Lori Mercer-0001smallAs we reflect on the horrific events of 9/11, it’s important we address the impact it still has on first responders and their families. In this guest post, Lori Mercer from FireFighterWife.com shares inspirational ideas on dealing with the fear that comes from loving someone with such a dangerous job.

So many women tell me that every time they kiss their husband goodbye on his way out the door they think to themselves “This could be the last time I see him.”

I wonder how many of the fire wives thought that on the morning of September 11, 2001?

But an even better question, is I wonder how many of those lost in the tower even thought that in the past week before 9.11?  A rare few if they were lucky were able to give a sufficient final goodbye “just in case”.

Most people have a sense of the fickle fate that could take any of our lives at any moment.  Car accidents.  Heart Attacks.  Natural Disasters.  But most people don’t have a constant reminder of the fragility of life living in their house leaving their firefighter paraphernalia lying around.  The navy blue shirts.  The coffee mugs.  The maltese cross decals on the cars.  The Last Will and Testament and important details for a Line of Duty Death tucked away in the fire safe.

Every fire wife has thought about her husband dying on duty.  She’s rehearsed the phone call or the knock on the door all the way thru the tears, the funeral and life without him.   I’ve personally found myself lost in thought when I’m driving, waiting for him to call me back after that last interrupted call “Working fire.  Gotta go!  Love you.” Click.  It’s been 3 hours.  Surely they are back by now.   Somewhere those thoughts of “I’m sure they are just busy cleaning up.  Or maybe his cell phone isn’t on him” turn to thoughts of what if.  What if something happened to him?   And before you know it tears are streaming down your face as you’re visualizing his eulogy given by his partner while you hug the kids tightly in the front row.

It’s so real.  Or I should say, we can make things so real in our minds.   And for some women, those thoughts grip them in ferocious fears that paralyze them, unable to act.  Unable to go cook dinner, remember the next task or fall asleep.  Even if you aren’t paralyzed in fear you may still be carrying with you that worry, gnawing in your gut and taking up precious space in your thoughts.

She’s trapped by those nasty emotions waiting for a stinking return phone call that 9,999 out of 10,000 times is going assure her that mental trap was just a false alarm.

And now we approach another anniversary of September 11th and the reminders get more frequent, more graphic, more lump-forming-in-my-throat-inducing.

Now I’m not just referring to fire wives.  I think every American growing up in this generation has a strong emotional reaction to the events of 9.11.  How could you not?  It’s such a display of pure evil and loss of innocent lives.  Perhaps even some firefighters react more strongly as they think of friends, colleagues, brothers and sisters who were killed on that day.  And remind themselves it’s a promise they made and it could happen to them as well.

How do you beat this mental battle?  Because if you don’t, they might as well keep flying planes into buildings because you are still fearfully impacted and that’s exactly what they wanted to happen.   A little strong for you?  Don’t underestimate the impact of your thoughts.  You change your thoughts you change your life.

A few tips to battle the mental monsters of fear and worry especially surrounding September 11th

#1 You shouldn’t be in denial that firefighting is a dangerous profession.   Duh.  De Nial is just De River in Egypt.    Sorry if that offends you to make light of that but some fire families really need to get their head out of the sand and do some pre-planning.  Just in case.  Cross that off the list and stop worrying about it.

#2 September 11th is a time to remember.  To never forget, right?  Think about what parts you aren’t forgetting.   We want to honor the lives lost and it evokes a whole lot of emotions, especially for those personally impacted.  Too many widows and orphans were made on that day.  Far too many.   I sincerely from the bottom of my heart mourn right alongside them.  But at the same time, it does bother me when there is too much focus on death and not enough focus on the life.  The good.  The miracles surrounding 9.11.   And I am pretty certain that those angels watching up in heaven understand our pain but wouldn’t want us to linger and get stuck there in a bad mental pit.   Never forget all the good.  Never forget our nation pulling together in support.  Never forget those stories of heroes.   But go ahead and forget all those images that keep you locked to the TV paralyzed in grief and inaction.   We didn’t recover from 9.11 by replaying that scene over and over again.  We acted.  Which leads me to #3.

#3 Take action.  I mean physically do something.  Even just standing up and walking across a room or drinking a glass of water can change the chemical make up in our brains and help dispel negative emotions.  But for September 11th, I’d actually encourage you to do something bigger.   Remember the outpouring of support after 9.11?  All the people that went to help.  All the charities.  All the acts of service.  With that tragic event corresponding with us living in a more connected world, the opportunities to find a way to help are endless.  If 9.11 has you a little extra emotional, then you need to find a way to occupy your mind with other activities instead.  Over at FirefighterWife.com we are participating in the National Day of Service having our first ever 9.11 24 Hours of Service event to do just that.  Anyone can participate by signing up at FirefighterWife.com/9-11   It’s our way of honoring those lost while leaving the world a little better at the end of the day.

#4 Find some tools to help you work through these emotions.  Whether they are stealing minutes or days from your life, we can all benefit from on-going learning and self-improvement.  Journal your thoughts.  Read books.  Talk to a counselor or a friend.  Eliminate bad influences, the Debbie Downers in your life.  Find a way to change stressful situations.  Join a group for support and friendship.

As the leader of the largest online community of fire wives, I see so many women just spend too much time losing out on life because they are living in the “what if?”.   It’s time to live in the “What next?” and do more.

Lori Mercer is the Chief Fire Wife, writer and speaker at FirefighterWife.com.  She is the mother of 4 and very blessed to be happily married to her firefighter after many challenging years where she hated the firehouse and all its influence on him.   Now she is an advocate for firefighter marriages and encouraging the fire wife community to drop the girl drama and work together for support and friendship.

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