We have two family members in the police force. One is a detective, who’s often on call over Christmas, and getting him to relax is hard. We don’t know what’s he’s seen the night before or whether his phone ringing is a sign of something serious that’s just happened.
We don’t really talk about it. That’s just not who they are. They like to keep up a wall. They’ve said that they prefer to have the wall up, because the second the wall is knocked down they don’t think they’ll be able to rebuild. Trying to stay in the moment at Christmas means we’re supporting them without breaking that wall.
They compartmentalise their lives, and it takes its toll on them. Thankfully they talk to each other – that gives them a support system to share with someone else who understands them and their experiences – but they wouldn’t speak about it with me or other people in the family. They don’t want to bring us into it, and they don’t want us to feel their pain. If they’ve seen something horrendous – and at Christmas, people drink too much and get in the car or get aggressive – they don’t want us to know how bad it got.
Still, I feel like I need to help them in some way without talking about it – so I aim to distract them. I think that, as long as they’ve got a support network and they can speak about it if they need to, then doing things that make them happy, like spending time with their family, is all they really want.
Christmas is the perfect distraction. We all understand that they’re under an immense amount of pressure, especially during the holiday season, so trying to stay in the moment at Christmas means we’re supporting them without breaking that wall.
The kids in the family help more than they’d know: everyone gets really into seeing them excited about Santa, and opening presents together. Once we get into that groove – when everyone’s comfortable and happy and at the dinner table, ready for a laugh – then Christmas is a great chance to celebrate.
It masks the worry, and sometimes that’s okay.
They’re here to serve and protect. Trying to protect the people who serve and protect is hard – but this time of year is a chance for us to try our best.
As told to Fortem Australia