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5 stages of PCS grief

PCS
U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. J.D. Strong II

Famed psychologist Elizabeth Kubler Ross established five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We're pretty confident she was talking about the loss of a loved one or dealing with your own mortality, but we're also pretty sure the stages can be applied to PCSing.

Moving is definitely traumatic. Especially when you actually like where you're stationed… Here are the five stages of grief as applied to PCSing.


Denial

It only took a year, but you've figured out what light switch controls which lights and where the optimal place for the couch is in your house; the sandwich shop down the street knows your order; and your kids actually have friends and somehow like it where you are. Ah, military moving complacency.

Sucker.

Just when you're feeling settled, it's time to go. Not just a river in Africa my friends, denial is real. If you hear yourself say, "There's a good chance we could stay here," or "I'm not ready to move yet," or some iteration of lying to yourself or your family that it's really happening, then welcome to this phase.. Step one of any sort of self help program is to admit you have a problem.

Anger

Phase two of the PCS grief cycle is anger. In case you missed it, moving sucks.

You're mad you have to leave your friends.

You're upset the military is disrupting your kids' school year.

You're furious that the barber you finally found who doesn't make it look like you lost a bet every two weeks can't come with you.

PCSing is for the birds and you want no part of it. Welcome to anger, my friend. But before you put your fist through a wall or drowned your sorrows in some low shelf bottle from the package store, try to take a deep breath and know that the pain is only temporary. It has to get better. In theory.

Bargaining

Oh the joys of bargaining. This is the part of the process where you are begging your detailer for anywhere but 29 Palms or Minot. The back and forth of yes, I'll take a worse assignment to avoid that location is legit.

The PCS tango is a real dance and we've seen it first hand. If you've ever bartered a few months for a different location, you know exactly what we're talking about.

Depression

If you've ever watched poker, you know this moment well: when the player has thrown in their last chip and all the cards are on the table. The poker face doesn't matter anymore - they've lost.

Instant sadness, regret, remorse (basically all the synonyms for depression) sets in. You're moving. It's the worst.

You're overwhelmed with the ten thousand tasks and the reality of your situation. It's sad, boo. We get it. You're allowed to sit in the sadness for a few minutes. Because before you can get to the final phase of acceptance, you have to go through these other steps.

Acceptance

The last phase of grief is acceptance. It might be the moment you text your parents to tell them where you're heading, or after you sit down with the kids with your bravest (fakest?) "this will be a great adventure!" face.

PCSing is hard on an individual and a family. But if you go into it with a mindset that it could be the next great chapter in your story, chances are it will be. And, luckily for us, PCSgrades has incredible resources to make sure that's the case. From advice on where to live, moving companies to use and avoid and more information on your new location than you ever thought would be possible, they've got you covered.

Visit PCSgrades today to move from grieving to getting excited.

This post sponsored by PCSgrades.

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