Monday, July 22, 2013

Keep the Conversation Going

I have to admit, I am ABSOLUTELY amazed at how my LODD guest post at has started families talking.  I thought for sure I would have scared people away.  I thought it was too raw.  I put it off time and again, because I would feel nauseous every time I pulled that notebook out.  When the LODDs kept coming, I finally locked the door, grabbed the tissue and got started. When I submitted it, I figured Lori would send it back my way and have me revise it.  But it was posted last week, pretty much as I had written it.  

And the first day there was quite a bit of feedback...and then it continued.  I got emails and private messages.  I was tagged in comments. I was shocked. And here we are more than a week since it hit and the conversation is still going strong on our private boards, and hopefully throughout the fire world.

This is an emotional discussion.  We always envision growing old with our husbands.  So the idea that they might leave us in an unexpected, tragic manner is sometimes harder than we thought it would be to handle.  Once we start thinking about what we can control in the here and now,  we start to think about those images that we push from our minds on those lonely shift nights.

But there is chatter in our group.  Some of the chatter is just how hard this whole process is.  Some is how thankful they are to have started it now, especially in light of another LODD.  Some is the venting because the firefighter in their life doesn't want to talk about it.  Some have written letters and some have sat down and started this conversation.  No matter what, the important piece of all of this is that there is a conversation going on, even if it is just in bits and pieces. It is a harsh reality of this life, even though we always home and pray everyone comes home, sometimes they do not. 

So, here's my advice.  Take it or leave it, just putting it out there for further discussion.

Ladies, be patient and be as calm as you can be.  No one is suggesting you be an emotionless zombie, but crying your eyes out will make it difficult to discuss.  Remember, this is a just in case action.  When he retires, you can have a ceremonial bonfire.  That is my plan!

When Daddy was still on the boat team,
I arranged for her k4 class to see the boat
in action after their field trip was done.
Perks of the fire life
Be aware that this discussion might be harder on him than it is on you.  It is his mortality that we are talking about here, after all  Some of the guys do have a hard time admitting, especially to you, that they might not come home.  Be sensitive to it.  Perhaps you can suggest that there is another time he  could choose.  Or, ask him if you can do it a piece at a time - maybe once a month. Send the kids to grandma's, do your section for the month and then open a bottle of wine.  You might find that it is a bonding experience.  You know your firefighter best, read his cues.  If it is too much to handle, save it for another day.  

Be prepared.  Know what questions you want to ask him.  Know he might not have an answer for you at that moment in time, and that is okay.  Know that it might be hard for you to hear and imagine.  This is a necessary topic to discuss, but by no means does that make it easy.

Firefighters,  remember this is a scary topic for us.  You may think we are overreacting, but these are decisions we will have to make should the unthinkable happen.  Your department may be blessed enough to not have to worry about this for your entire career, or even lifetime.  And then, the bonfire I mentioned earlier, can take place.  But what if?  I know, I know.  What if...I get hit by a bus...we've had this discussion, too.  Just humor her because if that "What If" becomes reality, you will have given her the best gift you could have given her for that moment in time.  

Be patient with her questions and checklists.  You have no idea how many sleepless nights there are in your home when you are on shift.  Just like you don't share all of your runs, we don't always tell you when we've had a rough night.  For the same reason, we don't want to worry or burden you.  If this provides a little bit more comfort, isn't that in and of itself worth the annoyance you might feel.  Don't make her feel like this is an inconvenience for you.

Be honest with her. Tell her what you really think.  If this notebook actually does get pulled out for anything other than notes or adding paperwork, know that you will have given her the piece of mind that she needs to get through this heartbreaking experience.  You will take the guessing out of the equation.

Guys, if it is easier to address in writing, ask her if that would be okay.  Women are verbal, chatty creatures by nature.  Not all men are.  A compromise with this topic might be the best way.

Whatever you do, don't end the conversation.  Take a break and come back to it, but always come back to it.  Remind your FF that you love him.  And go easy on yourself, gals.  If it is too much all at once, break it up yourselves.  Tackle it piece by piece.  You are Fire Strong!  Never forget that.

Hug those Firefighters and Muppets tight.  Let them know everyday that you love them. 

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