We cannot let the fear of the storm be the sole focus of our eyes, our hearts, and our minds.
I'm not sure what my problem is today, but I am having serious anxiety about the anticipated Hurricane Florence. It may be that I've never dealt with having a two-year old (or any child) during a big storm, the fact that I am pregnant and my emotions/hormones feel out of whack and all over the place, or the fact that my husband will be serving his community DURING the storm. He is already scheduled to be on shift for two of the big "storm expectancy" days and there is a good chance they may keep him there or he may stay during the storm to ensure he can report for duty and be available for overtime. It's never bothered me this much. I always KNEW that a storm coming probably meant he'd be gone for most of it. I know that no matter the weather, he IS going to work.
Something just feels different. My heart is racing and palms are sweating a little more this time. Maybe it's from reading and watching news reports, seeing the panic in people's eyes as they stock up on water and batteries, or perhaps just the feeling of not knowing how my husband is doing while he is out working IN the storm. We cannot let the fear of the storm be the sole focus of our eyes, our hearts, and our minds.
I just want you to know that today, I am praying for you too. I am praying for you should you be facing any anxiety about your first responder or for the storm in general. If you are a parent, I know that adds to the stressors of storms - whether your children are near or far. Perhaps your spouse is out of town and you have to hold down the fort alone or you are out of the country will your spouse holds down the home front.
Storms do something to us - sometimes they help us realize that "home" is not just possessions, it's being with the people we love and hold close to our hearts. I am repeating this verse over and over today because this anxiety cannot control me - 2 Timothy 1:7, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
Someone once said that, "Both faith and fear sail into the harbor of your mind, but only faith should be allowed to anchor."
I don't want to harbor the fear, but let faith be the anchor of my soul.
If you are prone to anxiety like me, take these steps with me:
When you are married to a first responder, you often notice when the job takes a toll on your significant other. Physical, emotional, and even spiritual tolls. They call it an "occupational hazard." While my husband is really good at processing trauma and the things he sees on a shift by shift basis, there are some situations that are completely horrifying and just leave you speechless. I cannot even begin to comprehend some of things people do to themselves and to other people. It can be especially horrifying and difficult to process when traumatic situations involve children. Sometimes I have a difficult time processing the mere idea of what he has seen. My heart hurts for what goes on under our very noses. My heart hurts for the children that are beaten. My heart is severely burdened for those who are addicted to drugs. I can't even imagine how the first responders themselves feel.
What we often forget is that sometimes the "helpers" need help. A few years ago, when I was in Graduate school, as part of my MA in Crisis Response & Trauma, I did a project on PTSD, Coping & Effects of Crisis Response Workers. I wanted to share some insights from the research/project, with the hopes that we can have a better understanding of processing and defining trauma:
Job Description of a Crisis Response Worker
Risk of Being a Crisis Response Worker
When a Life is Lost
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Steps to Change / Taking Action!
Once you have a firefighter in your family, your family and the families from his crew become one big extended family. -Denis Leary
Today was a great day! I have not taken Liam to visit his daddy at the fire station in a long time, because Russ is hardly ever just hanging out at the station. My husband works in a very busy area and is pretty much go-go-go on his 24 hour shifts. Liam and I decided to make the trek to the station because Liam is completely smitten with firetrucks right now (and we are both pretty smitten with daddy too!). All he wants to do is play with 4 or 5 firetrucks at a time. The other day I heard sirens during his naptime and after quickly checking outside for signs of a firetruck or smoke, I realized that Liam snuck one into his bed and was playing with it instead of sleeping. His daddy would be very proud, to say the least.
When we visited, Russ' engine company received a few calls, so we waited a few minutes to see if he would return to the station pretty quickly. This happened twice so we had the opportunity to visit with some of our fire family. I forget how truly different the station is (at least the ones at his station) when it comes to making you feel like family. They do. They do not treat people like outsiders or ignore them - they are kindhearted, welcoming people who are so natural at talking with people. I mean, they make people feel comfortable for a living while they are on medical calls. They try to calm family members during serious calls. Sometimes they have to deliver bad news on the scene of a crisis. It is exhaustive list of possibilities, as anyone in the first response/medical field can attest to.
I was reminded that we, too, can follow their example of dealing with people. To make people feel comfortable and welcome, no matter who they are or what they look like. To be seen as someone who tries to make peace wherever they go, no matter what they are doing. We will always encounter angry people, people who are having a bad day, and people who are just downright frustrated with life. Maybe we can help brighten their day. Bring hope, a small act of kindness, or a smile during their difficult moments. The words of Ghandi ring loudly in my ear tonight, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
Thank you, to our first responders, for working so diligently to help bring peace to a broken world.
We salute all of our first responder heroes and their families - thank you for making a difference.
If you are married to a first responder of any kind, then you have probably had one of "those" gut-wrenching moments. One of the moments where your heart feels like it's on fire. It begins to pound so violently with fear that you feel like it is literally going to come out of your chest. Your hands become sweaty. Your legs suddenly become limp. I have had a few of these moments thus far in my husband's firefighting/EMT career. There was the time I received a text that he was at a bomb threat with no response from him after the initial text until the next day. There was also the time he was on shift and I heard that horrific and violent protests were going on and that those on shift were preparing to be on scene. There was also the morning where he did not return home when he usually does and I could not make contact with him - come to find out, at that time, he was held over to work another shift.
Fortunately, since the scare of the bomb threat text, he guards my heart from a lot of panic. The times where he is heading into burning buildings. The times when he is present on the scene where violence has/is occurring. The times where he is working on gunshot victims, pulling bodies from a burning building, drug overdoses, car fires, helping abused children, dealing with rape victims, or well, you get the point. First responders see SO much, day in and day out. When I say "first responders," I know that my mind cannot even begin to grasp all that our police and firefighters/EMT's see on a daily basis.
But, for now, I want to encourage YOU - the wife of a first responder:
It is NOT easy knowing that your husband, the father of your children, your soulmate, your best friend is risking their life for someone else. It is NOT easy wondering what they are dealing with for those 24 hours straight (or whatever shift your man has). We CAN pray, trust, and try to be strong for our children. We can also continue to work hard when they are gone to give them less to worry about while on shift. “Hold down the fort!” We chose this life together and while it can be scary, it can also be so rewarding. We can be the one to help our spouse mentally prepare for their next shift. We can be their sounding board when they have different traumas or frustrations they need to get off their chest. We can be patient when they are running on no sleep.
We must try to be patient with them and remember that what they see is not always something we can grasp. I cannot imagine pulling a body out of a burning building of someone who is barely breathing and burned so badly you can not identify them. I cannot imagine holding the hand of a child who just saw one of their parents get shot.
The world can be a cruel, cruel place - so let us work together and support one another to create a home environment that feels safe, warm, and secure for our first responders. A place they do not have to worry about when they are on shift.
I am praying for you tonight and always. I am excited about the thought of creating a safe space for us to support one another.
I want to leave you with this poem by Tammi Conway called "The Life of a Fireman's Wife" - but this is for all first responder wives - you are ALL important, treasured, and valued. And police wives - you have a whole different level of things they have to deal with, and boy do we applaud YOU. My husband has NOTHING but respect and kind things to say about our police officers. They often protect him when he is working on a dangerous scene, so thank YOU.
"Every time I hear the sirens wail
Lizzy Christian received her Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling - Crisis Response and Trauma from Liberty University's Graduate School. Lizzy started her career as a High school Athletic Director and transferred over as a School Counselor to follow her passion for helping the hurting. She is married to a Firefighter/EMT who is working toward his last few phases of becoming a Paramedic. Liz is a contributing writer to Start Marriage Right and was also published with Relevant Magazine.