I’ve been feeling pretty nostalgic lately.
Seven years ago this time of year was when CHiP on my Shoulder—How to Love Your Cop with Attitude hit the online bookstores. I had no idea what to expect—would people buy it? And if they buy it, would they even like it? It was a complete unknown.
And then, the letters started coming. Thank you notes. Spouses declaring that I’d written their story. Cries for help.
Frankly, I didn’t know what I was getting into. The stories were awful. The hurt was deep. And I realized there was a whole lot that I didn’t know. So I began to learn, and research, and study. When I got a question, I found answers. I went through chaplaincy training. When someone needed more help than I could provide, I made some calls and got her meeting with someone in her area.
Along the way, I realized there was more I wanted to do for police families. I started taking writing jobs that would help me pay for those ideas. One of those jobs gave me a couple of years of meeting with cops, military, and firemen that had gone to Afghanistan. I learned to listen and hear their hearts. This gave me an up close and personal look at the emotional toll of war. Though difficult, it was an incredible journey of discovery and understanding. The rewards from the writing of Selfish Prayer were to see how it really helped the men and women to talk about their experiences and be a part of change. They were given a voice.
There were critics. But some wise friends taught me to listen for things I could do better without getting caught up in the drama. The number one complaint from my readers was that it takes two in the marriage to really make it work. Why did I have to pick on the spouse and give the officer a free pass? That led to the third book, A Marriage in Progress—Tactical Support for Law Enforcement Relationships. It was written for officers looking at marriage through the culture of policing.
That book took me 18 months to write—and it was a labor of research, surveys, and interviews. I learned a ton!
I was at my first VOWS (Veterans Of the Wars on our Streets) Retreat in Montana when the tides of anti-police rhetoric began. The world went crazy, and our police were in the thick of it. And it kept going. And going. More letters. More cries for help. Even Facebook became a war zone. And by 2016, I was exhausted, discouraged, and ready for a change. Was it time to shut it all down?
I mentioned this to Chief. He was horrified that I would even consider it. But it was a serious question that had to be answered—do I have anything more to offer these families? Do I have the strength? I prayed, and God had the answers in a little book called The Magnolia Story. As you may know, I love HGTV, and my favorite show is Fixer Upper. We gave my daughter this book, and she read it in a day. She told me, “Mom, you’ve gotta read this book—now.”
Didn’t have to ask me twice—and it was the boost I needed. It was the encouragement needed and the realization that I needed help. How2LoveYourCop was too big for me alone—it needed to be a “we” operation.
Within three weeks I had two who were on the team. Two more joined shortly thereafter. We chose to go non-profit so that even more could jump on board with us in support. And with this came the VOWS Retreat—a marriage retreat for officers who’d been wounded in the line of duty and their spouses, and a need for more programs/resources for these families. It pretty much doubled overnight.
The girls and I spent the better part of a year writing our Bylaws, putting together a Budget, and filling out the paperwork for federal and state tax-exemption status. All of it came together just a few months ago. Next was money—so we wrote a grant request and got one—a significant matching grant with a deadline.
The team jumped into action, and our H2LYC Inaugural Gala was created. We realized we needed to get the word out—what we do, who we are, and perhaps people would respond.
The results thus far have been nothing short of incredible. We’ve raised a over a third of our matching grant. We’ve sold over ¾ of our tickets to date. Support is arriving from all over as we share what How2LoveYourCop has become. Community members are excited and spreading the word. We’ve also been chosen to be a part of a Northern California law enforcement giving campaign in November.
So, what are we doing?
How2LoveYourCop creates and offers resources and programs for both active duty families and wounded officer families. We’ve got blogs, social media, books, a retreat, a seminar, and a lot of coaching/mentoring/advocating we do one-on-one with people. It used to be just about cop wives. It is now about entire families (officers, spouses, and kids). This next year we have our first spouse conference in March. We are reigniting the VOWS Retreat in June. And there will be more before 2019 is done.
Where are we headed? More books. Videos. Trainings. Conferences for couples. Practical tools for LE families and departments. Family Camp. Bible studies. After care programs. And that’s just off the top of my head.
How2LoveYourCop’s purpose is to educate, equip, and encourage law enforcement families to thrive relationally, emotionally, and spiritually. We’re right now in talks with others that will significantly impact all three of these areas. Stay tuned as we move forward as time and money allows.
How can you be involved? A number of ways:
• Write to us.
We’d like to hear from you—your thoughts, ideas, and questions. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Pray for us.
All of us volunteer, and we all have officers and kids. We’re in the trenches helping and working with others. We need wisdom and guidance from the Lord to do the best we can for you.
• Partner with us.
Have an idea? Want to volunteer at an event? Want to bring a conference to your area? Contact us on email@example.com.
• Provide Feedback.
We’re always looking to learn and grow. We will make mistakes, so when we do, we want to improve and change. Your constructive feedback will help us to do that. Feel free to tell us what we’re doing right as well!
We’re keeping our operational costs down, but the more funds we raise, the more we can do.
I hope this answers a lot of the questions that you have, and helps you understand exactly where we’re going as an organization. Thank you for your support!
Victoria Newman October 19th, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized
Yesterday I had a good cry.
It wasn’t about gratitude for our country, or amazing fireworks, or indignation of where our country is headed. I’ve done all that in years past.
No, yesterday was a different kind of Independence Day.
The month of June was about celebration. Thirty years of marriage. My daughter graduated from college. And my youngest graduated from high school. All good! But in all of this celebration, there was an underlying feeling of sadness for this Mama.
For 27 years now, my life has been about little people depending on me. Feed them. Clothe them. Bathe them. Teach them. To meet their needs, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve loved it…well, most of it.
Those four little people are now big people. Amazing souls who live life fully, making their own choices, and have found their places in this big, wide world. It’s been an incredible honor to care for them in every way—maneuvering in and out of seasons, tackling problems, making mistakes, and loving them the best ways Chief and I knew. It wasn’t easy, but yet it was. And 27 years is a very long time, but yet it seems like the blink of an eye. I have more memories than I can recount, but each one has it’s own preciousness.
Yesterday I finally allowed myself to feel the bummer—the fact that none of them depend on me anymore. My role as stay-at-home-mom is in the rearview mirror and I am reeling from it.
I’ve taken great joy in seeing my kids grow up; in watching them live their lives up close and personal, but there is a small mourning in my soul for that role. I’m not ceasing to be a mother—but it’s changed.
There are many stages in a mother’s life. Many milestones I’ve longed for and yearned for in my perseverance. Like when all the kids were out of diapers. When all the kids were in school. When they all were driving themselves. Now they’re all adults! There are still many more milestones—more graduations and weddings and grandchildren and careers and such. But they don’t need me anymore. They don’t depend on me anymore. And I already miss it.
It’s not like I don’t have much to do, things to create, things to invest the rest of my life in, and a calling on my life. But yesterday, I had to allow myself to feel the letting go of dependence. Although I’ve looked forward to this day at times, I am melancholy. In some ways I liked being tethered to my children and my home. It was a boundary that I loved. And now I feel a bit directionless, afloat without aim. But that will change soon enough.
It’s time to embrace Independence Day. I haven’t lost anything—it’s just different! My kids are still close by. They will continue to share their lives with us. Much of my time will continue to be dedicated to them. We will continue to help and guide and be there for them.
It’s still an adventure…
Maybe even more so now than ever!
Victoria Newman July 5th, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized
Our old home began its makeover in April of last year. It wasn’t hard to figure out what needed to be done first—the kitchen floor. It was a white linoleum that had undergone the wear and tear of four children, four teenagers and dozens of friends, thousands of meals made, hundreds of goodies baked, and had heard many discussions and opinions and encouragement. Under such stress for 15 years, it was just ugly. U. G. L. Y.
It was easy to rip out—way easy. The stupid thing was glued down only on the edges, so it came up without argument.
But underneath that ugly, there was damage. Water had seeped in over time and damaged the subfloor. We found some mold. At first, it scared me. But when I learned how easy it was to remove and replace from someone in the know, I wondered how and why we’d waited so long to deal with it.
Chief didn’t mind the transformation process—he was just happy that old lino was gone, gone, gone. That was the first wondrous layer of relief. Once the subfloor was replaced, we felt a new level of relief—assured that what we would cover with new flooring was clean, mold-free, and sound. The problems beneath the surface were solved.
We installed the new flooring, and in doing so we were extra careful to protect the subfloor from damaging moisture. We caulked the nooks and crannies, and installed waterproof baseboards. I’d never felt so good about our kitchen floor.
This is a great metaphor for our marriages. When we have been complacent in our relationships—busy with careers and kids and distractions—some areas of our marriages may become U-G-L-Y. There may be underlying damage that begs to be repaired. Why is it we wait so long to deal with these things?
Time to rip out the ugly.
Face the damage underneath.
Repair it through communication and forgiveness (sometimes you need education or an expert on how to do this).
Then replace it with something new and beautiful, being careful to protect it.
Renovations—both of homes and relationships—take intentional effort, some sacrifice, and a willingness to see it through to the finish. But you have to have the courage to begin.
So, what’s first on your list?
Victoria Newman January 24th, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized
“This home is not a safe place for me.”
The words cut like a knife. They dove down into the deepest place of my motivation and pride, and locked in fear and pain.
Not a safe place? Our home, the place where I strove to create home and memories and talks and beauty for the past 15 years? The place where our children grew up? Where we laugh and cry and plan and give of ourselves?
When the words shot forth from Chief, it was a wake up call.
One of the four foundational ways a spouse can be backup to an officer is to be a safe place. A safe place, and a safe person. At times, the way I’ve reacted to things shut him down—my anger, my indignation, and my emotions have been hurdles to good communication…if you’ve read either of my books, you may remember this. As we’ve gotten older, and hopefully more mature, I’ve realized that I can control this to indeed make myself a safe person to which my husband can be vulnerable with.
Our home, though, was a fixer upper. An old home with a big yard—which means endless maintenance, difficult repairs and constant effort and money. Things my intellectual man and leader of many found tiresome and challenging. That old home had several owners before us who “did it themselves,” so every time we went to change or repair something, it was a Pandora’s box. Once changing an outside light fixture brought the realization that a fire could’ve broken out at any time, and we had to fix it to the tune of several hundred dollars! For a girl who grew up in a family of mechanics and carpenters, this equated to “charm.” For Chief, this equated to STRESS.
Stress upon stress that had accumulated from the most challenging years of his career. When he said those words earlier this year, we realized we needed a change.
As we move into 2018, what are things that equate to stress upon stress that have accumulated from years on the job? Is your home a safe place? Are you a safe person? What habits or activities or practices threaten you and your family and your well-being? Your marriage? It’s an appropriate time for a change—a time of new beginnings, do-overs, and resolutions to do life better.
For Chief and I, it began a journey that meant time and money and work—but oh, so worth it. We are now living in a safe place, and we both see visible benefits every day.
Victoria Newman January 10th, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized
There are seasons in life where all else is put aside to concentrate on one thing. That one thing takes much time, most thoughts, focused efforts, and everything else becomes secondary. Like fighting a serious illness. A baby born. The aftermath and trial of a critical incident. Your wedding. Death of a loved one. A new job. Marriage problems.
Or in my case for the last eight months, a combination of several changes in our family—a new grandson, the renovation and sale of our home of 15 years, a new position for Chief, and the purchase of our new home. Throw in a few other surprises just to make it interesting, and you have 2017 for the Newmans.
How2LoveYourCop had to take a back seat. After all, our families must take first priority—that’s what we stand for. That’s what we write about and speak about and advocate. Because without our spouses and without our kids, life is just…lonely and colorless.
So please forgive my lack of postings, my lack of answering emails, my putting what we do for you second.
Good news, though. We’re settled into a new home that is more conducive to accomplishing what we want to do in the future. We’re more focused on H2LYC than ever, with new ideas and thoughts and potential partnerships and now the ability to pursue them. Chief and I have strengthened our relationship even more this past year as we’ve worked together on several fronts. This has brought us closer and that only can help others.
I have a new series for this blog that came from this time. It’s the lessons that we learned through Realizations, Renovations, Rejuvenations, Restorations, Revelations, Relocation, Resolutions, and the Revolutions that have taken place in our lives. We are hopeful that what we’ve learned will help and give hope to others (you!).
Happy New Year! May 2018 be an exceptional year for you and your family.
Victoria Newman January 5th, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized
As our officer’s closest relationship, we have an incredible opportunity as spouses, and responsibility. You and I know our officers intimately. We know how they think, and why they act the way they do. As life partners of an officer, we are our spouse’s backup. While we don’t grab a gun and drive CODE 3 to rescue them in their dire need, there are four specific ways I’ve seen that we can backup our officers: relationally, practically, mentally, and emotionally.
The first is that we are our officer’s compass. A compass indicates where we are in reference to true north. You know your spouse in “normal state.” As they move off course in some way because of the job or otherwise, we are the first to know it and can point it out.
Second, we are our officer’s safe place. Eight to twelve plus hours a day, our officers serve, with each call or “routine stop” offering unknown danger. They are given weapons and body armor for a reason. They’ve been trained with safety in mind and must remain vigilant the entire shift. Providing a home and a demeanor that welcomes them in makes all the difference. They need a safe place to rest, recharge, and relate to those who love and support them. We want to be that place that our officers want to come home to.
Third, we have an important voice. Because we are that compass, we have to find our voice and speak words that need to be heard—reassurance, exhortation, encouragement, and sometimes, words that are harder to hear. I had to find my voice over the years because of how I was raised. Others may not have any trouble letting their voice be heard. If this describes you, use your voice wisely, making sure that nagging, complaining, and whining give way to rational thoughts and words. And with all, being eager to listen and slow to speak from anger.
The final way we can provide backup to our spouse is balance. Officers tend to eat and sleep the job. Constant contact with who police have to deal with day in and day out can jade them. Everyone’s a dirtbag. Everyone is a liar. Boy Scout leaders are pedophiles. You get it…but it’s not the whole population. You and I have a different outlook; we generally deal with decent and good people. Our perspectives matter, and have a way to balance the negativity from the job.
Victoria Newman September 11th, 2017
Posted In: Uncategorized
Labor Day unofficially begins the first day of fall. I’m excited to see the summer go, ushering in the dawn of a new season. Here in Northern California, the hot, stale heat gave way to a little cloud cover, and a fresh breeze blew through the backyard as we worked yesterday. It was a welcome respite.
For Chief and I and our family, the summer has been similar to our circumstances. The hot, stale heat of unfinished troubles settled in for way too long the last few years, stifling progress and attempts to move on. Day after day and month after month, the heat of waiting for prayers to be answered, for change of circumstances, for solutions to situations that were anything but comfortable wore on. On many occasions, we retreated inside for relief.
There have been unexpected joys this summer, like finding out I’m a grandma, and Chief returning to the Field (his heart’s pure joy) from Headquarters, and all my children returning home for a short month. There also arose new challenges and causes for prayers—in the Newman family, but also in the Blue Line Family.
Although we didn’t see endless protesting in the street against our officers on a large scale this summer, the shootings have continued, as have the nonsensical attitudes against them. But at least we now have the support of leadership of this great country.
I took a break this summer from How2LoveYourCop, primarily to attend to the needs of my family. We have been renovating our home with all the kids here and in transition. It’s been awesome and crowded and cumbersome and fun, all at the same time. The renovations are still ongoing, but I am reengaging for fall, moving toward our H2LYC vision once again.
The new CHiP on my Shoulder will release in a couple weeks, with fully updated content, and 30,000 more words of encouragement, knowledge, stories, and helpful advice. The previous editions were based on the wisdom of 35 families and research from seven years ago. The new edition is based on the wisdom of over a 1000 families from all over North America, and updated research. The content answers the questions from six years of emails and letters and conversations I’ve had with officers and their significant others. I’m very proud of the work, as grueling as it’s been this time around. The cover has been updated, the group questions and quotes have been improved, and there’s a bit more about Chief and I and our values.
The nonprofit process was put on hold in the prioritizing, but that will resume this month as well. Watch for our new blog posts, and additions to the resource page, dates for upcoming conferences, and updated content on the others who are involved in this organization. I’m so excited about what we will offer this next year, so keep coming back to the website and Facebook page to find more news.
There are many of you who are hurting now, in the same summer heat-place of waiting for solutions or relief. There are many crises still in progress, like our friends in Houston and the myriad of incidents that cast shadows on our lives. There are those of you in crisis in your own homes, either because of the career or other challenges. For now, let me offer this—the greatest temptation is to retreat inside for relief, away from others. It’s easy to be overwhelmed in the stifling heat of circumstances. But the best thing to survive, and even thrive, through crappy days of waiting is connection with others. Others help carry the load. Others give a different perspective. Others bring laughter—a welcome respite to a world of tears.
Let’s do this life together, and welcome the cool breeze in the backyards of our lives.
Welcome to fall!
Victoria Newman September 5th, 2017
Posted In: Uncategorized
A few weeks ago, I mentioned on my Facebook page that there were some exciting developments under construction, and that soon an announcement would be made. That time has come! But first a little history:
It’s been seven years since I wrote my story and published it as A CHiP on my Shoulder—How to Love Your Cop with Attitude. Back then, I had no idea the book would touch so many cop wives! When I got letters from wives and then officers, I knew something special was happening. Soon I was flying to places I’d never been to speak to people I’d never met. I started blogging, and Facebook became my new friend.
That is when How2LoveYourCop became a “thing”— an operation that created resources for police families, adding content to my blog, Facebook and Twitter, articles, books, a seminar, and speaking engagements. I’ve loved every minute.
At the end of 2016 I began to rethink H2LYC in the midst of some really hard days. I realized it was either time to shut it down, or bring on more people—I chose the second option after Chief weighed in. So, on Saint Patrick’s Day 2017, How2LoveYourCop (H2LYC) became an official corporation, with tax-exemption status pending. Several have asked, why a charitable organization? I never wrote my book to make money, only to help people. When I started hearing heartbreaking stories, my creative juices got busy—and have more ideas than money! When others started offering to support H2LYC, I decided that perhaps these ideas could happen with a different approach.
During this time, another organization I have partnered with made the decision to dissolve. A key person in that organization asked if she could join their marriage and family programs with H2LYC. It was a perfect fit, so I agreed.
Through my work with Hunting for Heroes, I have come to understand the difficulties associated with those wounded in the line of duty. My trips to Montana have been the most intense weeks of the year, and have had a deep impact on my mind and heart. I’ve listened to the stories, holding back my tears (most of the time), and have deep empathy for these families who’ve experienced such trauma. The officers have their memories and injuries—and spouses become caregivers riddled with worry, single parents while their officers heal, and then many times are the ones who fight for benefits assumed are available to those hurt and/or disabled in the line of duty. This is not always the case—and there are families whose officers are abandoned by their departments or government entities if they can’t work anymore. In addition to providing help for these families, we have begun working with Wounded Officer Initiative to advocate for better benefits for those who gave everything just short of life.
Also included in this seven-year educational journey was a military book project that exposed me to the emotional toll of soldiers/flight medics/paramedics who served in Afghanistan. The interviews were emotionally charged, and I sat with grown men who had every reason to cry (and they trusted me to do so). The book, Selfish Prayer, will forever be embedded on my heart. Add to that the journey of my son in his battle with PTSD, and you understand my passion for families who’ve experienced trauma and its effects. Our resources will include more and more tools for families such as these.
So, now H2LYC is now made of two divisions—one that serves the families of active duty officers, and another that serves families that have an officer significantly wounded in the line of duty. Our organization exists to help police families in both divisions to thrive relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.
H2LYC is no longer a one-woman operation! I’ve brought on three cop wives so far, all with incredible experience and wisdom. Frances Siria, a fellow CHP wife I’ve been working with for about nine years now, is Vice President over the Active Duty division. Heidi Paulsen, the wife of a Billings PD (Montana) motor officer who was medically retired for injuries suffered in two separate accidents, is Vice President over the Wounded Officer division. Liz Brown, the wife of a Sacramento Sheriff deputy who was involved in a LODD/critical incident on October 24, 2014, is our secretary. All three of these ladies have a heart for others, and are excited to be on board. I’ve begun the process of asking some incredible people to serve on our Board of Directors—soon I’ll have names and bios up on the website.
With the expansion of H2LYC, we offer the books, blog, social media content, seminars and speaking engagements from before, but we will be adding the following:
• Conferences and Retreats for Spouses, Couples, and Wounded Officers that will include a variety of topics and speakers. Soon we will be able to bring these conferences to other areas, making it easier for smaller groups to take part.
• More Law Enforcement Books from Victoria and others
• Survival Packets for New Officers, Wounded Officers, and Critical Incident Follow-Up
• More partnerships with other organizations to create the best available resources for you
• Top Notch Videos
• Bible Studies (Partnering with Wives on Duty Ministries in September 2017!)
• Small Group Leader Training
• Family Support & Resources for Critical Incidents, PTSD, and other challenges police families face
This is just the beginning!
Soon our website will be updated to reflect these changes. We’ll have details on upcoming events, bios and pics of others in the organization, donation capability, more blog posts, ways to volunteer at our events, and other pertinent information.
How2LoveYourCop strives to build resilience in police families, while restoring hope through tried and true perspectives, principles and practices. We’ll do this as we walk together.
Victoria Newman May 9th, 2017
Posted In: Uncategorized
This past week our department (California Highway Patrol) said goodbye to Motor Officer Lucas Chellew after he died from a crash on duty. At the funeral, there were many there who were devastated by his loss–those who knew him and served alongside him. There were others who didn’t know him but were affected deeply because they had experienced other losses, and this was a painful reminder. I saw many tears that day from those in full Class A uniforms. Some say cops don’t cry–but that is wrong. Cops cry whether or not their tears are visible.
Those of us who love our officers share that grief. We may be family of the fallen, or close friends. We are experiencing our own feelings of loss. But even if we aren’t, the grief is a very present reality, because we feel our loved one’s pain. It may bring up fear, or confusion as our officers pull away in the emotion. It is in these times that we struggle to know how to help, what normal grieving looks like, and then worry creeps in.
The following section is from my book, A Marriage in Progress. This part is for officers. I will address how loved ones can support their officers after a LODD in another post.
“The thunder rumbled and the room lit up. She sighed heavily, leaning over to see that her husband was not in bed. And then she remembered where he was. Sadness. Anger. Grief.
She pulled herself from under the covers. She couldn’t sleep anyway. Between the physical storm that presently ripped through the sky, and the storm that had crashed in on their world just a few hours earlier, there was no peace in slumber. There was no peace anywhere. She and her husband were reeling from the loss of a Blue Line brother, and extended family member.
The days that followed were confusing, her husband dealing with not only a personal loss but also a professional one. Emotions alternated between shock, anger, and sadness. They went through the motions with arrangements, and protocol, and the overwhelming presence of uniforms, all with their children in tow. It was devastating.
“I don’t know what to do,” confided Kristin about her husband. “He’s all business. He’s short with the kids. I know he’s hurting, but he won’t allow himself to grieve.”
When you lose a brother or sister in the line of duty, give yourself permission to grieve. Here are a few ideas to work out the grief:
Talk it out with your spouse or another close friend. Tell stories. Admit you miss them. Get angry at injustice. Whatever the stage of grief you’re in, sharing these feelings does two things: It takes away the power to rule your thoughts, and brings you closer to those who listen. Grief is something to be shared.
Incorporate a characteristic, a quote, or something your loved one stood for in your own life. “Let’s roll!” became a household phrase after Todd Beamer said this before he died on Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.
Pay tribute. Freeways named after the fallen, bike rides to DC in the fallen’s name, a lapel pin or ribbon, scholarship funds, a trip–the list goes on and on.
Go to Police Week in Washington DC. Attend the vigil. Get a name etching from the Law Enforcement Memorial Wall. Leave a note. Sit at the wall awhile. It’s worth the time and money.
Be patient with the emotion. As time passes, processed grief will subside. Sometimes feelings of loss will rise up here and there even years later. This is normal.”
(Page 194-195 of A Marriage in Progress–Tactical Support for Law Enforcement Relationships)
I would add the following:
Grief is natural, normal, and should be expected. It comes on strong in the beginning, and this is the hard part. Allow yourself to talk about it–it helps. Restrained grief will come back again and again until it’s dealt with. It sucks, it hurts, but it will get better.
Grief happens in different ways for different people.
Isolation is an enemy–some time away by yourself is natural. But those who are closest to you are your greatest allies. Don’t push them away.
Victoria Newman March 6th, 2017
Posted In: Uncategorized
“It took a few months for the incident to finally hit me emotionally,” Andrea explained. “Then I couldn’t think straight. I felt depressed, sometimes angry. I found myself crying a lot. Why would it hit me months later? Then I realized that other wives were going through the same thing.”
Andrea’s comments are common for spouses of officers who’ve gone through devastation through either a critical incident that affected many in the department, extended overtime details for rioting or fires, a line of duty death, or similar situations. We saw several departments across the United States last year that were under fire—literally, figuratively, and politically. Officers, leaders, and their families underwent difficulties on a large scale. Dallas, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Baltimore, and areas of Louisiana are just a handful of many communities affected. And then the election inflamed already troubled areas. Through it all, departments have been in survival mode, addressing only immediate dangers, needs, and problems for the time being. Many are exhausted physically and emotionally.
Across the nation, police families have taken up the slack. Surviving the absences of their officers while dealing with social media comments, inaccurate press, and voices of those who’ve jumped on the bandwagon of demonizing those they love. They’ve spent long hours caring for children, simultaneously working their own jobs. Shuffling schedules, extra chores, and the inevitable questions from family and friends.
Once the dust settles from the chaos, homes will need to be tended to. Marriages, children, health, and frazzled nerves wait in survival mode. We wonder, will life ever return to normal?
As one who works alongside police families, I’ve noticed emotional and relational crises develop two to four months after unrest. Law enforcement families are in survival mode from the rioting and the ambushes on a national level. Once things quiet down, those who are solid in their communication and relationships will be fatigued, but generally fine. But those who had problems and issues before will be in crisis. The colder months typically are rough for a lot of people generally, but after extended times of high alert, overtime, hate rhetoric, and lack of support from the public/government/media—this can take its toll.
In light of this, I’ve compiled a few suggestions for law enforcement and their families to proactively decompress from the strain:
1) Embrace a new season—winter is a time for rest. Spring is a time for renewal. We can take a cue from nature by taking stock of the good and positive areas of our lives, then shedding the negative, allowing for rest and renewal.
2) When the time is right, talk with each other about the intensity you’ve gone through. How are you each feeling? How are you processing it? What concerns do you have going forward?
3) Officers, thank those who took up the slack at home—for household chores, handling the kids, and emotional support. For spouses, thank your officer for standing courageously and tirelessly as the thin blue line. Want to motivate each other with generosity? Do something really special—flowers, take the kids while they get a day off, take a spa day, or grab a babysitter and go out for dinner.
4) Reestablish good habits like regular exercise, healthy meals at home, date nights, dinner at the table, and help with chores.
5) Make time for sleep. Sleep not only brings physical benefit, it allows the brain to process difficulties. If you can’t sleep or are plagued with nightmares related to your ordeal, talk it out with someone you trust—a mentor, spouse, a therapist, or perhaps a chaplain. Be aware that alcohol may relax you, but it interferes with your quality of sleep, especially REM sleep (when the brain is naturally reordering itself to better deal with troubles). Frankly, sex is a much better sleep aid, and also creates intimacy.
6) Get away from the fray. Take a day here and there to escape to the beautiful. Take a drive; go hunting, fishing, or snowshoeing. Something about beauty restores the soul and mind.
7) If your summer included loss of a loved one, allow yourself to grieve. Visit the gravesite. Shed a tear. Head for Police Week in the spring. Train for a memorial run or the Unity Tour. Grief is natural and expected.
We as a law enforcement community (families included) have taken a hit these last months. Let’s take time to heal, reconnect, and grow strong together.
Victoria Newman February 11th, 2017
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