Dad Advice: Stop Playing the Tough Guy

“Code Blue ER Trauma 1”
Came the announcement over the PA system. It was 7:15 am on Christmas eve day, and I had just started my shift at the hospital.  I was already assisting staff with an aggressive dementia patient in another unit.  “I have not even had my coffee yet,” I muttered as I ran through the quiet hospital corridors. When I arrived at the ER, I discovered that paramedics were bringing in young boy of 5, who was not breathing.  The parents were coming as well…and there was no social worker at the hospital.  Part of my job is to respond to all code blues, to clear the area for the medical team, and keep family and friends out of the way of the doctors and nurses, and to provide support until social work arrives.
I watched as the doctors and the clinical staff worked feverishly to revive the child.
download (1)After about 10 minutes, the lead doctor, looked up, shook his head. The mother collapsed in sobs of grief. Dad just stood there looking glassy eyed and stunned.  I don’ think there was a dry eye in the room.
Within minutes, the boy’s grandparents and siblings arrived.  Clinical staff cleaned up the boy and then the family was allowed time with the body.  Christmas will never be the same for this family.  I stayed until social workers arrived, then I went to my office, drank my coffee and caught up on paperwork. I just wanted to go home and hug my kids.
“Did you debrief with the social worker or the other staff?,” my counsellour asked.
No. I did not have that opportunity. While the clinical staff all went and debriefed,  I had to get my paperwork done, and it was a very busy day at the hospital for me. That day I was in the pit of my depression, and it was an experience I could have done with out. Death happens all the time in a hospital, almost everyday I see it, but it is usually the elderly…not a 5 year old. My counselor asked, “Did you debrief with your wife when you got home?” Well, no, I mentioned it to her, but I did not really want to bring her down with me since we were going to her parents for Christmas that evening…so I put on a strong face, I am supposed to be the strong one after all.
Seeing something, he asked how often my wife and I have a 20 minute debrief session.  “What is this, marriage counselling?,” I thought to myself.  “I don’t know,” I responded, “Usually we talk about the day, but it’s nothing formal.” I guess I looked kind of confused.  He responded that, “Debriefing sessions are good for your marriage,” and essentially he said that since I struggle with depression and work in a relatively high stress job, it is best to do this every day with my wife.
His advice was to take 20 minutes after the kids are in bed, where we each take 10 minutes and talk about the highs and lows of your day, do it before or after devotions.  But don’t offer advice, don’t try to fix things, just affirm and validate each other’s feelings and pray for strength and patience.
“Wait. This is supposed to be about my depression, not my marriage.”
He asked me, “What does the Bible say about the Church being the body of Christ?”  I kind of looked blankly at him, trying to figure out where he was going.
“When one part hurts…”
Oh yea….duh!
Ding.  Lightbulb. Fireworks. Chorus of angels singing.
“You and your wife are one body, and when one part hurts…”
…the other one hurts…
It is so simple. Yet I missed it.  Trying to be the tough guy, the strong guy, I ended not only hurting myself, but my wife as well.
So, 20 minutes per day we spend talking about our days. 10 minutes each. I will tell her about my highs and lows, and she will do the same.  We validate and acknowledge the other’s feelings, without suggestions, recommendations, or questioning the other’s actions.  This is hard for me, first of all, because I want to appear emotionally tough. Like nothing bothers me. Guy’s are supposed to be the macho, non-feeling, tough ones in a relationship after all…I have learned (for the most part) to stop playing the tough guy! And second, it is hard because I like to fix things…but this is not the time for “you should” statements. Rather, this is a time to affirm and validate each others feelings, and pray for strength and peace together.  (Note: Try to not go longer than ten minutes or it can feel like you are dumping on each other, and can actually increase stress for your spouse.)
So my wife and I have been debriefing for about 4 months now.
I don’t think she even realizes it. 🙂
We started debriefing to help deal with stress and my depression, but it has in fact helped our marriage at a foundational level by helping to open the lines of communication between us.  I am not holding things in anymore.  Ultimately, we share these things with our spouses, then we give them to Christ.  We don’t have to be strong, because he is strong enough for all of us.

You may also like...