“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
Posted In: Uncategorized
Yesterday Chief and I attended the funeral of Deputy Dennis Wallace from Stanislaus County, California. He was the latest officer from California to be executed by gunfire. I’ve been to many line-of-duty funerals in my 28 years with Chief, and this was the second police funeral I attended this month.
If you’ve been following the 40 Days of Gratitude campaign on this page, you may have noticed that I’ve shared some difficult days. When protests turn to riots, another brother or sister is laid to rest, our family time is cut into, our officers show signs of wear, and the media spreads the filth of hate and anarchy, discouragement and fear sets in. I’ve heard from many of you that this is the case for you, too.
But yesterday I rode with Chief in the processional from the service to the gravesite for the first time. It floored me.
The quiet majority came out and were anything but silent. I’d never seen such support from a community. Signs of support (not one middle finger!). Blue line flags that hung from houses and vehicles and people. Blue ribbons tied to telephone poles and trees and fences. Blue balloons adorned the schools. People dressed in blue T-shirts waving American flags. People of all ages, colors, occupations, socio-economic status’. We saw farmers, orange-vested men in hard hats, store owners, office staff, veterans from several wars, and families who may or may not be here legally. There were babies with their mommas, sons and dads with their hands over their hearts. Women crying. A man standing at attention with a blue ribbon tied to the grill of his completely restored pickup from the 50s. Seniors in wheelchairs. Teenagers. Smiling people without teeth. Firemen saluting on top of their engines at every turn. Older men with hands over their hearts with jaws tight. Young men with their pants hanging low. Pretty sure I saw a tweaker or two. We drove by the schools where Deputy Wallace was particularly involved, and school children by the dozens chaperoned by parents and teachers crowded the streets. Messages of admiration lined the chain-link fences. Thank you notes, tears, and waving. Helicopters and planes flew overhead, and those in the processional could not help but turn on their sirens in thanks as we passed by.
This is small town Northern California! There were hundreds of people, perhaps even thousands. And they were there to honor the life and sacrifice of Deputy Wallace, to show their support for his family, and all law enforcement.
It gave me hope.
Because even though there are those who are protesting, and rioting, and wreaking havoc and hate toward the Thin Blue Line, there are thousands who support peace officers, and do not support the violence, nor the sentiments that are so inflamed by the media. We’re not as alone as we thought.
Deputy Wallace was one of those officers who went the extra mile on the job—with kids in particular. In the service we listened to testimony of his commitment to young people, and the difference it made in the lives of many. His integrity and passion for his community built bridges between officers and those arrested. Adults and children. Life and death. And even though there were many colors that were present, race was not even mentioned. Not once.
I was reminded of the power of one. Just one officer made an incredible difference in the lives of this community. And there are countless officers who are doing the same.
I was reminded that we are America. Land of the free, home of the brave. There is hope here.
So today, Day 38 of 40 Days of Gratitude, I am grateful for hope. Thank you Modesto, and in particular, Hughson, for your voice. You spoke for the silent majority across the nation. We as police families are so thankful.
Victoria Newman November 23rd, 2016
Posted In: Uncategorized
Yesterday marked 40 days until Thanksgiving. At church our pastor talked about unity and what that looks like. He first of all said that unity doesn’t mean that we have to look like each other, that we don’t have to be near each other, or that we have to agree with one another. He quoted another pastor, saying, “We don’t have to see eye to eye, but instead we walk hand in hand.”
Wow. I look at our country and how fractured we are right now. We are the United States of America. We don’t all agree. We live miles away from one another. And we certainly don’t look like each other. In fact, we’ve reduced each other to what color we are…but that’s another topic.
I also look at our law enforcement community, and how beaten up we’ve been over the last few years. Our Thin Blue Line is what is holding the country from being overrun by chaos and anarchy. Revisions to law, political pressures, demands based on perceptions, loud accusations that quiet the majority, and a relentless and biased press have squeezed that thin blue line even thinner. I know our officers feel it. I know our families feel it. Live it. And discouragement reigns as answers are not easy, and often illusive. But it is more important than ever to strengthen our Thin Blue Line.
My pastor went on to say that where unity begins is in gratitude. Concentrate on what God has done for you, rather than increased fault-finding in others. Now, there are those reading this who have a faith in God, and others who don’t. But the point is the same—concentrating on what we have and being thankful will make for a better attitude.
In light of this thought I’m asking you to join with How2LoveYourCop in a quest to concentrate for the next 39 days on Gratitude. Each day I’ll post on Facebook/Twitter a question to think about, and perhaps some insights I come across. I’d invite you to comment, bringing forth some of your thoughts as well. We’ll keep it positive.
Not sure exactly where we’ll ultimately go with this, but nonetheless we have the power to change our thoughts and attitudes. Attitudes change our choices, and choices make up our lives. What a great way to enter into the Christmas season, and an even better way to survive the election!
Victoria Newman October 17th, 2016
Posted In: Uncategorized
How2LoveYourCop is nearing its fifth birthday! I’ve written three books (with two more on the way), visited 20 states and three countries, met and helped countless police families, and feel like I am just finding my stride!
At this milestone, I’ve spent some time recently taking inventory of where we are as an organization, and where I’d like to take it in the future.
In the spirit of reevaluating How2, I’ve partnered with Half a Bubble Out, a marketing firm in my hometown of Chico, California. They have updated my website, bringing it up to 2016 standards, and giving it a fresh, new look. You’ll notice the Resource Page has been vastly improved, as well as the addition of a contact form. I’d welcome your feedback, as well as suggestions for other improvements. Keep checking back, as my blog posts will resume, my calendar will continually be updated, and there are new things in the works.
Speaking of new, I’m constantly looking for more ways to encourage, equip, and empower police families. There is much I want to do yet. Here are some of the ideas I’m running with now and in the future:
Continued LawOfficer.com articles (link coming soon)
Expand readership and seminar countrywide, worldwide
Motivational & Educational Videos
Partnerships for Police Family Wellness
Practical products for the home
Family Readiness Packages for police departments and associations
Partnership-based resources for Law Enforcement PTSD
Curriculum for Small Groups
Retreats and Conferences
Resources for children of police officers
Help for wounded law enforcement families
There is much on the horizon and in my planning, but I’m always open to your ideas as well. As always, if you see a need for something, please fill out the contact form and let me know how I can help. I’ll get back to you in a timely manner.
Lastly, if you enjoy the books, speaking, website, Facebook page, and other How2 resources, please feel free to share with others. Your recommendation is the best way I get the word out to those who can benefit. We as police families need each other, more now than ever.
Victoria Newman July 10th, 2016
Posted In: General