The other day I posted on Twitter, “A dead body before lunch? Yup. #myLEOday.”
But at what point did that happen? And why?
The first question is difficult to answer. It’s not like remembering the first kiss you ever had. (Yes, I just equated death with your first kiss…I’ve never claimed to be couth). At some point, it just becomes.
The why is easier to figure out. We simply have to. If you can’t deal with the darkness, how can you spread the light? If find yourself overwhelmed in the face of mortal life’s unavoidable destination, perhaps you’re more suited to work at the library or Dairy Queen (not a judgement…I just love a good Blizzard)
Here’s a few ways to deal with death that some of us in LE have used. My hope is to pull back the curtain a bit for you in the private sector to understand us a bit better
1. Humor. AKA Gallows humour. (Yes, humour…I figured we don’t use gallows anymore, so Olde English was appropriate). In the face of morbidity, rank smells, and sadness, we tend to make light of it. It’s a defense mechanism. Fire/EMS is just as guilty. When I was a younger man, I dated a girl around Christmas. She was appalled when we had dinner at the fire house. Why? The Christmas tree was decorated with medical paraphernalia…including toe tags. Morbid…but funny.
2. Faith. I grew up in a Christian household. I go to church now. I love my church and the people in it. I have faith that God is in control and this life isn’t a meaningless journey where we end up being worm food and nothing else exists. Now, I’m sure some of you may think of faith as a crutch. That is your prerogative, I suppose. But my faith sees me through every day…in both my personal and professional life.
3. Compartmentalization. Not my most recommended route, this one. There’s too much of a tendency to bury your feelings. The risk here is that you eventually explode. I guarantee it will be at the most inopportune moment as well. I’ve said time and again in the past how much I appreciate the Wife and the support she lends me. If I need to vent, I can always call her. Venting was also the partial impetus to starting this blog in the first place. The point is that you need someone to share the load. Spouses are the best, but short of that, find someone. Bottling it up will only damage you…and eventually someone you love.
First responders have an inordinate amount of stress foisted upon them. But we buck up and muddle through. Twenty minutes after dealing with death last week, I sat down to eat a big helping of pasta and didn’t think twice about the poor lady that passed hours before. I won’t go into details, but she wasn’t discovered resting peacefully in her bed. She wasn’t dressed for a night on the town. She didn’t smell like roses. All that and I still sat down to eat with co-workers.
The bottom line may sound trite, but it truly is just part of the job.
How do you/would you deal with death?