LODD’s are never easy but sometimes they feel devastating. When it seems like it could have been prevented. When we can hear the awful maydays on the radio traffic play backs (never listen to those as a fire wife by the way. That’s my recommendation. No good comes out of replaying the past in your head.)
It’s those cases where there is first great hope. “He’s trapped but we’re going to get him” and then it ends with the worst possible outcome.
Our private membership community for fire wives can really be affected by LODDs as it’s likely that one of our many members is personally affected. It hits pretty close to home when just 12 hours ago we were all bantering about fun conversation and now we are somber and reflecting on death.
These emotional roller coasters are common in the lives of our firefighters and wives. I can go to work for 2 months in my office and hardly elevate my blood pressure over any topic. But my husband will text me about a pediatric call or house fire and my heart races away. And in the case of a death, my heart sinks. Even when it’s a stranger. But the hum drum day-to-day life goes on around me as if nothing changed. There is like zero awareness unless I share and when I do, it brings an uncomfortable silence around the room. My co-workers just aren’t used to facing life and death on a daily basis.
You can’t deny that every time there is a LODD, you run through the game plan in your head. What if it was me?
What if it was someone at his station? I confess that I go through a little brain game where I think about what that widow must be feeling like right now in this moment. And the next day. And the next day. And the planning the funeral day. And the funeral itself. And a few weeks later when she might be finally alone in her thoughts.
I have found much personal growth in myself by learning to recognize this pattern. Learn from it. Grow from it. It is a necessary part of the grieving process but I think we sometimes forget how much energy and strain it puts on our bodies.
You must plan some time for your personal recovery a few days after the event has passed.
After you’ve gone through your cycle of emotions. After you’ve dissected it in conversation with your friends. After you’ve cried. After you’ve stayed strong for your husband and for your kids. After you’re done praying for strength to get your through. Your body is simply exhausted and needs to be renewed.
#1 most important thing for you to do is to NOT get down on yourself for feeling exhausted and not staying strong. You are human.
Sister you WERE strong. And you still are. Every warrior has rest and recovery. No one goes non-stop always.
One of the biggest productivity tips I learned recently is that there is that it doesn’t matter what method I use to track and micro-manage my to do list and track my hours and watch the clock. What matters the most in my productivity is watching my energy levels.
If I have an especially busy and emotional morning, don’t try to pack 6 more hours of writing into the afternoon.
If I’m throwing a birthday party on Sunday afternoon, my Monday better include some of my normal Sunday rest and relax time.
So if there is a LODD that hits particularly close to home, immediately re-construct your to do list and add
- talk to my husband
- extra playtime with my kids
- read a book and relax
Go to bed earlier. Cancel that extra event and stay home for more family time. It sounds trite but we do want to hug them a little tighter and a little longer.
And the next time he does leave for his shift, you know it crosses your mind again. Be ready for it and punch fear in the face. Don’t let it zap your energy with worry.
You will keep your firefighter safer when you stand strong and face a LODD with grace and dignity and don’t collapse in a pile of tears in his lap.
Why? Because he needs to go to work and focus on his safety and doing his job well. If he left you at home in a pile of tears, his mind is not going to be fully on the job. Don’t deny or hide your emotions but learn to deal with them. Find support groups of women like the Fire Wife Sisterhood to help get you through these times.
Recognize your needs fire wives. Find another fire wife who gets this because your neighborhood friends, sister in law or fellow soccer mom will possibly not connect on the same level, nor understand why the death of this “stranger” is so impactful.
You ARE strong. And don’t let emotional exhaustion tell you otherwise. Kick those ugly thoughts right of your brain.
And when you don’t feel that way, confess to your Fire Wife sisters and we’ll take the load for awhile.