My father is a firefighter, and I grew up with the mentality that I needed to tell my dad I loved him every single time he went to work. When my parents divorced things changed, and since I no longer live with him or my mom, I don't get nervous every time he goes to work anymore. However, my brother just graduated from the police academy in Cleveland. He's posted in an absolutely terrible neighborhood, where people get shot on a daily basis, there's not a window without bars to be seen, and 8-year-olds are selling drugs.
I'm terrified. I get these images that he's going to get shot, or worse. He has a really bad temper, and I'm afraid he's going to get himself in trouble. Now, with my brother starting his police work, I'm starting to freak out about my dad again too. Both of their jobs are dangerous, and I think I am actually more scared for them than they are! How can I learn to deal with this fear and cope with their life-threatening jobs?
— Terrified Teresa
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Dear Terrified Teresa,
I certainly applaud the men in your life for taking on such difficult but important duties, but I'm sure I'd be a worried mess if I were in your position too. Being scared is normal, but letting it overwhelm you will only make you a stress case, and certainly won't serve to protect your brother or your father. But of course ending such worries is much easier said than done.
I would recommend reaching out to a support group for family members of firefighters and police officers, which many counties do have. Just articulating your fears to other people might help you shoulder the burden. Also, get into the habit of reminding yourself, as often as you need to, that worrying isn't going to help. Instead, channel your energy into connecting with them as much as possible and letting them know that you're always thinking about them.
There is no easy answer, and I'm sure this is something that will always be in the back of your mind, but there are certain things in this life we have no control over. It is possible to be both realistic and hopeful at the same time; focus on achieving that balance.