What feels like a lifetime ago, I was sitting in a Battalion Steering Committee meeting when an older gentleman introduced himself as our new MFLC – Military & Family Life Counselor. It was 2009. I listened to his elevator pitch and learned about the relatively new program. Apparently, we’d be seeing him around now. He was assigned to the unit my husband was in, and he was “ours.” The unit’s dedicated counselor. At the time, I remember blowing him off a bit – or at least the concept of him.
Why do we need our own counselor? Doesn’t the base have counselors? Who is going to hang out with this guy at a unit function and spill the beans on life at home or their PCS challenges? Not this girl.
Six years later, I ate those words.
We were in Germany. The sweetest husband and wife MFLC therapy team joined the community. The wife in this dynamic duo was assigned to our unit, and I’d met her many times at unit functions. She was like your favorite aunt or your grandma. Just a sweet lady. She made you want to share. So, when the shit hit the fan in my life, in our life, I called her.
I used more than my ration of tissues as I absorbed her expertise to help me adjust to some happenings at home. I was adjusting to life abroad, grieving a pregnancy loss, missing my husband during his ever-demanding job, and navigating solo parenting. She was my lifeline. And she was perfect at it. No judgment, no records, no magic pills. Just honest conversation about what was hard in my life at that time.
I’m often guilty of being the person who feels terrible “complaining” about hardships. But, over time I’ve learned that getting in my own way serves no one, least of all myself or my family. I’ve learned that it is not brave or strong to pretend that solo parenting isn’t difficult, or that revolving-door friendships aren’t disappointing, or that missing your spouse during yet another training mission isn’t hard.
And when I was ready to stop pretending and start dealing, there she was. It wasn’t every day or even every week. And sometimes we’d go months before I’d steal more tissues from her office. But she was there, whenever I needed her. And she was free and confidential.
I continue to tell anyone who will listen how much I love this program. It’s often underutilized. If PCS, deployment, parenting, or life stress is keeping you from feeling clear-headed, seek out an MFLC.
I know all MFLCs are not all created equal, and when bearing your soul, connection matters. So, if you’ve tried and weren’t thrilled, try again. Try another person. And if your children are struggling, some locations have MFLCs dedicated to the schools. You don’t HAVE to see the MFLC assigned to your unit. Just call the community services office (ACS for the Army folks) and ask to talk to any of the MFLCs. They are such a gift to this community.
This $*%^ gets hard, for all of us, for different reasons. Let them help you!
To learn more about the program or your local services, check with your local community services organization or Military One Source.