1 June 2023

Beyond Brave: Liz, Ashley, and Louise – first responder families 

Liz, Ashley, and Louise are the wives and partners of first responders. 

Liz’s partner has been a firefighter for over ten years. He was recently deployed to Turkey to provide first responder aid in a time of crisis. Liz also has two sons, one of whom is an SES volunteer. Liz herself is a family support counsellor. 

Ashley’s husband has been a police officer for nine years and, prior to that, spent five years working in the defence force. Ashley is an emergency nurse in a major hospital, with two young daughters at home. 

Louise’s husband has worked as a firefighter for nearly 20 years. Louise works as a public servant and has two young children. 

Looking at the previous two sessions of the Beyond Brave Summit, Louise shared her thoughts on the house model metaphor and her recent experiences on the first level. “I’m going through something at the moment, but what I’ve done to protect myself is taken a leave of absence to try to give myself the space and grace to heal and repair. I think that’s key, particularly for a first responder family, to make sure we do those things for ourselves as well. My husband comes home with the trauma of the experiences he goes through and if I’m not at my best it’s hard for me to be supportive of his experience.” 

The three reflected on the concept of bravery and what it means to be brave as a first responder. Ashley said, “The jobs that first responders do come with that inherent bravery of course, but I think it can also be a double-edged sword. If you’re pushing home that you’ve got to be brave, then does that impact you and make you more reluctant to seek out help when you’re not feeling brave because you’re meant to be brave to do the job? Does that make them more reluctant to reach out and say I’m not doing okay?” 

“Bravery as a word and concept is something we tend to try to shy away from in the community. I think it’s fair to say a lot of people as first responders want to help people, and they’re not looking for a badge of honour around that. It’s helpful to understand vulnerability and bravery can coexist. It’s acknowledging the bravery, but equally, it doesn’t mean they have to be brave all of the time.” 

Looking at Fortem’s wellbeing activities, Louise said, “They are key, and the importance is connection with others who experience what we do as first responder families because you don’t have that in your own environment.” 

Liz also reflected on the need for connection; saying, “It is connectedness, and you feel there is opportunity to laugh, have fun, and be without judgement, and first responder families sometimes feel guilty about that. It’s so important.” 

Watch the session by clicking here