She’s waited long enough for a response from me so we’ll just get right to the point with her question. It’s a really, serious question and I hope that many of you will help point me to new resources I can bring to everyone.
Q: Hello, my name is Lisa and my fiance is a firefighter/ paramedic and recently he has been struggling with the fact that every time he goes on shift something really awful happens. I have been trying to reach out and find him support. He just has a hard time talking to someone, like a therapist, who has no idea what it really feels like to go through these events. I was wondering if maybe you have any ideas of how i can get his mind off of all this. I was hoping there was some type of support group in our area but i havent been able to find one. I’m new at this and i was hoping for some good ideas. It worries me everyday when he’s always down due to a bad shift. Please help! Thank you.
A: First off, it’s important to get to know other people he works with. Whether it’s wives of those he works with or directly someone he works with. I say this because I had this same comment from a friends girlfriend and I’m so glad I could pass it on to my husband and get him help.
At times the guys forget that others haven’t been in the same situations. I know this particular event was a child fatality. My husband went through just about every horrible event you can do in his first year of volunteering. We just didn’t know that wasn’t normal…but I guess I’m glad it was our normal because we had to cope on our own for it. However, my son had just had an episode of craziness and our friend was associating with this first child fatality he witnessed.
Thankfully I have the connection with my hubby and I immediately said our BF was having a bad time. His girlfriend was fire as well so it’s not like she didn’t have some major clues about helping him. Come to find out there had been no debriefing for the event. We have had quite a few child events in that time so I can see where it can happen. But sadly it was our BF’s first child fatality so it really needed debriefing.
My stepping up and immediately passing on the info helped. I told hubby I didn’t want it known how it was passed on because I didn’t want any a-holes saying anything. That’s just not a spot you get to make fun of someone.
Now for other resources if the above is not an option. A therapist doesn’t have to go through any of the events, they do not have to actually understand the feelings to be of help. Therapy has nothing to do with the therapists feelings, it has to do with their skills at helping him work through HIS feelings. We have therapists available to us through the fire department and I’d recommend he talks to his Chief or HR to see if you do as well. Our therapists are also available to the fire family to my understanding.
As with any negative situations in life, help him remember the positives that happened at work as well. After listening to the stories he needs to get off his chest, work to pull out calls that he’s set aside because they were “routine” calls. Calls that they did save someones life by getting them help in time. Those are easy for them to overlook and it’s important for them to focus on how happy those people and their families are.
I found a great site for PTSD help for fire, police, ems called What is PTSD?
Then an even better site I found is FireStrong.org.
I also found some books that may help:
This is obviously an area that needs more free help put out there. I was disheartened to find nothing on the iaff website at all. I contacted some guys to see if I can find even more info.