About Us l Advertising l Magazine l Newsletter l Contact Us l Instagram
Home>Topics>>Dealing with a Line-of-Duty Death (LODD)

Dealing with a Line-of-Duty Death (LODD)

Thu, 29 Jul 2010|

This free training program from the Firefighters Support Foundation, presented by Dr. Ellen Kirschman, helps prepare responders for psychologial issues arising from a line-of-duty-death.



Really fortunate today to have doctor -- -- with -- us. She's been -- public safety professional psychologist for thirty years. Threatened to classic books in the field. I -- a firefighter and I have a -- both targeted at the families of these professionals but there are a great farmers for people considering getting into the field. And -- you've you've done much else and you worked for so many agencies I can remember at all -- want to just tell -- -- bit more about your background. -- first. Things that I'd like people to know is that I am not married to me cop. Or to a firefighter I wouldn't. Considered doing -- that's been my profession I'm married to a remodeling contractor and nobody wants to read books about remodeling contractor. I wrote those books because I -- professionally. That. Families didn't have enough information that they were married and did his job and it was going to affect their entire life I'll. And there's a lot of ways in which cops and firefighters don't talk to their families about what goes on -- work. So I wrote these books in order to better inform the families because -- warned it is for armed. I should -- I know that personally because my brother was a volunteer firefighter Ford number of years and he never talked about the job either. I've also. Done a lot of work I've been training peer support teams in both fire departments and police departments in -- that Drug Enforcement Administration. And currently I spend almost all of my time going around the country and around the world -- -- Giving -- chops to cops and firefighters. About how. To take care of themselves psychologically so that they had a long shelf life. In these professions and that might do workshops for couples fire fighters and there. Families and police officers and their families so that we. Can help them strengthen the resilience they already happened there and the -- that job doesn't damage their family lives. And then I also work with clinicians who are working with these first responder populations as well. And the last thing I think I want to mention is my volunteer work I spend about a month or more. A year have volunteering at a place called the West Coast post trauma retreat. Which easily retreat for emergency. Workers. Cops firefighters dispatchers. Sometimes some military people. Who are suffering with post traumatic stress this what are and also we have a section. -- retreat for spouses. People who are in the emergency services it's a place for them to come and to heal from their post traumatic arrest so. How was the death of a police officer or firefighter. Different for the family. Then the death votes. Someone is not a police officer heart -- to this. Well I think there are a lot of things that I differently firefighter police officer dies in the line of duty. As compared to the general population and one of them of course -- the enormous pageantry of the funeral in the great media attention. And the fact that you know the fire trucks on every overpass. And hundreds if not thousands of people showing up. At the funeral it becomes a public event which is some time as Mary. Helpful and supportive to the family and sometimes is absolutely overwhelmed. And I think that many people who've lost somebody in the line of duty remember those days. In the days and it's very hard to. Take it -- -- so overwhelming. In scale and that something that general public that. You and I don't have to do. I'm not sure that there's any way prepare for this but I certainly would hope that departments would include an -- for the family. The opportunity. To be -- that kind of planning which is a very difficult thing to do when you are. In the middle. Of the Q grieving for someone that you just lost and you may still be. -- and you still may be in shock. But the family's wishes. Should be. Number one in terms of the considerations. And I think that I don't know how people can prepare for that except that -- -- perhaps that it's coming and that. There are so many people leaving this -- and it's also a statement that the public. As well. That they have to share their very private grief and such a public way. Because sharing this private lost in such a public way it is. Is very challenging in -- in my experience. Having dealt with this and many more times than I wanted to. I think it is different for every single family and almost everything I'm going Sadie -- -- one have to take into consideration at all people in different. Some people the feel totally supportive I had someone tell me that the emails. Hundreds of emails that she received over the phone was like soft rain falling on her it felt very very comforting. And other people feel list of those that after the publicity he's gone. Actors the intense interest and support at the beginning they feel as though they had just been. Abandon if there is nothing. No follow up and -- continuation. -- we also have to remember -- that most people have their own natural support system their own. Real fan -- not work families and are not as dependent upon the work family to four support. So in each case it would. Depend on the kind of natural support that that. Grieving family had. As to how they'll react to the loss of all the publicity when it turns someplace else as it always well. And one hand. War the loss of -- loved one uses anti humans. Experience. We will all happen in our lives unfortunately we will all lose somebody that we love and ultimately we will grow old and lose our own lives. So. I find it in working with the emergency response profession. There is something we call a -- We are different from other people. But at the same time there's a kind of -- dilemma because we're also the same as everyone else. So I I note to say is that. -- things are true that that pain in the -- and the loss and the difficulty losing somebody that you love. Will be the same for all human beings will be shared kind of experience. And yet there are certain things about being in the emergency response profession. That aren't unique and one of those of courses that -- of publicity. The pageantry around funerals. If there is -- mountain. An officer is murdered and there -- a trial that takes a long time afterwards. That's different kind of I'm going. Continuity. That. Same thing if there is a terrible tragic accident. Like we saw when that furniture store collapse on the fire fighters or. September 11 since we've just recently passed -- anniversary of that eight. That. Is very different from somebody who's dies not -- that an enormous one incident in which may be blame and fault and constant and investigation and trying to figure out what happened. That makes things anything that brings media attention of course makes it more challenging and difficult. From a practical point of view what can families do to prepare. For the loss of their firefighter police officer Ian -- -- When into things that I have found that because most emergency responders. Are relatively young people. They don't want to consider the fact that they might get hurt or killed in the line of duty. It's kind of difficult to. Consider that and actually start to prepare for. That there are definitely things it would make -- unlikely possibility. And I'd like to stress unlikely possibility that -- person would be killed in the line of duty. -- make it easier if it happened if certain things have already been handled. Such -- as having will such as having a personal information. Form about what you were requests would be should you be killed in the line of duty. For example. If there's somebody that you would prefer to make the notification to your family. And you don't want it automatically revert to your supervisor but you want it to be your best friend. Then you have to have that written down if you prefer to be cremated not buried. You have to have that written down if you need to let you or make sure everybody in your family knows where all important papers are. Where the money is with bank account numbers are all of those kinds of detailed information is very important where your kids go to school. Who should pick your kids up from school who should notify your kids and the story in -- firefighter book about firefighter who. Had done this kind of work and so when he was killed in the line of duty. He is department knew that his parents didn't speak English they spoke only Spanish. So they could -- and I have person a Spanish speaking firefighter. To the home or with of that chief I think that the chief didn't make -- notification but they sent somebody Spanish speaking to the home. And they also brought along a paramedic because. They knew that this firefighters father had a serious heart condition. Those are the kind of things that can really make a very very difficult time a little easier. When he public safety professional -- oftentimes they're eligible for certain kinds of benefits. That that normal people wouldn't be. And there are some resources available. -- to help him with that there. Ralph. Firefighters and police officers are normal people. What is different is that if you're selling insurance or you who are working in the grocery. You won't have the kind of national support our benefits that will -- -- the first responders. Win a police officers killed in the line of duty in organization -- concerns of police survivors sort cop for short. Will be notified and they are -- group of survivors that will come in and provide all kinds of emotional support. Legal advice advice about benefits as well as an absolutely wonderful retreats. For grieving parents -- -- spouses grieving children siblings coworkers are terrific organization. When a firefighter is. Paramedic is killed in the line of duty the organization called the national fallen. Firefighters foundation will also provide those same kind of support services and information both about the emotional aspects of -- And some of that practical things. About money. And entitlements. When a child loses a public safety professional parent. How's it different from now. Compared to. Other children losing. A parent not professions. It's very important when you are an emergency responder -- -- on direct conversation with your children. Because they get sound terribly inaccurate information. Television and from other kids in the schoolyard will be saying all your mom's a cop. Well she's gonna get killed because all cops get killed. So I think it's important to keep your kids informed. As much detail as they can handle at the -- that there act and I would emphasize the fact that. Officers and firefighters and medics get trained up very well they do safety training if you can bring him down and show them the kind of training. That they have. Available so that they're not frightened. Little children want to know that if something happened to mom my dad on the job they want to know that they're gonna go to answers -- house. They can bring their pajamas and their Teddy bear they need that kind of information about their own comfort in their own safety. Older children of course can take -- more. Adult discussion of the relative risks. Which again I would emphasize. Are probably less than most people think that they are so that the kids need to have an accurate point of view. They also need to know how to deal with those kinds of tales that happen in the schoolyard to pat McGee could rehearse something with about what to. Say when a kid -- all your dad's gonna get killed. What about the parent should public safety professionals be doing anything to prepare their parents for. A potential wanted to be just. So -- -- -- -- public safety I would required that you -- department in the United States hold a family orientation for the families. Emergency responders that would include spouses. Parents siblings friends and probably. -- Children and maybe not little told although he could do that too. -- -- -- because when you don't have accurate information. About training about risk about injuries about potential line of duty death. It's our human tendency to kind of imagine then fill in with our own worst case scenarios. I find when I do family orientation as I have done quite frequently. That. The parents of emergency responders are almost more worried -- spouses. And you know that's a natural thing that parents feel they need to protect their children even when their children are. -- I've I've been on -- panel with. Many people who are married to police officers whose. Children then become police officers and they will say out front. I'm never worried about my wife -- my husband the way I wary about my son or my daughter. So it's it's it's a different. Parents carry that kind of responsibility. And I think all members of the family. Are helped by having information by coming in sitting in a patrol car going on -- -- along watching. And fire ground training. Watching you know alive -- whatever they can. Hat whatever they can learn that's accurate substantial. Is gonna help them with of wild imaginations and worst case scenarios that may keep them up. Don't tell us a little bit about. The grieving process in general after a loved one dies. Well again with the caveat that this every family use unique and everyone will be different I think it depends upon the circumstances. Of the line of duty death. Would -- or somebody was actually murdered on the job or her died in an accident. That those circumstances. Will. Influence how. Did the grieving process goes. As well as what kind of preparation that department -- and what kind of ongoing support pay half for the surviving family. But in -- well. Grieving is just like being on a roller coaster. Alternating. Phases of feeling angry at. God angry at that department angry at that person who'd died for abandoning you. Angry at yourself forward not happening said good -- to that person that morning or. I had a child tell me once that they always prayed for daddy in the morning and they forgot. Asked their guardian Angel and then daddy. -- they felt terribly guilty. And phases of thinking that the person you lost I had another -- needs that she thought she saw her son. On the street many times and it was telling herself that he wasn't -- dead even though she had seen his body. But that he was actually -- -- and one of these days he was just gonna walk in the door and tell her that that case was over and he was. Back again so this there can be a feeding -- some people would be absolutely crazy. Of having some supernatural. Occurrences. Happen. -- firefighters wife recently told me after he died. Work related illness that she and found a bird and her yard which she thought was a message from. Her husband so these and she's not the kind of person who was that spiritual. So it you have to look at your seek help because it's an enormous. An enormous roller coaster. Depression. Guilt anger all those things that I just mentioned. It's very important. To have support and help. But not -- help that's offered is the kind help that person needs. So they can be departments I think that emergency responders can be a big family and they can be very helpful. Sometimes it can be too -- they don't give -- enough privacy. They don't give you enough space all the wanted to do was talk about the person who died and not about -- survivors concerns. Or they're gonna come and take your children to their Little League game every single week. And they over promised something out of their own concern initially and they can't follow through and then you feel -- angry and upset. Or they do follow through all the time so -- I've seen a variety of things happen to families. It's just important to know that there is this roller coaster and your feelings will change almost the moment to moment and the best you can do. Is try to get through the day one thing at a time one day at -- time. If I'm a colleague. Or a -- Of of someone that's been killed one of duty. What can I do or what have you seen gone to make it worse for the -- are -- out of ignorance or perhaps even good intentions. That's -- great quest. Emergency responders. Are action oriented people and problem solve it. So they want to get in there and do something. And though I think what can be damaging to a family is to not. Consult with the family about what they want done but it just get in -- parents start -- This is probably silly example -- papering the bathroom. Painting the house mowing the lawn -- Doing something with. -- surviving children with -- having checked with the surviving parent to see if that's what they want done. Making. Funeral arrangements that without consulting the fan. Now it's certainly there are times when families are so distraught they cannot make any decisions. At that time then you have to ask is that all right if I make this decision for you. How come it let me. Do that then check back with you again making them the most damaging thing you can do out of the best intentions. Is to take over. Another way that I have seen departments. Inadvertently. Caused problems for families is win the question comes up about. Viewing. A body. That person may have. As they died in the line of duty their bodies may be burned mutilated. And some way. That. Pretty. Awful. And so the department will say look what we don't think you should see the body there's been up in a plane crashed in the bodies would be destroyed. That this out of that's done out of the best of intentions -- -- what we do know is that some families really want to leave the body they want to. Sit with the body in -- -- -- that and they want a private moment to say goodbye and if they're not permitted to do that. He -- an -- that never goes away its fuel sold on finished -- And sometimes viewing the body really helped bring home the reality. That this person is in fact truly dead and gone. So. I think the decision has to rest with the fan now there a couple of things one can do to sort of -- that or. Rather prepare the family. You can of course explain. The state in which the body is again you can't cover parts of the body. That are mutilated or -- and I've heard that some people even will take a photograph. Of the body and show it to the family first. Asking them if they want to make that decision because it's minute your eyes -- That in a photo. But I actually believe that's as awful as the body may be it is really important that that decision. He left with a fan and think of how powerless -- family -- having lost somebody in the line of duty to further take away. The control they have over their lives and they feel they've been totally out of control is really not the right thing to do. Often times a public safety professionals death is captured either -- -- film or dash cam or something. And that's going to be all over the TV and the Internet for for days if not years. What advice would you give to the family about. Dealing with out. Especially if their children involved. And remember walking into the home. An officer who had been shot a few days before Christmas. And there was the Christmas tree and all the press and spend the Christmas tree and all the family who -- -- -- -- forward to celebrate polity together. And the children were watching the news about your father's death at which point the defense attorney for disease suspect who shot this officers -- it's claiming police brutality and setting up. He -- and obviously defense. For the person who shot and killed this officer. And it was very important for us to talk with the family about. Monitoring this child's television watching. And also for his father's colleagues to come in there and talk to him about what was going on how this was a strategy and a ploy and what. His father really did because this was definitely not a case of police brutality. So -- and something is gets that much publicity. That children's television viewing what they here at school. -- needs to be. Monitored and discussed with some adults who are responsible and connected to this child. There was another child and it whose father had killed several people spot at least half sister and -- had killed. Someone who had shot two other officers. And this was a teenage boy he's -- went to school in his teachers were actually saying that his father should be sent to jail for killing. The man who killed his two co workers. It was a terrible thing and no one expected that their teacher would be saying such things so again the parents. Had to intervene four. The child and help the child prepare for and know what to do or else find a safe haven in school. They give the nurse's office at the principal's office where they can get away from kids who can be as you know terribly cruel times. Monday morning quarterbacking. -- to be a favorite activity of human being so he then. In the case when firefighters may have been killed in people in the media -- just got up around town are on that. Those. Webcams. -- that are repeated endlessly on the Internet. Blaming the victims for their own -- are blaming the firefighters for their own -- again. Information is very powerful and can also be very consoling. And specially to explain to children -- may not be old enough to understand. Now he would never want to lie or. Distort the information. For a child again it has to be your conversation has to -- age appropriate. But you have to be direct and talk to the -- and you -- have to make sure that your kids feel free enough to come home and tell you what's going on. Who might be teaching -- at school who said what about their mom their dad. So that you have the opportunity to give them accurate information. Oftentimes the aftermath of a public safety professionals death. Just goes on and on for instance if a fire was arson that investigations -- -- -- for years. Many officer involved shootings the trial goes on for years. Are female artist surviving families the adult members of of surviving families pretty good self monitors of how much of that stuff to take him. Or the coming years or is that some advice -- would give them. You know like. Well that varies from family to family. Some families become obsessed with watching the television in reading the news in the that's not helpful. In this struggle to -- dean and parts of your life back again to -- functioning. You have to attend to all parts of your life and if this begins to take over everything. That's probably too much. I would advise families. Who have just lost somebody in the line of duty. It's really helpful to have a neutral third party to talk to so that they can kind of help you monitor how much. Of your life that year's spending. I think that. And that would be like a therapist. Chaplain. A good friend. That somebody who's not quite. As close to the situation as you are. In my experience if there is on trial. That happens the families really want to be there they -- that something that they old. The person who -- died in the line of duty. To see this through to the end and as you said that -- trial and drag on and on and on practically if their capital cases. So. It helps if there are friends who will go with you -- Or again a chaplain or someone from the department in because it but sometimes it's. Very difficult they'll be. Photographs and videos up close and things to view around the death that may be very hard. For you to take so I would urge departments. To help prepare families for what they might expect if there is -- long on trial or lot of media publicity. Following a line of duty death. Oftentimes a public safety professionals death will be captured. -- a news footage or dash cams or something like that. And these. Wanted to -- death films actually in many -- make very good training films. -- to help members of the profession in the future -- avoid those kind of that was kind of deaths. How. Involved should the department be in getting the family's permission to use those training films. -- for years. I'm working with the DEA. Training their comic team we used dose of -- -- film the onion field which is based on real story. And this as an example of what not to do they paraded. The surviving officer around. To various briefings where he was required to stand up and tell the other officers. Just exactly what he did wrong and how that resulted in the death of his partner. I'm eventually that actually drove him crazy along with the very protracted trial. So I think when using these all these technologies. Things that are captured on webcams on dash cams on telephones. It's a very important to prepare the family for this consult with the family about it and to never use those to humiliate or criticize. The people involved but rather to understand and to learn from the incident. And that also it pertains to coworkers who may have been there at the line of duty death and feel terribly guilty for something they did or didn't do. So it but he has to be done with great respect for the feelings. The family. And the co workers because these films will be seen by people who don't know the folks involved. And who weren't there and the potential for misuse. Is great there for the department has -- on top of. What about families listening to the last radio transmissions about. Dying firefighter police officer. If they're available is that a good idea or had a bad idea. I'm -- repeat myself the important thing is that -- family -- expect -- decision for themselves. Some families I think particularly after September 11 there were the last transmissions were readily available. And -- some families took them but put them away and said it's too painful listening to them right now I'm going to listen to them when I feel. Able to do -- so -- the important point to make is that it has to be the family's decision no one else. And what about anniversary dates with -- and other trigger option -- -- be prepared for those. -- those are read the also. Challenging and very important and I think he's one of the ways perhaps that public safety -- Are different friends people -- not in public safety. Generally speaking most departments will want to do something on the anniversary of the death something formal. Again the family should always be invited. And perhaps even consulted about what to do on those anniversaries. In particular. I think the first anniversary is most difficult for people although for some -- stays difficult for several years. In terms of triggers those are by -- -- mean things that remind you of what happened. And they'll be lots of triggers and they will be holidays they'll be birthdays will be the sound of the siren -- -- The presence. Someone from the department they'll be another shooting or another. Wild land fire or another. Helicopter crash. And because public safety people are so identified. With the profession and their families are identified and -- identified with each other. All of these can serve to stir up. Feelings and emotions. If you -- family lives in the same town know where the line of duty death happens every time you drive by that. Is another trigger. I think that families need to be prepared for this and that's where some counseling some grief counseling -- helps because. The idea how to deal with triggers and how would expect them. And how to control your responses or at least make minimize and to the degree to which are able. Will come from a little bit of professional. Guidance that they happen a great deal for people in public. How long does that grieving process -- and how long her family's going to be -- you're -- for after their loved one dies. There's an old story about a photographer. Being who took a picture of Abraham Lincoln was asked how long Abraham Lincoln's life. And attack her answer there long enough to reach the ground. And I think that's a good model for -- every family is different. There are reading no timetables for that and this is important for families to understand because the people surrounding you. They want you to get better inner -- -- -- Is it it's your pain is unbearable to them. So it's really important for use to. Cry when you have to -- when you have to. Not to put up a brave front not to try to cover up how you're feeling. General ballpark and mrs. take that with a grain of salt a loss a spouse -- anywhere from one to three years. Before you feel like you have recovered from this. Loss of that child. Maybe never you live with that hole in your heart forever. But you learn to -- with it. So move that the grief is not taken over every aspect of your life you're able to work you're able to. Relate to other people you're able to be social and maybe have some fun but never he never -- That hole in your heart from a a -- Of the child. And is so these are that are very. Long and protracted this kind of grief especially. When it's unexpected in -- if someone is. Ill and has a long illness -- can somewhat humorous somewhat prepared. For their loss but these sudden deaths are are very tragic and and very hard to. To adjust to in a hurry for sure. I think that families grieving families should try to aim for what we -- and do normal. Nothing will be the same again it's impossible to try to make your life the way it was before make everything all right for your children. -- have birthday parties that would be very happy. You have to begin to -- to develop new lifestyle almost a new normal. Ways in which you can. Function and progress. With the grief which becomes a kind of companion who at times is front and -- stage. And at other times is in the background. Particularly if for people who are young when they have lost some blocks spam as we expect to have that happen to -- where older patently and you have. And lost a spouse may be in their 20s30s. Or forty's and things are different I would advise. The young people to find some kind of a support group for young people cause you don't wanna be. The 26 year old widow -- sitting in a room full of 75 and 85 year old other women. In the question of when -- you move on how do you move on and what is it like to. As we cover from grief. That you feel like you've lost the memory that person you can't. He can't remember what they felt like anymore -- it looked like what they smelled like. That in itself as a secondary slot. I believe from many people that that will come back again. But there is that kind of temporary panic that people experience like I'm not. Grieving intensely hi this is the way I stay close to the person that I have -- I don't wanna stop this grieving be lose them again. That's hard of that roller coaster I think that he will calm and go for most people he -- It's also important to mention particularly for young people that. Not to Russian to another romance because he -- so overwhelmed. With the loneliness. Or responsibility. For raising children by yourself. I have. I think that's important to take that very slow and cautious. Way back there will be like it will be other relationships. Involved in the future but to. To do so with some concern and not how to agree need to. Fill this empty space in the line. And -- think it's also important that we can mention this -- to. Caution. Parents who have lost -- -- first responder. In the line of duty to realize that their grief is different and separate from the grief -- this out. I've heard too many very unfortunate stories about parents saying well we've lost our son or daughter we can never get another son or daughter. But -- spouse can marry again. That's a very painful and damaging thing for family to say to one another. And that in May be where some counseling will be helpful to let everybody know that they're experiencing -- loss and eight. Different and unique way. What should a surviving spouse know about the children what to expect from children and how to. To help them through this this this period. -- this is a very important question. He as you were being a parent there were two parents helping. Raise children and now -- solved. Been -- is falling on one person so I've got a couple of notes. Hear about things that one to think about it for one thing you might expect that your children are going and depending on what age they -- at the time they -- Their parent. Very often you see children kind of regressing they've become clean the horror that they won't go to sleep at 100 bad they want to do school work. They'll revert back to the stress of the -- we'll make -- revert back to acting as those days were younger. Or four teenagers they -- you withdraw. And stop talking to you or start acting out. You want -- be prepared for that and it shouldn't go on for -- very long time or. The case of teenagers become greedy -- -- Talk to your children in a straightforward. Way about what happened I think I said earlier don't bend the truth. But give it to them in their language that they can understand depending upon the age that they are. If you. Distort the truth it anyways that's terrible burden to put on yourself and eventually they will find out. Even if that -- they lost had done something wrong. And we all can make mistakes with different kinds of consequences but you need to find a way to be clear about that because. They'll start hearing from other people or reading it in the media as we've been talking about. Don't overprotect your children from sorrow. From -- -- grief. It's important that they feel included. In. In the grieving process and not. Excluded and if you overprotect the more put on a happy face or try to make everything normal the way it was. There -- -- feel like you're not being truthful and -- and -- -- feel like they're being marginalized and excluded from the family. On the other hand you don't want to overburden. And this at every family will be different here you know to say to a small. Boy you're now the man of the house. It is really overburdened. Children -- You -- be careful about that children tend to watch the surviving parent for -- about. How to behave and have a feeling -- -- EU. Always masking your sorrow then they'll do the same thing if you are. Drinking heavily. And weeping and all the time then they may become frightened about that so again that may sound contradictory -- they don't mess. Your sorrow but there's a certain point that if you -- so overwhelmed. That you're losing your ability to parent your children you really should go get some professional guidance about this. Little kids. -- teenager to will have trouble talking about -- kids just don't express themselves in the same way that adults do. -- writing a story about what happened to mom or dad. Writing. In -- journals is good for. Surviving spouse as well as the children but. Using hand puppet. Making drawings what -- you can do other options for ways to talk about. -- lost besides straight talking because as I said that's something that -- Don't do about it and when they get very quiet. I think it's important to ask them if they're thinking about mom and dad or what they're thinking about. This is not an easy thing to do that when people. -- guy out there helping children cope with death and I think that. Except help. As the parent and the surviving spouse -- help from books for him mental health professionals and spiritual advisers. Who matter cause it's a tough road -- What about the issue of too much help I mean it works both ways. How -- -- to know what I'm providing too much help to surviving spouse of a colleague that god. And if I'm just to sephardic spouse -- I tell people you know thanks but but no thanks. Never promise something that you can't deliver. When somebody dies. And you see the heart -- That comes behind that as the human being. Do you want to reach out to that person and you want to do what -- you can to tried to comfort them. And in so doing sometimes people -- promised things that they can't deliver. Like. -- come over and cook dinner for you every Sunday night or I will take. Johnny -- he is baseball practice -- -- -- to her ballet classes. Every week for the rest of my life. When you've got kids at home who -- you. And there's only so much time in the day and that's very harmful to promise something that you can't deliver because either. You're gonna hurt your own family. You're gonna be resentful towards the surviving family or you're simply going. Failed to show up and that will be damaging to. So it's a lot better to promise less and ask people what can I do what do you need. You be surprised that the kinds of things that people will tell you sometimes it's things that -- just very practical. And very small. That makes a big difference when somebody dies we are people are cracked open. It's like recovered with velcro. Everything you do that good or bad sticks. At that time. So people remember the tiny things that you do. Like picking up the mail or showing up to mobile launch once. Or offering just even offering to drive them to the doctors if that's what they need. So it doesn't have to be anything -- grand and the important thing is that you ask the person. -- is helpful. Would you like me to do this as opposed to swarming in and taking over remember. As I said before these are people who feel like their whole life suddenly out of control all their -- all their future. Everything's different. Now. If you are the surviving. Spouse to the degree to which you -- able you have to be direct with people. And you have to begin to figure out what it is that you need. How you can ask for any have to begin to accept help people who are married to first responders are similar to first responders themselves. Self sufficient. Capable. Used to dealing with things on their own accepting help. May not be an easy thing to do particularly if the surviving person is a man. Soul. It's important for you to be able to figure out what it is that you need and ask people for and if what you need is more than. To stop calling you every day -- you need to tell them that. I appreciate your concern. But you don't have to call me every day. I'll call you or call me once a month. And it that kind of directness not only is helpful to the survivor but it's also helpful to the people. Or are trying to figure out how they can help because first responders our first responders -- those that want to make a difference in people's lives. And so. Helping makes them feel better -- so sometimes they'll need some specific direction but did basic and bottom -- line. He has never promise something that you can't deliver or won't be able to deliver without. Hurting your own life. -- -- -- On everything you have so far. Is pretty much targeted at Intel actor happy families but. What about families where. -- the person died and left it in the situation at home wasn't that happy. Or perhaps there were multiple forms of -- it was a divorce in the background something that. In the country in which 50%. Almost all marriages and regardless of your occupation ended in divorce we would have to expect that there will be these. Compound families and step -- and complicated relationships. I think the important thing is to try to avoid conflict. Between. The people involved in to have respect for the fact that everybody will be grieving differently and sometimes it will require again. A neutral third party have mental health professionals to come in and and help helped the family. Because these issues can get very compact and sometimes. Sometimes contentious depending upon -- the relationship was like in the family before the death. In a marriage that was either on the rocks or an unhappy marriage and ones. A person is killed in line of duty. While we might presume that that would hurt less than -- -- of someone that you're happily married to. At least some research would tell us that fact that -- even more complicated. That there's more guilt more responsibility. More internal conflict. About. Things it would not resolved between. The two married married people. That words are hurtful things that were said. And there was no opportunity to make up for those the fact that now that this person you were resentful for -- -- like you didn't get enough from now there. Gone and you'll never get it there's a whole lot of other kinds of grief that come up for families. I think it just important for that. -- -- for coworkers or friends for mental health professionals not to assume both forehand. That everything was fine and happy. In any specific family it -- require some learning. Quote this family is and what state of the relationship -- -- the time of death. And of course if somebody dies right even and a happy family when somebody -- on the day just had this stupid fight. Over something that's going to read -- -- people with. A great tarnish of guilt and there -- -- going to need some outside assistance to unravel those. Feelings because all families fight that's universal and it wasn't that fight that killed. The person but sometimes the surviving people have a hard time separating that. Allen thanks so much -- be a big help a lot of public safety professionals in this room. You're very welcome appreciate being asked here it's -- very difficult. And painful subject to talk about and day. Always tell -- families and firefighter families that I hope they take good care of themselves as they do the rest of us.

Related Videos:

  1. When a Child Dies on a Call

    In this free program from the Firefighters Support Foundation , Dr. Anne Bisek answers questions about what happens to first responders when a child dies on a call.

  2. Week in Review: March 1, 2013

    Chier Bobby Halton reviews some of this week's fire news, including the death of a young Michigan firefighter and a church fire in downtown Indianapolis.

  3. The Fire Safety Officer: Roles and Responsibilities

    This free training program from the Firefighters Support Foundation deals with challenges and considerations for safety officers on the fireground.

  4. Throwing Ground Ladders

    P.J. Norwood discusses firefighter line-of-duty deaths and the integral use of ground ladders for firefighter safety .