I finally made the toughest call I’ve ever made

By Adam Biddle | FireRescue Magazine

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I am an average Midwestern suburban firefighter writing about my own experiences with a very sorrowful event in my life in hopes of helping my fellow firefighters. I am not a trained clinician, nor do I have any sort of counseling background other than being a friendly ear at the firehouse. Whether experiencing personal loss yourself or helping a fellow firefighter deal with loss, understanding what grief is and how to deal with it can be critical. My attempt in the following paragraphs is to lay out a brief history of what happened in my family and then relay some personal discoveries I made with regards to grief and the grieving process. I truly hope that something contained herein can help.

As firefighters, we plan for worst-case scenarios. We equip for them. We train for them. We are dedicated to preventing them and committed to mitigating them. For a lot of us, one-third of our lives is lived in strategically placed firehouses waiting for the call to intervene in them. For some of us, we wait at home, volunteering to place ourselves in the middle of them. It’s what you and I have sworn an oath to do. But there is no other calling we’d rather fulfill. We love what we do and see the eternal value in the service we perform. We work this job while leading our own lives, managing our own families, and trying to draw a distinction between our work life and our home life--trying to keep a healthy balance yet keeping the worst of what we see to ourselves. Many of us have been doing this long enough that we have learned to process what we see on duty and have a bit of a separation between work and home. When we get a call, we are prepared. The tones sound, and we respond--generally, with some kind of information of what emergency awaits. And when it’s over and our shift is complete, we go home and leave “worst-case scenario” at the firehouse.

But how do we process “worst-case scenario” when it hits us at home? When we can’t go off duty and leave it at work? And in my case, as a father, my “worst case” was just that. The day my son died.

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