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How To Love Your Cop
How To Love Your Cop

Chp 7: Peeps and Props: Your Support System

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work;

If one falls down, his friend can help him up.

But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Ancient proverb

It started with a funeral… All of our husbands had to work it, so several of us went to Chili’s, ate chocolate cake, and cried together. We’ve been close ever since.

Faye, CHP wife of 16 years

There was an instant connection with other cops’ wives. They could understand what I was going through. It became a lifesaver.

Christina, wife of deputy sheriff

            It was a mix and match evening. There were cops’ wives who were married from three to thirty-two years. There were different departments, nationalities, ages, and viewpoints. We had a former dispatcher, a wife who had two sons on the force, and two wives of retired policemen. Several had gone through critical incidents and their aftermath with their husbands. Some had gone through struggles in their marriages and almost didn’t make it. And yet the unity was undeniable. Those who’d never met before were hugging and exchanging numbers by the end of the night.

I hadn’t expected this when I invited several wives of law enforcement to my home to talk about our lives. I was pleasantly surprised at their insight; heads nodded around the table as each took a turn to describe what being a wife of a law enforcement officer was like. At the end of the evening, several women said that even though they’d never done something like this, they wanted to do it again and soon.

I learned something that night. No matter our differences, we need each other.

A Need Indeed!

We have so many demands on our time. Work, children, and managing our homes consumes hours and energy. Add to that a husband’s crisis-driven career, and there’s not a lot of time for much else. We can live our lives moving from task to task, and there is a certain amount of satisfaction with this. But after awhile loneliness sets in. We need connection. We need to laugh together, cry together. We need someone to hear the fifty thousand words we have to get out every day. And our kids just can’t meet these needs.

The California Highway Patrol Academy holds two important events for every cadet class. The day before the cadets report for training, the staff hosts a family orientation seminar. The purpose is to educate loved ones as to what their cadet will go through and suggest ways to help them through the next twenty-seven weeks. The day before graduation, family members of those graduating are invited to a family support panel. The purpose of this meeting is to educate families for their first steps as an officer. In both events seasoned wives are invited to encourage, validate, and connect with other families. Swapping numbers with nearby people, encouraging Facebook connections and forums online, and grouping families according to geographical area of assignment is a big part of the connection process. The reason our department does this is that they have recognized the importance of support systems for our officers. It is becoming increasingly apparent that cops and their families need to have connection with and support from those who love them. Their emotional survival depends on it.

You and I are no different. We may be the support systems for our men in uniform, but we can’t do it alone either. When we deal with what comes home, we need validation of our thoughts and actions. It is good to get feedback from those we trust, and most of all we need healthy doses of encouragement that come from others who love us. Living life together gives us confidence and security.

Let’s start with you as an individual. Do you have close friends or family who support you, your marriage, and your kids? Chances are you have a great support system in place. But what if your husband’s job takes you to another part of the state or country? Or you have a strained relationship with your mother? Or your spouse just started his career in law enforcement and your friends not only don’t understand but also don’t want to?

Brent and I have lived in several parts of our state as he’s transferred for promotions. My experience is that I have been the one to take the initiative. In southern California, before I had children, my workplace was where I found my friends. I found myself tagging along with single girls when Brent was working or looked forward to ladies’ nights out with coworkers. We went to the Hollywood Bowl together, threw wedding and baby showers, and went to lunch. I learned a lot about LA’s creative variety hanging out with these gals.

Once I had children, it seemed to be a little easier to find friends. I joined a local Mothers of Preschoolers chapter and got involved. I was invited by another CHP wife and loved it. As the kids grew older, I met ladies at school functions and the gym. We’d work out and then go to coffee afterward for girl time.

One of my closest friends is a young woman who moved to Sacramento the same time I did, and we met in a Bible study. Once I learned her husband was with the Air Force and they lived five minutes away, our families began living our lives together almost every day. We have continued to keep in touch through the years and spend many of our vacations visiting them in whatever state they reside.

One question I hear often from new officers’ wives is, “How do I get in touch with other law enforcement wives?” It’s not as easy as it might seem. Sometimes you just have to extend an invitation for coffee without expectations. You never know who you’ll connect with and who you won’t. With the friend in the Air Force, I had to ask her several times to get together before she actually took me up on it. She and her husband weren’t used to getting to know people much because they moved often. We cured them of that.

Annie’s husband, Tim, was with county homicide. It was hard on him, and he wasn’t the same person after he saw some awful things. I asked her how she dealt with it. She told me that in addition to her church, she has some great friends in law enforcement. She had grown close to a female deputy who was also married to an officer. When their husbands worked swing shift, they would take the kids out to have some fun. Sometimes they got home just before their husbands did! But Annie told me that those fun times were what got her and the kids through those long, lonely evenings.

Another thing that works fairly well within offices is to get groups of wives together on a regular basis, grass-roots style. The best example I’ve seen is what my friend Faye put together. She and a couple of ladies started going to coffee together. Then they went to a play. Soon they invited more and more ladies from the station to join them, and they came up with a variety of monthly events. Faye had the vision to connect the women in her husband’s office, and she went for it. It caught on. Then when one of the women’s husbands was killed in the line of duty, they stepped up and took care of her, comforting her and meeting practical needs. It was community they created, and it naturally kicked into action when crisis hit. Faye and I are now actively encouraging others to do the same thing in other areas of California.

Another way that we’ve seen great connection on a larger level is groups of law enforcement wives on the Internet. Our cadet wives have been creating small groups on Facebook. This is a great way to keep in touch with several people at once and when you don’t live close to other wives. This is an incredible way to gain information, ask questions about benefits, support families through critical incidents and family emergencies, and just toss out ideas. When face to face isn’t always available, this is a great way to connect. If you check my website, I have updated links to several groups of law enforcement wives on the Internet.

June 10th, 2013

Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder

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