The Five Phases of Homecoming: A Guide for Veterans and Their Loved OnesImage - Military

Throughout this website we have emphasized that recovery from disasters is a process, and not an event.  It takes time and requires personal meaning-making adaptation to change.  As with other processes, having a “map” or a guide can help us in navigating the territory.  Here are some guidelines to help veterans and their loved ones during the homecoming process. 

Many veterans and their families merely assume that homecoming will go well, or “hope” that it will.  But preparing for homecoming, and having a sense of where veterans and their families are in the process, can help you all meet the challenges you and your family may encounter.   The five phases of homecoming are as follows:

1. Anticipation  2. Reunion   3. Realization of Changes  4. Acceptance  5. New Normal


Phase 1: The Anticipation Phase

This phase can begin as soon as the service member leaves for deployment and is sometimes the single most important motivation for coping with life’s challenges while they serve and anticipate eventual homecoming.  Similarly, loved ones are anticipating the veteran’s return, and this anticipation is the beginning of the homecoming process.

Phase 2: The Homecoming Reunion Phase

This phase can be both exhilarating and terrifying for all involved. So many wants, needs, and expectations are present but not clearly defined.  We have included information elsewhere on this website to assist with this reunion process.

Phase 3: The Realization of Changes Phase

Veterans and their loved ones become aware of this phase when they begin to realize fully the subtle and significant changes that have occurred in family or system members, and in the context in which the family or system resides, during the time apart from each other.  Change is a necessary and unavoidable part of the military experience -- and of the human condition in general.  During this phase it will be helpful to try to not label change and growth as positive or negative. In reality, the only thing that is definite is change; all people grow and adapt to cope with their surroundings. The key to dealing with these new realizations in order to move to the next phase of homecoming is effective communication.

Phase 4: The Acceptance and Adaptation Phase

Once we take the time to observe and acknowledge the reality that the veteran has been apart and has returned, and that changes have occurred in him or her and in the family system, it is up to us to learn how to grow and accept these changes so that we can then begin to adapt to them. Acceptance allows us to move to the next phase of homecoming.  Some of this process involves grieving the old ways of being and moving toward acceptance of the fact of military involvement and its consequences for veterans and their families.

Phase 5: The “New Normal” Phase

We begin to enter this phase when we feel a settling awareness that our time apart and individual experiences have created a new and different understanding of what is now normal for ourselves and others.  

Homecoming is a process, not an event, and it occurs over time.  Knowing the phases of homecoming can help veterans and their families adjust to the realities of the military service experience.

Web Links

veterans crisis line The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Our Mission: IAVA’s mission is to improve the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.

This is the information for Georgia’s largest provider of VA services and the web site address

  • Atlanta VA Medical Center
  • 1670 Clairmont Road Decatur, GA 30033
  • Phone: (404) 321-6111 hrs. 8:00a.m-4:30p.m.
  • Website 2
  • 4-hour VA suicide hot line : 1-800-273-TALK

This is a resource to help veterans and families with information about the signs and symptoms of suicide ideation.

This is a link provided by the US army for soldiers that help with some information on stress, suicide facts, and some veteran benefits that are available.

Welcome Back Veterans is resource to help welcome back veteran returning from deployment.

Homeless Veterans Reintegration Project this is a resource to help find homes for our disabled veterans in need of shelter.