Happy Mother’s Day! Welcome to week 4. Today’s post is a personal one for me, as I am going to be speaking to you all about being a spouse of a frontline worker. The purpose of this post is not only to share my perspective, challenges and thoughts but also to give a few tips which could aid your spouse during this time where they are relied on heavily. As many of you may know or not know, my husband is an EMT. He is currently working twenty-four hour shifts and is on the frontline to bring your loved ones from their homes to the hospitals. For each Covid-19 call or suspected Covid call which he goes on he is required to gear up in full body suits, N-95 masks and goggles. He not only carries the stressors of ensuring your loved one safety and wellbeing, but he also carries the weight of worrying whether or not he has been exposed to the virus and will in turn, bring home to me and our two daughters. When his shift is over, he still can not yet relax. Instead, he comes home and takes his shoes off outside. He then immediately goes down stairs to wash his clothes which may have been exposed to the virus. Next, he goes to shower to wash away the worries of the day as well as any lasting germs. He does all of this before he can give me a hug or play with our daughters. I am thankful for his sacrifices and extra precautions to keep us safe. But, I do know they continue to weigh heavily.
As a therapist and as a spouse I want to help him. I want to comfort him. I want to protect him and shield him from all the horrors he is exposed to day in and day out. I want to ask questions and prob into his work world. What is feeling? How is he coping? Is he scared? I want to bombard him with all these questions but I don’t. There is a saying regarding police officers that they will often “hide behind a blue curtain” and what they experience, see and feel while on the job is protected by that curtain and only shared with those who shared the experience with them, their work family. I believe that this is ok. I am also aware that many of those who work on the frontlines or are considered first responders experience PTSD or a high burnout rate. Is this because they aren’t processing or talking about the trauma of their work day? Maybe. But as a spouse it is not our job to be therapists. This is something that goes completely against my nature. As a spouse, by bombarding them with questions or over communicating, it is an attempt to lower our own anxiety. It is an attempt to lessen our fears by gaining knowledge. However, this is not helping them decrease their anxiety or stress. It is again only acting as another reminder of the trauma they have endured, when their home should be their escape, their sanctuary, their safe place.
Let me offer a piece of advice instead. Create an environment where they can come to you and talk if they want. Let them know you are ready and available if they need you, in whatever capacity that might be. It may be a hug or a long embrace. It may be to just lie with them silently in bed. Do not push. The stressors they endure and the trauma they witness is taxing. As their other half or spouse, we must be there to ASSIST in lessening the burden but we can not force them or do it for them. In the past, I have used an intervention with my clients called “Newsball”. The purpose of this intervention is to allow a person to express their emotions in a safe supportive environment and request the participants to respond to their “news” in a particular manner. This may be a good way to invoke communication with your partner while they feel as if they are in control of what they are sharing. An example of this can be found below.
Husband: “ I want to share some news with you and after I am done I would like you to give me hug but not say anything”
Wife: “ Ok”
Husband: “ Today was really tough for me and I was sacred”
Wife: Give a hug.
If your spouse wants to expand or continue the conversation after you have engaged in the response that they chose that is great. But if the response they asked for was enough, then be thankful for the piece of news and insight into their feelings that they did share. Our spouses do not want to intentionally block us from knowing their work experiences or feelings. But remember, they can only process and cope with so much at a time. Give them time. Give them space to decompress. Allow them to enjoy a hobby. Be present and available. Love them.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Next Sunday, we will recap the past four weeks. We will also do some brainstorming of possible topics for future videos and posts! I hope you join me then and I hope you all have an awesome week!
- None Found
Megan Turner LCSW, has been providing therapeutic services to children and families for over 7 years. She specializes in the treating depression, mood disorders, anxiety, personality disorders, parenting skills and family dynamics.