Family Story: ‘When he’s willing to talk, everything has to go on hold’

He’d done a few afternoon shifts in a row, and I felt like we hadn’t really seen each other all week. I had all this information that I needed to tell him; I was in organisation mode and had to check that he was right to take the kids where they needed to go, things like that. 

But I could see that he wasn’t really listening. He wasn’t in that moment, and didn’t seem able to think about what I was thinking about. 

I said, ‘How was your shift?’ He said it was terrible, that he’d been to a fatality (a car crash).

Suddenly, all the family organising stuff wasn’t important. He needed to talk about what was on his mind.

The fatality had been an accident, and someone would now be facing a jail sentence for it. My husband was thinking about the person who died, and their family, as well as the offender. He was trying to process the fact that he was the one who had to say, ‘I have to abide by the law, you’ve done the wrong thing …’

I don’t know the ins and outs of it. When things like this happen, I just try and focus on how he’s feeling rather than make him talk about what happened, because that’s traumatising for him.

It’s hard for me to figure out what’s the right thing to say, and what’s the right thing to do. But listening is essential. A lot of the time he tries not to talk about work, so in the moments he’s ready then I have to let him.

When he’s willing to talk, everything has to go on hold.

It’s helpful for me to know about his day, too. If he’s dealing with something or really tired after a shift, I can’t stretch him or put too much into the day. It might be that he can have a coffee with a friend, or chill out at home, or do something with the kids – nothing too high pressure.

When we eventually got to the kids’ sport that day, all the parents were talking lightheartedly. I feel like our world is so different, so far apart from everyone else’s. They had no idea there’d even been a car accident that night.

As told to Fortem Australia

To get involved in upcoming Fortem events check our Wellbeing Activities Calendar, you’ll also find mental health resources for first responders and their families in the Fortem Resource Library and via Peak Fortem. Fortem Australia also offers psychology support for eligible first responders and family members. Call 1300 33 95 94 to find out more. 

Thanks to the author of The Police Wife Chronicles for sharing your story.