Critical Incident Support for Spouses
A Code 900 in the career of your officer will change the very fabric of their being, your being and the shape and trajectory of your lives as a couple and family. From a spouse’s perspective it forces you to see the reality that can be policing today and makes you confront the impermanence of life and the vulnerability that exists underneath the uniform. Two within six months of each other will test the very material you are constructed from. Sadly, that became our reality in 2013. My husband had only been on the street for 6 months; the only thing I knew about being a police spouse was that my husband looked fantastic in a uniform. Former Chief Hanson looked me in the eye and said this likely wouldn’t happen again, six months later he again sat in my kitchen drinking coffee from my mismatched mugs and apologized for saying that statistically speaking it shouldn’t have happened again. Needless to say, we don’t talk about statistics in our house anymore.
I made incredible use of CPS Psychological Services Division. I learned about what to expect from an officer who has just been involved in a critical incident. I learned to ride the wave of hypervigilance that came after and then calmed down on it’s own. I learned about ASIRT investigations, mandatory time off, civil lawsuits, and the level of camaraderie that exists among officers. I also learned that my experience was too much for some police spouses and they had to distance themselves from me as it hit too “close to home”. I learned about feeling isolated and alone while experiencing something that was media fodder and made for good headlines. I found myself riding the C-Train to work and looking around at people going about their business and thinking “you have no clue what my family is going through, all to keep you safe and warm in your beds”.
I found that I was not okay with navigating it alone and decided to start reaching out to other spouses the only way I knew how – through Beyond The Blue. In April 2017, I spoke out on our Facebook page about my experience and offered up my home for an evening of gathering and sharing our stories. The Critical Incident Support Group for Spouses was born that night and has been going strong ever since. We meet about 4 times a year for an evening of sharing our stories, quite often accompanied by tears, and a lessening of our sense of isolation surrounding our spouses careers and the situations they were put in that led them to use force, sometimes lethal, or injured them and forever marked their bodies and lives.
It can be challenging to reach out to the spouses of officers involved in critical incidents as I have to rely on the “rumor mill” to find out who was involved and hope that I can track someone down who can get them a message to then pass on to their spouse; all while going through one of the most stressful events of their lives and careers. I post support group meetings on our website and Facebook page and ask people to pass along my information to other spouses in the hopes of reaching people. To date, I have helped close to 20 police spouses in this journey. I hope one day to have a spouse involved with CPS Peer Support so that when they reach out to officers post-critical incident, a police spouse can also reach out personally to the spouse or partner of the officer and offer support.
Spouses and partners of officers involved in critical incidents are the key to officers returning to work in a healthy place, but they need support to fulfill that role in a way that leaves everyone whole. Calgary Beyond the Blue has been a lifeline for me and continues to allow me to use my experiences in this police life to help others navigate this as well.