There Is No Superman! The Role of the Spouse in the Fire Service

by Peggy Sweeney

Over the years, I have been very fortunate to not only instruct firefighters on coping with traumatic loss and grief, but many of their wives and family members as well. When I would ask them for comments, questions or feedback, I usually got little or no response. Understandably, because spouses are very reluctant to talk in front of their firefighters about their feelings, their fears, or what is in their heart. Many of them wonder why the warm, loving and carefree person they married does not come home like that anymore.

I know what many of you fear: your spouse, partner or family member may be struggling mentally and emotionally with the traumas of his or her job. You realize that what they see, hear and feel on a recurring basis is beginning to play a major roll in how they view life, living and their job. When the call goes well, life is good! When their best efforts to save a life or protect property from ruin do not end positively, it is a BAD DAY! Continue reading “There Is No Superman! The Role of the Spouse in the Fire Service”

‘Never Let Your Fear Decide Your Destiny’: A letter to a friend who is struggling with addiction

by Peggy Sweeney

I know you are fearful that people will be disappointed if they learn you are an alcoholic. Most of your family members and close friends already know.

Dear friend, I think of you often. Tonight, I decided to put my thoughts on paper.

When I was in my early forties, I was a young wife and mother of three small children. Due to circumstances at that time, I planned my suicide because I thought that everyone would be better off without me. I felt hopeless. Helpless. I believed I was a failure to my children, to my husband and to everyone who loved me.

That changed one morning. I awoke determined to make something of my life. I vowed that I would never let anyone suffer alone with depression without offering them my help. Continue reading “‘Never Let Your Fear Decide Your Destiny’: A letter to a friend who is struggling with addiction”

When Serving Becomes Surviving: PTSD and Suicide in the Fire Service

by Peggy Sweeney

Author’s Note: This article was previously published on the Grieving Behind the Badge website which has since been closed. Some information has been updated, but the overall article is noteworthy.

While watching a news report about a major apartment fire with many casualties including several children, I became aware of a group of professionals who regularly experience grief and traumatic stress; specifically, the men and women who serve their communities as firefighters. In spite of their dedicated service to their communities, few people in the civilian world are aware of, or seem to be concerned about, their physical, mental, and emotional struggles. Soon after that newscast, I outlined the Grieving Behind the Badge program and set my sights on offering help. I had expertise in grief and loss, but that did not prepare me for the obstacles before me. Continue reading “When Serving Becomes Surviving: PTSD and Suicide in the Fire Service”