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Warriors Grieve Too

By Jaime Brower - May 2, 2018

“We choose to live a life of service.”  This is a heavy statement.  So many people do not know what their life’s purpose is, and yet, you, First Responders, know your purpose and it means devoting and many times giving your lives to serving and protecting.  This is a most noble and generous calling.

Although this devotion comes with the reward of “doing good unto others” and a living wage, it also comes at great costs and conflicts – missed birthdays, holidays and family events, long hours, sometimes deplorable conditions and daily risks of injury and death faced on the job. This is the norm, not the exception.

Furthermore, when a member of the First Responder community does lose his or her life, the grief journey is not like any other.  It is unique, because, like your military counterparts, people actually die ON the job.  First Responders dying in work-related incidents happen every day and sometimes in droves, and yet nothing stops because someone died.  Colleagues impacted by the event still have to carry out the mission, whether it’s to contain a fire, search and rescue, apprehend a predator or shooter, subdue a conflict or save others’ lives,.  In addition to your “regular” job, with a team member’s death you are often responsible for carrying out funeral protocols and family notifications. You don’t get to go home and start the grieving process, and there is no time or room for it on the job.  On top of that, the tragic event and the following funeral(s) are merely moments in time.  The service is beautiful and a time to remember a team member, but afterward, most attendees have to zip back to work and carry out their expected duties.  Consequently, First Responders have no time to recover from trauma or process the grief.

So, what is one supposed to do?

The long answer is …well, long, complex and different for everyone.  However, the short answer is, BE PATIENT.  Be patient with yourself if you are a First Responder.  Be patient with your First Responder if you are a spouse, family member or friend.  The grief journey is not a beautiful walk.  For First Responders, it is made up of short trips to hell and back when time permits.  Allow yourself or your First Responder these trips.  Allow the anger and the unanswerable why questions.  Why him or her?  Why not me?  Why now?  Be patient and allow the searching for answers. It is in this searching that the work of grief takes place, that healing takes place.  Patience is the one tool we all have.  It is a gift we all should give and receive.

“The strongest of all warriors is patience and time”  -- Leo Tolstoy

Stay safe.  -jb