Episode 184 S5-21
Leaving Family for Battle
Dark Days in Denver Ch 21
In this chapter of Dark Days in Denver, Vince and Erika emotionally prepare with their friends and family to head into the Denver battle. There are lots of individuals who put their lives on the line every time they leave for work. This can be an emotionally taxing experience for their family and friends. The length of deployment can make it even worse. Here today to discuss the emotional realities of going into battle is Sam Bradley, EMS Instructor and federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team member.
When you are employed in a first responder or military occupation, situations can come up quickly. Sometimes you do not have the time to emotionally prepare with your family. If this is the case and you are in an on-call scenario, let them know that so they are not surprised when the call comes. Keep them informed as to what is going on.
A lot of how your loved ones will respond to your deployment into a hazardous situation will depend upon how frequently you do that. Is it the first time deployment or is it something that happens a lot. Your loved ones will have a better understanding of the situation if they are accustomed to you leaving.
A sudden event can affect people a lot differently than a routine one. Sometimes it is hard to know how talking to them will affect them and usually it depends upon how traumatic the event is. Events what are widely televised will be harder for your loved ones to bear because they are being bombarded with images of horrible things happening. They will wonder why you would want to go there?
In any case, do not distance yourself from your loved ones before leaving. Take every moment you can with them. It may be hard for you to do with the knowledge that you are leaving soon but they will not understand that. Talk to them about why you're going and what you are going to do. Let them know that you are going to be back and everything will be okay. Let them know that you have a team backing you up. Instill a sense of pride in them for being a part of what you do.
If the situation you are going into is severely traumatic with widespread media and social media coverage, your family may have a harder time rationalizing that. If you have a picture of your team, share it with them. Your family will probably know members personally talk with your family about their strengths. Let them know about your gear and how it does its job to keep you safe. Have them think about if they were someone in trouble how much they would appreciate you coming to help.
In severe situations, do not freelance in an attempt to help. You need a team and backup. Everyone wants to help but untrained individuals and individuals without a solid team communicating usually does more harm than good. Always make sure you have a buddy when you are in a traumatic situation. Your team will watch out for you. Go nowhere alone, not even to the bathroom.
When talking with your family, don't focus on the dangers. Focus on the positive outcomes of your active participation. Let them know you are prepared for it.
Some individuals may feel angry by your participation in a hazardous occupation. Selfish or narcissistic spouses may feel abandoned. When choosing a spouse, it is best to choose one that understands the realities of your occupation before you commit to a long term relationship. They need to be prepared to emotionally handle what you do.
Communication is always the key. Some personality types may block communication but it is important to talk about the realities of the situation. During a deployment there are individuals who stay home and work as a communicator between the deployed team and families. Stay up to date on what is happening.
When you come home, you should not focus on close calls, unless your spouse is into that. That is why it picking a spouse that is in the same type of occupation is a good idea. They understand what you are facing day to day. Alternately a supportive individual can provide the same comfort. Keep it positive with the children so they will be less worried next time you are called upon.
Celebrate your loved one when they come home but don't throw a party. The last thing they want is to be bombarded with questions about what happened. They will need time to process the experience. The individual will probably spend a lot of "me" time sleeping or staring blankly in the shower. They will not be able to jump right back into "normal" mode. They may or may not want to talk about it and the family may or may not want to hear it.
On a Federal deployment level, each team is debriefed upon their return so they have an opportunity to rationalize their feelings. Time should always be allotted for this. The formal process provides an environment where team members can share their feelings with others who have gone through the same or similar experience and have a better understanding.
If you are in a situation where you are being constantly deployed, it is much more likely your family and friends will have abandonment issues that will need to be addressed. It depends on how used to it they are and their personality types.
Families should always be ready to listen but never press the issue and ask too many questions. Watch for signs of PTSI or PTSD. Make sure you pay attention to how long the recovery process is taking. They will need time but you don't want them to slip into a long term depression state. If you see this happening, approach their team. The team will have answers about handling their injury. To prevent PTSI always maintain good communication. In the beginning just listen. Given them time to recoup and adjust to life. Acknowledge what they are telling you so they know you are listening but don't try to fix it immediately. SAMHSA and the CDC have great information if you would like to learn more about this topic.
Welcome your first responder, police officer, or military member home like the returning hero they are. The healthiest thing you can do is provide support.
The Changing Earth Series
Sam Bradley, MS, EMT-P, has been in EMS for 38 years as a Paramedic, Clinical and Educational Services Coordinator and ambulance company paramedic field supervisor. She also spent many years as an EMS educator. Sam currently works as a QI consultant and EMS educator for fire departments and communications centers. A prolific writer, she does freelance work for EMS related journals, online publications and textbook publishers. Sam has published a number of fiction stories and is very involved in social media and blogging. Following her passion for disaster EMS, she is the Training Officer for the federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) CA-6. She also dabbles in photography and videography. She is currently residing in Colorado and spends her time working on EMS CE content and writing EMS textbooks and novels. She co-hosts a popular weekly podcast that is in its fifth year. She loves dogs and banana cream pie.