Healing Is Not Linear
In the days and weeks that followed "the incident", emotions ran HIGH!
There were moments of laughter. Our families rallied so hard around protecting us that it felt like we were in this beautiful little cocoon. But just like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, we couldn't stay in that cocoon forever.
It was pretty immediate that John expressed his desire to "start talking". Not to us. A team of corrections officers who offer trauma and peer support descended onto our small town within hours of that day; not only to offer support to my husband but to EVERYONE from the jail who was affected by that day. John reached out and we went to meet with a CO from Thunder Bay. We sat outside on a sunny afternoon and for a long time, just sat. But one thing he said was that just the fact that John was already wanting to speak and reach out was a good sign.
There were many resources that were being passed our way, both from organizations within our town and from around the country. Now it was up to us (or more so my husband) to navigate which of these resources were going to work for him. Like a lot of men, John wasn't big on sharing his feeling and talking about his different emotions so I knew that finding the right resources and people may be a challenge.
Meanwhile, I kept going on with life as normally as I could. Our girls were young enough that they didn't really have to know anything aside from "Dad was hurt at work and when you get hurt at work they give you time off". I was working for myself and had also just recently taken a position as a casual education assistant.
I needed to stay busy. I had to feel productive. If it stopped, the emotions would come. I was afraid that if I stopped being busy, I would lose control of everything that I had worked very hard at containing.
I wanted to be the strong, supportive, can handle anything spouse and mother. But it was hard. I wasn't processing my emotions. I was repressing them (and if I am being totally transparent...I think I still do this a lot).
I remember one night we were giving our youngest a bath and he started telling me about a conversation he had with a coworker. This was maybe 2 or 3 weeks post-incident. And it went something like this:
Him: They asked me how I can be doing so well and how I seem to be managing so well. Should I be feeling worse?
Me: Well that's fucking ballsy.
Him: What do you mean by that?
Me: What the hell do they know? You aren't "doing well". You aren't "managing". We've barely even scratched the surface of managing anything.
This led to a fight. He wasn't doing anything at that point except getting through each day. Which was ok. Who would expect more at that point. But I was so mad that someone had A) made him question how he was currently coping and B) assumed they knew anything about how he was truly doing.
But this fight also led to a breakthrough. That was the first time that I would truly be honest with him about what I was thinking about the whole process. And it was the first time he would communicate his true needs to me. John looked at me through his tear-filled, angry eyes and said "You are supposed to be on my team. I need to know that you'll always be on my team."
Like so many women, especially wives, I so badly wanted to make everything better...instantly. I wanted to take away the pain. I wanted to erase the memories of the hours that he endured that I would never be able to fully comprehend.
We were lucky to have the commander of our local police detachment to reach out and offer the name of a psychologist who works with first responders, primarily law enforcement. He was based out of Winnipeg, a city 2hrs away from us, but had an office here in town that he came down to once a month.
Thankfully, John and Dr. H bonded right away. John found him easy to talk to which was key; he had found a place that he was comfortable shedding light on the darkness.
This was only the first of many steps. But the journey towards healing had started.