After an Incident: A Police Wife's Role as Home Support
The scuffle on the other end of the strained voice helped muffle out the familiarity. I walked towards the scanner and politely shut it off. "I hope that poor guy gets help," I thought to myself.
The next morning as I busily prepared for the day, I realized my husband was running late coming home. Nothing out of the ordinary, but curious as to what he might have gotten himself into.
Just then, I noticed the patrol car pull up into the driveway. Wait! It wasn't my man driving, but another officer. Rick got out on the passenger side, his armed bandaged from thumb to elbow and resting in an over-the-shoulder sling.
I was about to find out that the voice on the other end of that cry for help, was none other than my man. He had been worked over by a drunk and desperate man. It could have been a lot worse, but even so, there were lasting repercussions. And, I was too young and naive to recognize the seriousness of it all.
So how do we help our spouse after a serious incident? How do we regain a sense of normalcy and order after a shooting, physical altercation, difficult crime scene, or serious accident?
Though I am no counselor, I have talked with a lot of other spouses and officers alike. I would say that the best response would incorporate the three L's: Listen, Learn, and Love.
1. Listen. It's pretty typical for the officer to not talk much about the incident. He may give you bits and pieces - enough to satisfy, for either reasons of security and protection, or may decide not to relive it over and over again. Chances are, he will be required to share it multiple times within the confines of the precinct, department, and/or prosecuting attorney's office, so he may come home and emotionally shut down.
Listen. It's important to be willing to wait for details to emerge. Allow him the opportunity to open up when he's ready. He may feel more comfortable in the beginning to talk with a fellow officer or Chaplain. Don't take offense to that. It's nothing personal. In time, he will probably open up with some of the details, so be ready to listen when those precious moments come.
2. Learn. Learn his body language and warning signals he may produce after a critical incident. At the first sign of depression, unwarranted agitation, or withdrawal from regular activities, the two of you may need to seek out professional help to deal with the aftermath. Too many cops bottle up their emotions, perceived failures, and fears, to the point of mental overload and extreme stress. Sadly, too many have taken their own life in order to alleviate the pain. Be ready to help him find help. Assure your officer that it is not weakness to talk to someone. It is extreme strength to recognize and admit limitations and the need for outside assistance.
3. Love. The Bible tells us that love covers over all wrongs, and that it fails not. Love can work wonders within a stressful situation. If your officer has been physically hurt, emotionally assaulted, or has had to use deadly force in a situation, the unconditional love from you, along with the sweet release of God's healing love, will definitely help ease the burden. Remember, love is not self-seeking or easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs, but always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13). Though it will be tough when he won't talk; hard when he seems sad and reflective; and burdensome when he's mentally a thousand miles away, remember that love will bring him back...eventually.
Well, those are just some observations from a fellow LEW (law enforcement wife). I'd love to hear your thoughts and any other suggestions you may have. :)
Blessings, sweet friend.