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How to Stay Strong When Your Loved Ones are in The Line of Fire

Andrea-Adams-Miller-Ignite-Your-Relationships-Corporate-and-Couples-Consulting

Andrea Adams-Miller, Ignite Your Relationships Corporate and Couples Consulting

Andrea Adams-Miller To the Partners of Emergency Personnel: How to Stay Strong When Your Loved Ones are in The Line of Fire

With the tragedy of the hotshot firefighters losing their lives in Arizona, I am about to share what I have learned as a corrections officer, a 911 emergency dispatcher, an auxiliary women’s fire department member, and as the wife of a firefighter. While my partner never succumbed to an emergency situation, I know there are other firefighter partners who have increased fear due to the deaths of these brave firefighters whenever their partners are out to fight a fire or other disaster. It is because of this situation that I felt the need to say something and share how I have handled the stress, fear, and worry.

I can only speak from my circumstances as I have never been in each of your situations with your background. However, I hope my insight will provide you with peace and hope each time your partner goes to work where potentially anything can happen. Please know that they do love you and care about you and your family. Every day these men and women, these public servants, go to work to fulfill a deep inner calling to protect and serve. While you may feel frustrated, angry, and lonely at times worrying that something may happen to them, they feel the duty and honor to protect your family and others by doing their job.

I get it that is difficult. You may think, if they love us, they will find another job that is safer. They cannot find another job and be happy. You choose this person for who they are: a fighter, a solution finder, a protector, a risk-taker, and a hero. Even if they did not work in a public service position previously, this calling was always within them. Not everyone is cut out for these emergency related jobs; it takes special people who want to serve a higher purpose for the community. What I have found is that these men and women feel that doing their job is showing love for their families. They want the world to be a better place. Therefore, they protect others from crime, fire, flood, and whatever other pain and suffering come from people, weather, or structural damage.

The worst part is that when your family is affected by wildfire, flood, earthquake, terrorists, and any other situation where a community is in danger, you have to step up to the protector and problem solver in your household. They have to leave to tend to others who are less prepared and who cannot fend for themselves. I have found this is the most difficult part. For a few fleeting moments, I resent the other people who are not prepared, who put themselves in dangerous situations that put my husband at risk. For example, we had several floods in our local community that created major damage in our county.

My husband was called to evacuate others from homes despite the early warnings to leave. Just like other cities faced with wildfires, not everyone leaves and firefighters are obligated to go get them out. In our situation, Tom left leaving me to tend for our children and our properties while he helped others. Our properties were damaged, and I had to deal with the stress, pressure, and physical clean-up for multiple properties and rental families without him. Complicating the stress, I also lost personal property that was severely damaged. I lost valuable business and personal property items that can never be replaced. He was not there to comfort me; he was not there to help me handle the physical labor of clean up.

In these fire emergencies like wildfires, similar situations occur. The partners are left home to care for children and household all alone. Intentionally working where potentially dangerous situations arise, our partners go to work to protect and serve for other people. Regardless of the emergency, it seemingly is always the same. The public servant goes out to serve others while the partner is left home to take over from there. The fear of our partner’s safety is ever present. However, as frustrated as we get, there is always this inner pride knowing that our hero is risking hard challenges to save many. It is an inner conflict when handling the contrasting emotions.

What do you do in that situation where they leave to go do their job and face danger? For me in the situation where we were also affected by the emergency, I relied on others such as friends to care for my children. This was helpful while I stepped up to take care of what Tom normally did for our rentals and our own property. I admit without remorse that I cried. No, I sobbed while I cleaned up the mess. I worked endlessly with dirt, mud, stagnant water, soggy books, and more. All the while, I had tears running down my face with a couple choice words uttered out of my mouth when the frustration became too much. I admit to even kicking or throwing an item here or there to release the stress I felt from being left alone to handle all of that mess.

You might not have to deal with the stresses of an emergency when your partners leave to handle a crisis. However, you still have the day to day stresses that can be taxing on a two parent household, and know you are there to handle it all alone. Additionally, it is not as if you had time to prepare. When our partners are called out for an emergency, they get the page, and they grab their gear and run out the door. If you, or they, were not home when they got the call, you may have never had the chance to kiss them, hug them, and say goodbye. Now, you have to be both parents and handle everything in your partner’s absence, which might be hours, days, or weeks. We never know.

I asked for help and so can you. I realized that I could still be seen as strong and ask for help from others. I called everyone I knew that either had little or no damage. I asked them to help me if only for a few minutes. My advice is to reach out to positive people who are excellent at keeping you busy by keeping focused on the positive. In my situation, I decided that it was ok to receive help from The Red Cross, so I accepted the prepared meals for myself and my volunteers while I secretly wished my partner had the opportunity to eat, as well.

I even accepted the cleaning supplies that The Red Cross supplied knowing that they were needed by me and our renters. While you might not need cleaning supplies or emergency help, you might need comfort, counseling, and financial assistance. It is ok to ask for the help that is out there. Whether your loved one is in the field, injured, or has fallen victim to the situation, it is always ok to ask for help. Accept help from friends, other people, and services in the community. People want to help you, so let them.

When my husband was gone doing his firefighter duties saving others, all the while, I feared what was happening. I always do worry whether the house is engulfed or if people were trapped inside. I worry if he will have to go in or will his comrades. In this case, I wondered, “Was he boating in flooded waters rescuing someone from a house, or was he wading out in rushing waters to save someone who chanced driving through the flooded river water.” While I am using the flood emergency as my example, it is the same feeling when he goes out on a fire run. If I do not busy myself with other activities, I could drive myself crazy asking the what-if questions about his safety.

 

You will do that, ask yourself questions that drive you crazy. If you do not find a way to distract yourself, you will stress yourself with worry because of the unknown. See, that is how it is when they are out fighting fires, bad guys, or whatever they do every day or night. We never know what is happening. That may be the most difficult part, the unknown. Of course, my husband had a cell phone, but I did not dare call and distract him as the potential exists to put him in more danger. Additionally, often in an emergency situation, there is little or no cell phone service either, which makes you more distressed.

Therefore, the best thing to do is be positive and think of others’ safety. When you see your partner as a hero out saving lives instead of a selfish person leaving you to fend for yourself, your whole perspective changes. By seeing him or her as a hero, you will be able to feel good about your sacrifice, as well. In supporting your partner who is an emergency responder, you, too, are an unsung hero. Your hero needs to know that you can handle the stress, the bills, the house, and the children. By being strong, you allow them to go out and focus on the task at hand which is saving lives. They cannot be distracted worrying about you and the children as that will put them at more risk for harm.

Remember why you love them. Remember that you choose a smart, intelligent, problem solving, quick thinking public servant. Love him or her for those qualities that allow them face the challenges that put them in harm’s way. Know that you choose someone who will do everything to protect themselves, their comrades, and the community. Choose to do something positive every time they go out. You could cook the station a meal, write them a letter telling them how proud you are of them, take time to get some “me-time,” visit with family or friends, or do something fun with your children. Just because they are out doing their jobs, does not mean you have to sit home and lament waiting for them.

Lastly, being the partner of an emergency response public servant, I realize that nothing I say will remove the deeply ingrained fear of your partner’s safety or the pain of devastation that comes from your partner’s injury or demise despite every precaution. What you can do to relieve yourself today is enjoy the moment’s you have now and to relish your memories that are positive with photos, mementos, and special times together! The more you invest in making your relationship positive today, the more likely you will be proud of your partner as the hero they ultimately can be to protect you, your family, and your community.

Andrea Adams-Miller, is the CEO and Founder of IgniteYourRelationships.com, LLC. As a professional and personal relationship consultant, keynote speaker, and author, Andrea speaks and trains corporations, colleges, and individuals of relationship success. Andrea provides easy to implement, practical solutions that can be implemented right now to create, maintain, and sustain healthy relationships at work or at home. Seen on 20/20, TIME Magazine, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and more, Adams-Miller can be contacted for speaking, interviews, and more at www.IgniteYourRelationships.com where you can also download a free chapter “Putting the Sizzle in Your Business Relationships” from the best-selling book ‘Nothing But Net.’

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