Earlier this year I wrote this post about my officer’s critical incident and what I found helped me in the midst of his OIS (officer involved shooting). So many of you reached out saying that you could relate and that you found it helpful. This is heartbreaking, because so many of our blue family members are faced with critical incidents during the span of their officer’s career, but also really comforting to know that we’re not alone.
A lot of you also asked what you could do for other blue sisters and blue families that were facing a hard time after an incident at work. This is the post for you! Below are some small ways to show love for fellow blue families that are recovering from a critical incident at work. This post is, of course, not all encompassing or full of the only “right” things to do-it’s just some things I’ve found to be helpful! If you have some tips, leave them in the comments.
Drop off a meal.
Whenever you’re leaving something for a family going through a hard time, use disposable pans so that that they don’t have to worry about washing the dish or getting it back to you. Or, if you’re using a non-disposable dish, make it clear in the note you leave with the meal that the dish is theirs to keep!
Some of my favorite meals to drop off to people (whether after a critical incident, after a new baby is born, or during a health concern) are chicken pot pie, a taco bar, enchiladas, casseroles, or soup and bread. Make sure that the meal has super simple instructions-like it just needs to be heated! If the meal needs toppings or sides, include those! If I’m not sure how many meals someone might be getting or what their schedule might be like, I like to offer a meal that they can eat right away or put into their freezer for later. Pot pies and casseroles are great for this! If you’re not a cook or don’t have time to cook, the ready meals from Costco (like chicken alfredo, other pastas, and salads) are a great option.
This should go without saying, but “drop off” means just that-drop off! Send a text saying you’re leaving something on the porch, then do just that. Wave at their doorbell camera or say a quick hello if they come to the door, but don’t invite yourself inside or make a lot of chitchat (unless you know them well and/or it’s obvious they want the company). Sometimes well meaning things can cause extra stress when all of the sudden the person you’re trying to love on is faced with unexpectedly hosting company in the middle of their chaos.
Drop off a treat.
If you’re not able to make an entire meal, or the family already has a lot of meals covered, make or buy a treat to drop off. A batch of cookies, some muffins, brownies, a pie, a carton of local berries-even the littlest of treats with a little note attached lets the family know that you’re thinking of them.
This can also work well if you’re not sure if the person is home to receive a meal or a needs-to-be-refrigerated treat. A plate of cookies, caramel corn, muffins, or the like can sit on their porch for awhile until they grab it.
Depending on your relationship with the family, be intentional about checking in. A quick “I’m thinking of you” text or even just a blue heart means a lot in the midst of a critical event. If you’re closer to the family, ask your blue sister if you can take her to coffee, go on a walk, or give her a call instead of a text.
This is also helpful down the road. People are typically really good at checking in during the immediate aftermath of an incident, but then life happens and everyone else moves on. Set a reminder on your phone to check back in after a few weeks or a month, or in really hard events, on the one year anniversary.
Send a card.
If you don’t have the means to make a meal or purchase a treat, the family lives far away, they have particular dietary needs, or you’re simply not comfortable with it-send a card! Maybe it has a gift card to a local restaurant or coffee shop, maybe it has a sweet drawing from your kiddos, or maybe it’s just a simple “I wanted to let you know that I’m praying for you”. Reviving little notes and pick me ups in the midst of anxiety and unknown can make all of the difference to a stressed out family!
Offer to babysit/run errands/do pick up.
If appropriate, offer to pick their kids up with yours at school, take their toddler to the park, get their grocery order, mow their lawn-anything to take a little off of their plate! This will obviously vary dependent on your relationship and proximity with the family.
As humans-and especially as first responder families-we’re wired to turn down help and do it all ourselves. Independence is great-but it’s also really taxing! If appropriate, don’t ask if they want a meal-just drop one off. Don’t ask what you can do-pick something small and just do it.
Often this goes without saying-but it often also goes overlooked! Add the officer and their family to your prayer list and pray for them intentionally. For physical healing (if applicable), emotional healing, comfort, forgiveness, grace, safety…cover them in prayer every day. If you’re comfortable doing so, write out a prayer and drop it off with a treat or meal, or stick it in the mail. Or, send it over to them in a text! Telling someone “I’m praying for you” is wonderful. It can be even more powerful when you give them an example of how exactly you’re praying for them, and knowing it’s not just an empty promise.
Every department/union/wives group/etc handles incidents differently. Typically there will be a debrief after the critical event, during which the officers and emergency responders involved go through what happened. Sometimes there is also a space for spouses and family members. Sometimes unions or FOPs organize meal trains or donations. Sometimes the chief’s wife handles things. Each area and department is a little bit different! This post just covers what you as an individual blue sister can do to help-there may be different protocols or needs dependent on your situation.