curtains, organizing and purging books and kids’ toys, eating through all of the pantry and freezer foods that can’t be moved. Instead, we are doing just the opposite. We are at home, frozen, maybe even paralyzed from making real headway on our move. I don’t have the physical energy to start this move and I certainly don’t have the emotional energy to reflect on the past two and a half years of beauty, hardship, and growth. I can’t think about insignificant books and toys when we have a global crisis going on in our cities and states. I can’t cook my way through the remaining food staples when I’ve spent the past month securing hundreds of dollars worth of food to feed our family.

My mind is constantly calculating risk. My thoughts are perpetually trying to simultaneously grapple with staying home and saying goodbye. I’m trying to prepare my home, my family, and my own heart for a major life transition but I can’t even let myself “go there” because I’m just trying to get through today– wading through daily COVID-19 case numbers and death tolls, curves that should be flattening, gubernatorial and presidential updates and task forces, as well as the extra layers or prevention and caution decreed by the DoD.

Does anyone else feel like they “can’t even” right now? I, for one, don’t feel equipped for all of what lies ahead. The grief and toll the past six weeks has taken on us has left us listless, exhausted, uninspired, and weary–the opposite of how we may feel we need to be preparing ourselves for a relocation across the country, or in many cases, across an ocean. 

What can we do when a PCS and a pandemic collide? I don’t have any real answers but here is what I’m telling myself. 

  • We will all get through this. We will. 
  • Life has changed and we are good at adapting. We have had years of practice.
  • There is only so much that we can control; it’s not much. Just focus on those few things.
  • Take it one day at a time.
  • Limit and minimize the voices and noise we are allowing in our homes and minds. 
  • Just do today. Tomorrow has its own worries. 
  • Homes, jobs, community, our faith, and friendships have sustained us where we are currently living and they will be waiting for us on the other side of our moves.
  • We will all get through this. We will. 


13 thoughts on “When a PCS and a Pandemic Collide

  1. Jennifer says:

    This helped me process through the listlessness I am feeling. I had already organized my meals to consume the contents of our pantry… our pack-out dates were April 6-8… Our fly-date was June 4.

    We had trips planned as a sort-of “finale” to our time in Europe to see emotionally and politically important locations: Anne Frank House, Corrie Ten Boom’s hiding place, Auschwitz.

    Today (April 26) was supposed to be our farewell at our Chapel that Matt co-leads with another chaplain.

    We are saying good-bye to friends who are retiring without actually SEEING them. (They aren’t affected by the Stop-move.)

    Your words helped release the floodgates of my tears, which I needed. I have been more in the “freeze” stage (in relation to fight/flight/freeze).

    I’ve been frozen to the point of even being able to write… so thank you. “Most won’t get to gather to say a proper goodbye or grieve the loss; a vital part, I’ve learned in getting proper closure at an assignment.” That statement, among others, matched my heart.

    I do hope we can someday meet in person.


    • Chrisilyn says:

      My heart goes out to all who have PCS during this time. I was a soldier and military spouse for many years. I cannot only imagine PCS’ing during these time. No hugs, no goodbyes to life long friends, no dinners…makes me sad.

      I would like to offer free referral services or real estate consultations to any military family relocating and is need. I have professional contacts all over the US and overseas near all military bases.
      Please my site below for contact information.


      I will always love my military family! God bless you all! – Chrisilyn


  2. Jean Williams says:

    This is a quote from a friend of my daughter’s, both of whom are nurses dealing with stresses in these unusual times.
    “Do you know what I don’t like about this time? The lack of choices. Everything that I am used to, my comfort zones stripped away and even my course of action is being determined by someone, someTHING else. I don’t like the uncertainty, hanging in limbo, trying to be patient… I’m not even a patient person.

    I have a few choices… I can choose to smile with my eyes even behind a mask, I can choose to be kind. I can choose to be brave for those who feel afraid and I can choose to be strong for those who can’t. That’s what I choose.”


  3. Megan says:

    I keep updating friends and family with “Pregnancy, PCS and Pandemic”. We sold our house, had our tickets and now live in limbo in a rundown military house, with none of our HHG, and old rental furniture, just waiting.. I’m 5 months pregnant with 2 kids that don’t have their toys and books. But we are surviving and as a family, we are some how thriving. Keeping my eyes up and communicating so much with my support system so I can be strong for my kids (and service member who feels helpless that we are in these conditions). We have only one choice but to get through this, we just are choosing to focus forward and positively, no matter what else gets thrown at us. Good luck this summer/fall.


  4. NIKKI L Schreiner says:

    This is so encouraging. We are in the same boat right now and I’ve kept asking myself why I’m having such a hard time with this, almost berating myself for struggling so much. It’s good to be reminded that this is HARD! That’s why I’m having a hard time, lol!


  5. Kim says:

    I just finished writing my first Bible Study. I was thinking I would finish writing it in quiet moments while my kids finished their last few weeks attending German school. We’ve been here three years and asked to extend and were told no. My husband is needed in a different billet Stateside. We were eating the food In the pantry, slowly wrapping things up, sports, music lessons and awaiting an April pack out. We had given notice to the landlord and schools and then we froze. With everyone else in Germany…watching life go on as normal in the US.

    My Bible Study would not get written in the quiet. It would be written now while kids learned to do school online (even though for their entire lives we’ve tried to keep them off line) and I tried to stay positive. Their worlds were all going to change soon enough let’s make this new normal as normal as possible before we uproot. So with four kids playing soccer, wrestling, singing, breathing in my space…I wrote. Oh, and rearranged the furniture months be for an overseas move so my husband had a home office to work from.

    As I read every word of what you so beautifully wrote I allowed the tears I have tucked deep down to bubble up and overflow. They dropped down my cheeks and a hiccup caught in my throat. This…and “when the world goes back to their normal (whatever that looks like)” my kids will have moved across and ocean and may meet new friends in online classrooms before they ever meet in person. I agree with Jennifer too, we didn’t get to say goodbyes well. The grieving part froze too. Until I read this.

    We found out last week my husband is exempt and we will move on schedule. We will leave Europe as planned in June. Our pack out is three weeks from today. With four kids the amount of books and toys and clothes and laundry and a pantry full of FOOD for LIFE! Oh my!

    I have finished my Bible Study and I lay on my couch now feet up and pray that God knows what tomorrow holds. Trusting that the title of my study becomes true of me! Finding Calm in the Midst of the Chaos! Yes! This is the name of the study I began writing 9 months ago!!! Really? Yep. And to be honest, I feel challenged to stay true to Him as I waver daily in my own highs and lows of emotion. He’s got me. He’s got us. We will be ok. “We will get through this. We will. “ And we will do it with grace for ourselves and our people. Amen!!!!


  6. Heidi Aponte says:

    This PCS season feels extra hard for us because moving here was traumatic so we seem to be getting it on both ends of this worst ever PCS. We arrived one month before a category 5 hurricane forced us into a 4 month evacuation and the loss of 80% of our household goods. Now, we are getting slapped in the back end with this virus. It wasn’t a proper hello and definitely not a proper goodbye. It sucks for everyone, but the uncertainty of the what’s next and the abrupt ending makes it even more difficult for those of us moving at this time. Good luck to you all!


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