Officers are trained to consider all possible outcomes of a given call and to rely upon continuous training to provide the best possible solution to a problem at hand. Sometimes en route to a particularly dangerous call, an officer’s mind may briefly wander to the “what ifs” that lie ahead; however, training kicks in, and you push the “what ifs” away. You arrive focused and diligent. As a result, you make it home to your family once more.
Officers’ family members exist in a world of “what if” scenarios. What if my husband meets a felon on the street? What if she takes that corner too fast and wrecks out? The list could go on and on. Yet, in true blue family fashion, we push the “what ifs” out of our head, and we carry on with our day.
Pushing away the “what if” thoughts, are a means of survival: both physically and emotionally. In order to survive as an officer or a family member, we quickly learn to evade and carry on. Yet, the stark reality is we are a member of a group that is willing to put their lives on the line for the greater good of the community. The danger is always present, but we tend to believe that ignoring the possibilities is best.
The reality is, we couldn’t be more wrong.
I am guilty of the same evasion tactics. I fought long and hard against the “this is what I want if…” conversations. I didn’t want to allow my brain to go “there.” My husband presented these conversations as factual and to the point, much like writing the narrative to a report.
I found it difficult to engage myself in a conversation that represented the worst possible scenario in my life. As a result, he talked, and I listened. He requested and I agreed. The conversation ended and we carried on with pushing thoughts out of our mind as a means of survival.
I spent years trusting that the tried and true evasion tactics would work and that I would wake up to the sound of Velcro each morning. Until, one morning, instead of hearing Velcro, I heard a knock on the door in its place.
For the next week, I would spend hours trying to recall exactly what was requested in those few conversations we actually had. What songs? Did he want our young son to attend? Who would serve as pallbearers? What should I say at the funeral? Should I even speak at all?
In those early morning hours when decisions were weighing heavily on my mind, I found myself longing for there to be a book, a guide, something physical that I could turn to in order to make decisions that would honor him. Yet, I had nothing but my brain to rely on. A foggy, emotional, devastated brain.
After Jason’s death, I vowed to help other families see the benefits of being prepared. I promised to help erase the superstitious ideas of “if we don’t talk about it, then it can’t happen.” I wanted to help others turn conversations into effective dialogs conducted for the love of family. These conversations are investments in a family’s future.
What would your wife do if she didn’t know how to pay the mortgage? Where would your husband go to find your birth certificate, social security card, deed to the house? Where are the insurance cards kept? How much is the automatic draft for car insurance each month?
There are the questions which must be answer after a line of duty death. Life doesn’t stop. How can you make it easier on your loved ones if the unthinkable happens? How can you ensure that you have your family’s emotional and physical safety secured?
The answer is to start planning now.
Your duty is to protect and serve. Your family’s safety is always first and foremost in your mind. It’s time that we stop viewing these conversations as dreaded, and start viewing them as protecting our family.
Pretending that it can’t happen doesn’t increase an LEOs chances of survival, but it does increase the potential emotional, physical, financial stresses for a family that has paid the ultimate sacrifice in losing their loved one.
Regardless of the difficulty level of the conversations, they are a must. By entering into this profession, you have asked your family to be willing to sacrifice, just as you are. Now is the time to help them plan for all possible outcomes this job may bring.
I pray that you consider the “what ifs” for just long enough to decide to prepare for them. I agree, living in the “what ifs” is detrimental to an officer and his/her family; however, lack of preparing for them, will leave a lifetime of “what if I didn’t honor him/her in the decisions I made.”
Help erase the questions from your loved ones mind. Take the pledge to begin to secure your family’s future.
Stephanie Sprague is the widow of Officer William Jason Sprague of the Texarkana, Texas Police Department, EOW June 15 2013. Her passion is to help prepare police families for the very worst by writing forthrightly about the challenges she faces. Mrs. Sprague can be reached via Facebook: The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line and via www.thepinkbehindthethinblueline.wordpress.com
“Graphic created by Fellow Officer Rose Borisow GraFX”