Monthly Archives: February 2013

Thoughts on a death notification

I’m writing about my first time doing a “death notification”. I will be withholding details as not to betray the confidence of those involved.

It was a normal morning on patrol, maybe too normal. Then a “possible dead body” call came in. The officer I was with asked “You wanna go?” It was out of out beat, but we asked. So we got clearance and made our way to the address.

So we run code all the way there. (I interrupt this blog for a commercial break.) GO RIGHT FOR SIRENS AND LIGHTS. Get OUT of the way. Sure, when we are blaring through the intersection, it makes you wait for an extra 10 seconds. But I think you would want everyone out of our way when we are coming to your house. Someone asked me before if it’s exciting to go that fast. Honestly, at first, I thought so. But then I saw how people freak out when you are coming. When you are driving 60 plus in a 35 and people refuse to yield and you have to go in opposing lanes of traffic, “exciting” is not the word I’d use to describe it. If it were up to me, I’d go back and look at the cruiser video and send a lot of people a little present in the mail, AKA a citation. So I was a little annoyed. Someone here is dying and we might be the difference between life and death. So move over. (Now back to my regular scheduled blogging.)

When we got there, the medics were trying their best to save the individual. But as most of you know, there comes a time when they have to stop. And that moment is heartbreaking, not just to the family, but to them. No matter how much air they pumped into those lungs, they were never going to breathe again. They informed me, and I began to advise the family that their loved one was dead. The family did not understand this (and usually will not, and that’s perfectly understandable), and it was heartbreaking. But they dealt calmly with the family and let me console and explain what was happening.

I’ve you have never been at this kind of scene, you have no idea just how much pain and emotion is expressed. And since people all express grief differently, you never truly know what to expect. You never can really prepare yourself for the most basic of life’s emotions, grief over a hard loss. I did my best to console the family. I did my best to explain why EMS had to stop. I did my best to explain why they could not go into the room with the body, still warm. But it’s hard. It’s hard to look at a spouse, with tears in their eyes (while fighting back your own) and state you can not let them in the room until it has been cleared by the Coroner’s office.

When the investigator from the Coroner’s office arrived, it was a relief, because I advised that soon we could let them into the room. To see a spouse lay in the floor next to their loved one, and put their arm around them and weep is a sight that could make almost anyone cry. I also must admit that I had to get some “fresh air” to avoid betraying my cool exterior.

After the dust settled and we left 3 hours later, and since then, I’ve had some time to think about the events of today. Here are a few tips in case you find yourself in that situation.

1. If you are a responder (Police, Fire, EMS, etc), you owe it to yourself to be prepared. Those people will need you. You can’t fail them. There are lots of articles on the internet so find them. If your state offers training, take it (For all you Ohioans, OPOTA offers it).

Death Notification:The toughest job in Law Enforcement
Death notification: Breaking the bad news

2. Be prepared. If you know in advance it’s a possibility, do what you need to do. Pray, listen to a song, have silence, whatever you need.

3. Understand that since everyone reacts in different ways, some may scream, some may deny, some may get violet. Remember, it’s NOT about you.
The 5 stages of grief
Grief – everyone’s response is different

4. Not only should you have someone do it with you, but have someone to talk to afterwards (Chaplain, pastor, etc).

A notification will most likely be draining, physically and emotionally. SO take a few minutes for you both before and after.

Police Officer Michael Crain, Riverside (CA) PD

Just sitting here putting down some thoughts. First, to the family of Police Officer Michael Crain, my heart goes out to you. TO the members of the Riverside PD, my heart goes out to you also.

One of the things that I do is I contact police and fire departments that have a line of duty death to express my condolences. Will that be counter-productive if they get an email about Michael Crain from a Michael Crain in another state?

I think about the similarities.
Same first and last names. He was 34, I’m 36.
He was an officer for the Riverside Police Department (in California). I’m a Chaplain that the Riverside Police Department (in Ohio) has called on a few times.
He had a wife and family, as do I.

Maybe I’m just looking to deep…

Also, on a deeper level, was thinking a little about life and death today. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve prepared myself to make my walk into eternity, but I wouldn’t say I’m ready. I’m confident that Heaven is my home (which you would expect to hear from a minister, right?), but I’m not in a hurry to get there. While there still is a tired or unappreciated officer or firefighter or EMT near me, I want to keep on trying to reach them. And I’m sure my family is not in a hurry for that day to come either.

It makes me think about the job I do. I’m a Police Chaplain. I help out when called anywhere where I’m needed. I’ve been to DV (domestic violence) calls standing there with the officer. Sometimes it’s a little intimidating, and sometimes after you get off your shift, back to post, or back home, you think about all the things that could have went wrong. So what you do in those times is what makes you love your job. Unlike officers, I didn’t have an academy train me about vigilance. I’ve learned that from all the officers I’ve been with. I’ve been with great officers and have picked up a lot along the way. I’ve learned to sit facing the door. I’ve learned to always know where at least two exits are. I’ve learned to watch people’s hands. I’ve learned radio protocol. I’ve learned to know where I am at all times. I’ve learned that, while nothing gets adrenaline moving like running “code” over 100 MPH, that people swerve in front of you to slow you down.

Do I regret any of it? No Way! I’d do it every day if I were paid for it. I LOVE this! There are so many things that could go wrong, but there are so many things that go right each time I’m in a car. I love being able to help people. I love having officers know that I’ll be THERE when they need me. I love meeting and greeting cops and firefighters wherever I go. I went back to Kentucky over Christmas, and made some rounds visiting with police officers and firefighters there.

So, rest in peace Police Officer Michael Crain from Riverside, CA. Chaplain Michael Crain in Huber Heights, OH is thinking about your family tonight.

New things coming to my blog in 2013.

I have bigger plans for this blog in 2013. First, you can see the title change. “Life is a War” was something I started prior to getting involved with First Responders, and no one really understood the connection. So the title has been changed to “Thoughts From a Chaplain” which more accurately describes the content.

Next I plan on writing more. Writing about my experiences, or what I think the Responder community needs to know or hear. I may be passing some training information or anything that might be beneficial to you, the readers. If there is something you have questions about, just let me know.

Another think I have planned to do is making trips to places I’ve been invited to. So if you’ve asked me to come to your location, (and I can make it this year), I will come, and most likely write about it.

So stay tuned. And as always, “Let’s be careful out there.“.