How to Deal with His Crisis
Whatever crises our husbands undergo, they need us, and they need us to be strong. Depending on the circumstances, we could be the ones who are there for him to talk out some of the emotion. But when it’s too big for us, we can come alongside and love them enough to get them the help they need. Whatever they are dealing with, they need to know they aren’t alone.
Our husbands, however, may not want to be “fixed.” It’s their deal, and they want to work it out. In this situation, perhaps they don’t understand the effects on us and our children. Maybe ego is a factor. Maybe they have adopted a cultural view that police officers are supposed to be tough and not show weakness. Sometimes they need space to work out the answer rather than depending on us too much.
Depending on your husband’s department, there may be a stigma against bringing up stress. In some cases, doing so may jeopardize their career. For many years, the culture of law enforcement has been to ignore responses to trauma. These responses have been labeled as weakness. Fortunately, the thinking within law enforcement circles is gradually changing into thinking that trauma is a natural response to the unnatural incidents that our cops experience. While this new way of thinking is slowly making its way throughout the country, it isn’t yet universal. If this is the case for your husband, he’ll need a safe listener, and it may need to be you.
There are three stages of dealing with his crisis. First, identify the problem beneath the symptoms. Seek the cause to the effect. I’ve listed some things here, but this is by no means all there is. Do some research online. Talk with a seasoned wife or another officer you trust. If your department does have resources, by all means take advantage of them.
There are a few practical things you can do as his wife while dealing with his crisis:
• Create a safe place to come home to. Be ready to listen without judgment or fearful reaction. Spend good, quality time with him in his off-duty time.
• Make an appointment for him to get a physical. Stress can take a toll on his body. Nip health problems in the bud.
• As much as you can, create delicious, healthy meals for your family. Stress tends to increase a desire for junk.
• Discourage making important decisions when he is overwhelmed.
• Maintain normalcy with life. Routine can keep balance in the midst of trials.
• Write down your feelings through the journey. When you’re on the other side, you can look back and see how far you both have come.
Second, deal with it head on. It is so important for us as wives to support them in a way that is not codependent. We want to understand and support them as our husbands, but that doesn’t mean making excuses for their behavior. If there is a problem, treat it as reality and work toward a solution. If it’s an issue like burnout he’s dealing with, that could be easily identified and worked through without professionals. But if it’s bigger and deeper, seek help.
Talk with someone safe. Find out if your husband’s department has programs designed to help in each of these issues. If so, make sure that there is confidentiality and then proceed. A police chaplaincy program is another potentially valuable resource. There are many avenues of crisis intervention, and they are designed to discreetly come alongside.
Check if your department has an employee assistance program. They are designed to help police officers get the help they need, sometimes even paying for counseling. Inquire if your husband’s department has a peer support program where other officers have gone through something similar, and join with your loved one to help them through the recovery process. Some departments also offer support groups for related issues.
Religious communities and organizations throughout the country and abroad have many different resources as well. Counseling, support groups and programs, books, and radio programs are designed to come alongside and provide encouragement, support, and guidance.
If these avenues have been tried, and still your officer is struggling, consider an intensive retreat. Two facilities exist in the United States to treat problems related to PTSD and critical incident stress. In California there is the West Coast Post-trauma Retreat. The On-Site Academy is located in Massachusetts. These three- to five-day retreats are held monthly and are designed to help emergency personnel who are overwhelmed by a critical incident or other job-related trauma. The resources section at the back of this book contains contact information.
Through these resources, build your support system. Don’t hesitate if you feel your man is in trouble. His life and your marriage depend on it.