Monica Bobbitt shares her tale of resilience
On Nov. 29, guest speaker Monica Bobbitt was at the Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre (PMFRC) to share her personal experience of courage and resilience following the loss of her husband who died in a military training exercise in 2014. After her speech, Bobbitt was presented with a gift by PMFRC deployment support programmer Allison Simmonds (right).
PETAWAWA – Military spouses are our unsung heroes and heroines.
Whether a husband or a wife, these men and women provide the strength and support that empowers and encourages so many of our military personnel and veterans.
Just as military members are honoured for the sacrifices they make for our country, military spouses must be praised just the same for the sacrifices they must make for their family.
Each year, when their husband or wife has departed on a training exercise in Wainwright or a deployment overseas, these military spouses must endure the challenges of loneliness and separation as they bravely wait for their spouses to come home while independently taking care of their families and their households.
With deployments and exercises lasting as long as six to nine months, these spouses are home alone as they work to juggle errands, take care of their children, cook meals, do shopping, manage the budget and tend to appointments – having no communication with their significant other albeit a brief phone call over a spotty Wifi connection every few days.
Unlike the military, there is no basic training that prepares someone for their life as a military spouse. Being a military spouse is a marriage to the military itself, and with it comes many new hurdles and learning curves.
Above all, loneliness and separation are the most difficult challenges that accompany every military relationship, but a much more frightening factor – which is less certain, but always present – is the risk of loss.
Such a loss was experienced by Monica Bobbitt and her family back in 2014.
At the time, Bobbitt and her family were living in Petawawa as her husband Lt.-Col. Dan Bobbitt was the commanding officer of 2 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (2RCHA).
Up until then, Bobbitt had already been a military spouse for 20-plus years and had supported her husband through countless exercises, courses and three deployments.
While Bobbitt had learned how to cope with many of the challenges that come with being a military spouse, nothing could have prepared her for the frightening reality she faced in 2014 as she heard the news that her husband was killed in a training accident in Wainwright, AB.
That night, Bobbitt’s life was forever changed as she had to quickly learn how to cope and live with her ‘new normal’.
On Nov. 29, the Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre hosted a special Coffee Chat during which dozens of military spouses had the opportunity to hear Bobbitt’s personal tale of courage, resilience, and strength.
“My husband died on a Wednesday, an average, ordinary day in middle of the week. His death was completely unexpected and random. I wasn't waiting for my doorbell to ring, not on that day. Dan wasn't deployed to some far off, war-torn country. Instead he was on a six week training exercise in Alberta,” Bobbitt began. “He'd been on countless exercises before and had always come home safe. It never occurred to me to worry he wouldn't come home this time. In fact my first words after they told me were, ‘What are you talking about? He's only on an exercise.’ His LAV had rolled over at the bottom of a hill, crushing him in the turret.”
Despite being a military wife for more than 20 years, Bobbitt expressed that nothing could have prepared her for widowhood following the loss of her husband.
“The military spends a lot of time preparing soldiers to go to war but not much time is spent preparing wives to become widows. They don’t issue us joining instructions when we are widowed,” said Bobbitt. “In all of those pre-deployment briefs, ironically even including one Dan held for his own regiment before they deployed to Wainwright, no one ever said to me: ‘this is what is going to happen when you are widowed’. I woke up that morning a wife and went to bed that night a widow; lost, frightened, full of uncertainty.”
According to Bobbitt, of all of the information that she had been given over the years, there was nothing to prepare her for all of the countless meetings, difficult decisions, endless paperwork and numbing exhaustion that followed her husband’s death.
“I didn’t know that I would carry a death certificate in my purse for the next two years or that I would use my marriage certificate more the year after Dan died then I ever did when we were married, now there is some irony for you,” she said. “I never knew that I’d get in my car one day to go the grocery store but find myself in the drive thru at Tim Horton’s instead, crying because I couldn’t get the words out to order the coffee that I didn’t even want.”
When looking for books and information on the subject of widowhood, Bobbitt could find hardly anything that provided support for people who lose their spouse in their younger years.
“As I searched for information on what to expect over the next year, I discovered that most books and websites are written for older widows,” said Bobbitt. “There was nothing to tell me what to really expect, I had to figure that out for myself as I went along. I had absolutely no idea how difficult starting my life over at forty-three was going to be.”
Without a handbook to help her navigate through the worst crisis of her life, Bobbitt expressed that it was the act of writing that helped her to heal and led her to found her personal blog – A Goat Rodeo.
Through the blog, Bobbitt documented her personal journey of grief, healing and acceptance following her husband’s death.
According to Bobbitt, the blog – which she maintains to this day – has helped her to process her grief and has allowed her to connect with and share her experiences with other military spouses and widows.
Bobbitt stressed that no one can truly understand someone’s loss unless they’ve suffered a similar loss; but even then, everyone’s grief will be different, because we are different people.
“I’ve spent a lot of time talking to the partner of the soldier that was killed in a training accident in April, because our husbands went through a similar accident. But they’re not the same and we're not the same; because she didn't have children and she was in the military, while I had children and I wasn't in the military,” said Bobbitt. “If you can, try to connect with somebody who has experienced something similar.”
In order to truly cope and accept this ‘new normal’ following the loss of a spouse, Bobbitt expressed the importance of accepting widowhood but not allowing it to be all-consuming and rather to view it as one aspect of your much larger self.
“I am a mother, daughter, sister, friend, military widow, writer, speaker, student, and an advocate. I am all of those things and so much more,” said Bobbitt. “But most importantly, I am exactly who I have chosen to be, not who the world told me to be.”
For today’s military spouses, Bobbitt encourages them to be prepared to cope with the possibility of loss and widowhood, by developing strong and supportive relationships within the military community and being aware of local resources available to them (such as, the Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre).
To learn more about Monica Bobbitt’s story and to connect with her, visit her blog at www.agoatrodeo.com