A Day In The Life Of An Animal Control Officer Life After Grief – What Must Die in Order to Generate More Life?

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Life After Grief – What Must Die in Order to Generate More Life?

“What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life? What do I know must die, but am reluctant to allow it?” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

In the fall of 2010, I gave a presentation entitled, Behind the scenes; A broken grief, at a police-based victim services conference. In this particular presentation, I went into detail about the psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual components of my experience of grieving the death of my husband, John, a police officer.

After the introduction, a police officer came out and told me his story. His teenage daughter had been hit and killed by a car while crossing the street at a crosswalk. He was devastated. But he went on to explain how a police chaplain had helped him immensely in the days and weeks after his daughter’s death.

“I felt like a helpless little chick in the middle of the road,” the officer told me. “I was terrified and didn’t know what to do. Then the Chaplain came and in his kindness, he almost… gently picked me up and carried me to safety on the side of the road.”

And it struck me: so do people who work in victim services… they support strangers in the most terrifying moments of their lives. And even though they can’t even begin to do anything right again, they can be there for people during their greatest time of need. And this presence can be an extremely important gift.

During my time of greatest need, I didn’t meet any victim service volunteers. Instead, I had a phenomenal support network of family, friends, police officers and chaplains surrounding me. Heck, I didn’t just move out of the way; I was caught and put into a small safe nest with dozens of protective mother hens guarding it!

Two of my “bird keepers” stand out in particular. The first was my brother, Gjergji. After spending seventeen hours with John in the ICU, it was time for me to say goodbye when an operating room became available for the surgery to remove his organs. The medical staff wheeled John’s hospital bed from the ICU into the operating room – and I followed him through the halls and right into the OR.

After saying my final goodbyes, I left the OR and headed back down the hall, where dozens of people were waiting. I started to thank everyone for staying when George shook his head, grabbed my arm and said quietly, “That’s enough for today, Maryanne.”

He was right.

But when we are in times of crisis, we often don’t know when enough is enough. We have lost all perspective because suddenly there is no normal. And it’s up to the people around us – whether family, friends, colleagues, professionals or strangers – to have the courage and compassion to remove us from a situation we no longer need to be in.

In the weeks that followed, my brother Doug became the bird’s primary caretaker. He was the mother hen of all other mother hens. Doug fed me, watered me, put me to bed, pulled me out of bed, listened to me, answered my questions, made dozens of phone calls, kept me on track to meet all the new nasty obligations that the days of mia… funeral arrangements, choosing a headstone, meeting with lawyers and so on.

So fast forward a decade for me Behind the scenes presentation at the victim services conference. The day I did it, I knew the time would come when I would no longer give those intensely intimate presentations. I had begun to suspect that by constantly digging up a painful past for the sole benefit of others—because doing so had long ceased to have therapeutic value for me—I was inadvertently keeping myself in child mode: supposedly safe but stuck.

Because while it may seem safe to stay in a situation that we have outgrown, but is no longer healthy, versus finding the courage to change, the reality is that we may actually be in danger of victimizing ourselves.

Unfortunately, I had no idea how right I was about that.

So if The he wouldn’t give the presentations anymore, who would? Well, I asked Jodi, one of the people who deliver the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund Officer Below; Put yourself in our shoes workplace safety presentations, if she may be interested. She said yes! So that’s exactly what she’s doing now. And since educating people about the public’s role and responsibility in making sure their workplaces are safe for everyone, including first responders, is JPMF’s main message, Jody always includes that.

Interesting, though, when I asked Jody if she was able to incorporate clips from the filmed version of my latest film Behind the scenes introduction to her presentation, she gave me a funny look and said, “Sure.”

Jody went on to say, “I show a few clips from the video, Maryanne, but the most effective is when you obviously have a post-traumatic stress reaction right there on the podium.”

“WHAT?!” I said.

“When you’re talking about being with John in the ICU,” Jody explained, “you’re no longer giving a presentation. You’re back in the hospital with John. It’s very clear from your body language that your mind can’t . tell the difference between sharing a memory and reliving the original event.”

And there you have it. Although it had been more than a decade since John’s death, my continued public speaking of the graphic details had kept me a chick on the street. The time had finally come to let that practice die – and in doing so, not only did it give Jody the opportunity to do the work she loves, but she’s able to reach far more people than I ever could. . Because let’s face it: by giving those presentations, I was taking time away from my true passion: writing.

I am reminded now of what my brother, George, told me all those years ago in the hospital corridor. When it’s time for change in our lives or those around us, sometimes the greatest gift we can offer is advice… as in: “Enough.”

It only took me twelve years to hear it.

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