We the Post Traumatic Souls:

In most cases, the world looks upon its public servants with high regard. There are a few that abuse the position, tarnish its reputation, and damage the public’s trust. As a whole, less than ½ of 1% of public servants abuse their place of public trust. This is percentage better than doctors, lawyers, and even our clergy.

Yet, in the midst of such great trust and such great responsibility there is something that the public doesn’t see. They don’t see what we truly see. They don’t know the burden of the ghosts that haunt our spirits and how we are statistically dealing with these scars in self-destructive ways.

Firefighters, police, and first responders are suffering from PTSD, anxiety & depression, and the number of suicides is on the rise. Why is this so? Is it the one bad call that sets off a chain reaction of a personal firestorm? Or is it the cumulative stress of the things we see daily and then add our struggles that we face in our own lives?

The young woman whose life was taken too soon by a careless drunk driver…

The lifeless infant thrown to you as you arrive with passionate screams from the mother to save her child…

The constant exposure to death, tragedy, difficult personnel problems with no consistent sleep…

And when we do sleep is often interrupted by flashbacks, shaking, or jolted awake by the tones for another call for help…

The constant exposure of everyone else’s tragic circumstances does not leave the servant unscathed…

In fact, we often carry these personal moments with death us. Without our knowledge, their moments become part of us, begin to affect our daily actions and relationships, and soon our lives begin to unravel from the sheer stress and weariness of carrying the weight of too many losses.

This is where we begin…

Where we realize that their deaths and pain were not ours to own…

We need to understand our role was to help even if there was seemingly nothing we could do…

Our very presence brought assurance, comfort, and in some ways closure for others…

But when those who have lost loved ones, we do them a great disservice by our refusal to let them go…

For many who have lost those dear to them, they will always have a scar on their heart but yet they will move on…

For us to hold on to their pain, to relive it, to feel regret is to prevent the living from healing…

We don’t realize it, our subconscious repeats the incident, and hypervigilance seems to steal our peace…

But we must understand, when a funeral happens it is not for the dead but for the living…

So they may grieve, so they may heal, so they may say goodbye…
We the post traumatic souls refuse to let them go, the dead are restless as they constantly re-live their last moments in our minds…

We blame ourselves, we pour our pain away through prescriptions, alcohol, trying to cover the pain with poison…

When what we really need more than anything is peace…
Yet tragically, so many seek this peace by ending their own lives…

The desperation of the moment, the lack of sleep, and the stress of it all diminishes their focus and they believe the lie of the enemy that suicide is their solution…

And then they die not realizing that by their actions they have laid another restless soul upon another’s heart…

Their death and loss becomes another’s burden and we repeat this cycle…

So what do we do? How do we let go of all this pain and begin to heal?

Post-Traumatic Stress is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. Our bodies reacting with all of the symptoms are the effects of the collateral damage of catastrophes crashing through our attempts at resiliency. We need to realize that we are HUMAN! We need each other and we need help bearing these burdens. We need the peace of God in our hearts that comes not from this world but from a settled assurance that the overwhelming circumstances of our lives are reconciled. In Philippians, Paul reminds us to:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Did you hear that? “The peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This peace comes from knowing that we have been reconciled to God not because we are worthy, not because of anything we have done, but because we the broken and contrite have come to the foot of the cross and realized that the scar in our souls can only be healed by the one who loved us so much that He died for us.

Paul understood the burdens of a weary soul. He lived a life in which he persecuted, arrested, and had Christians murdered. He must have awoke many nights reliving those moments and feeling great sorrow for his past. Yet, He was able, by the grace of God, not only to move forward but to minister, to plant churches, and write most of the New Testament (to name a few of the mighty works God did through an imperfect and sinful man).

We need to realize, that no matter our past our pain and tragic moments are not meant to be our permanent address. Grief and sorrow have their purpose and we are meant to feel these emotions but we are not meant to dwell there forever. To do so is to reject the gift of God and create a prison of hell and torment while we are on earth and this is what the Devil would have us do.

“For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (Lamentations 3:31-33).

The challenge we face as servants to our fellow man in their last moments is not to take ownership of them nor to let those moments own us. They do not define us but yet refine us. If we don’t seek help, these moments can collectively destroy us. We who have been greatly tested can either courageously share our testimony or we can become bitter and alone. We can take post-traumatic stress and as we heal in time can show post traumatic growth by ministering to others who suffer as we did. We can remember what we have been through but not relive it. We can look in the eyes of the hurting servant first responder and truthfully say “Many will tell you that they know how you feel but they don’t. However, I do know how you feel and I don’t have all the answers but I will listen, I will be here, and I will walk with you as you heal.”

May we all come to know the peace that passes understanding…
May we all have the courage to seek help in our broken moments…
May we all turn our tragic moments of pain into testimonies that we share to help those experiencing the same…

God Bless,

Andy J. Starnes

Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries

Please see our resources that are available on the Firefighter May-Day Page for more information on how to receive help or how to help others:

Firefighter May-Day

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