I LOVE A COP
“In 1944, World War II brides could purchase a pamphlet for fifteen cents titled “When He Comes Back and If He Comes Back Nervous”. This pamphlet
offered a list of suggestions for dealing with the soldier but has scant advice for the wife. Spouses were urged to get professional help rather than “muddle through”, and they were cryptically coaxed to “let
your own faith and beauty of spirit be your chief stock in trade” – hardly concrete counseling for dealing with a disoriented, perhaps violent, love one who has returned from war a stranger.
While being a police officer is not the same as being at war, we’ve learned from the families of combat veterans and war survivors that the love and
compassion of family is a potent factor in helping someone heal after a traumatic incident.
But we also know that trauma is “contagious” and, like secondary smoke, can contaminate family life. And we’ve seen that love and compassion, that are the family’s strength, can also be its Achilles heel.
If traumatic stress strikes your family, you’ll need to think about what you can do to help your mate or your friend, what you can do to help
yourself, and what you can do to assist your children.
Although families can do a lot to help an officer recover from trauma, the bottom line is that no matter how much you love someone, you cannot
dissolve that person’s trauma nor recuperate for him or her.
What you can do is manage the consequences in order to minimize the impact on yourself and your family. You can avoid creating a second injury, and you can try to go on as normally as possible. The first thing to do is what you are doing right now: learning about trauma and traumatic reactions.
Families are true “first responders” and often know well before supervisors and friends that something is wrong even if the cop doesn’t spell it out.
You may now know what’s troubling your cop, but your intimate knowledge of his or her behavior leads you to spot those subtle changes that indicate that something is out of order: problems sleeping, a change in appetite or mood, and so on. Because you have an “early warning system”, you can confront your loved one and urge that he or she talk about what is wrong or seek professional help.”
Ellen Kirschman, “I Love a Cop”. Chapter 7, pages 108-109. Copyright 1997 Ellen Kirschman.
All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of The Guilford Press, 72 Spring Street, NY, NY 10012.