How Should We Grieve?

Almost every police officer in this country will lose a trusted colleague in the course of his or her career, & too many will struggle with the loss alone

By Darrin Fulton  |   May 16, 2016

How should we grieve? Should we drink our sorrows away? Should we go sit on a couch with a psychiatrist and pour our heart out? Do we go to our family and hold them as tightly as possible and pray that they never endure the hurt we feel right now?

Police departments across the country suffer these tragedies every year.  Each officer has his or her own way of coping with the loss. I have seen the online tributes, the sadness in officers’ eyes, the coming together of a department and community, and, yet, in 12 years, I had never endured it on a personal level. Now here I sit, grieving, feeling helpless, devastated, and weak over the loss of a fellow officer.

In the academy we are always told it is not if, but when an officer we know will die in the line of duty. However, I have made it my entire career and firmly believed that our department was well trained in so many different scenarios that our officers would always survive the fight. But there are people out there who hate us. There are people in this world who feel they have nothing to lose and do not fear what lies ahead because they are not returning to a cell if is up to them.

I have seen death. I have seen more death than any normal man should have to see. All police officers do, but when it is one of our own—when it hits home that we will never see this officer again, and that his family will never watch him walk through that door—the feeling is almost unbearable.

Listening to the call unfold, I prayed that he would survive. Hearing the adrenaline, and desperation in the voices on the air I begged the Lord to help him hold on and fight.  Watching the news and hearing that doctors were optimistic I felt comfort, and then receiving the call that he was gone, I began to feel like I was falling and would never stop.

Again, I wonder: How should we grieve? We all try to put on this brave face because we are police officers. We do all we can not to cry in front of each other. We force composure and continue to answer those radio calls because we are strong and no one will break us down. But we do cry. We cry inside, we cry at home, and we may even cry between those calls. We are angry. We are hurting. We are lost wanting it all to be a dream and wondering how long will it take for the emotional roller coaster to subside.

When an officer dies somewhere in the country the local news and maybe the national news will run story on it for a day or two. When an officer dies in your city, it leads the news day and night and the pain starts over every day. Citizens need to see this. They need to see that we are heroes. That we are willing to give our lives to keep them safe no matter what the circumstance should be something that every citizen has bored into their minds when an officer is killed.

I do not want to see the suspect. I do not want to see his picture. I do not want to hear his name uttered. I want him to get no fame or airtime for his despicable act.

Maybe, just maybe, pouring my heart out on paper will give me even the smallest piece of healing that I so yearn for. I keep playing over in my mind the last call that I handled with him. I remember almost every word of what we said to each other. I remember laughing with him and joking about certain aspects of the call. How are we supposed to go on and mask the pain we are feeling?  How do we go to a call and pretend we fully care when his death is all that is weighing on our minds?

It seems impossible to do the job the same as we did just a few short days ago. It is hard just to don the uniform and make it to the station, but we do it for him. We endure for him and continue to do the job to the best of our abilities to honor the sacrifice he made.

The pain will eventually subside, but his memory will forever live on. I feel for every officer on every department who has ever had to deal with the pain that we are feeling right now. I know that many more departments will go through the sorrow and the heartache this year and every year. I hope that wherever and whenever it happens, officers talk to each other, grieve together, and reach out for help needed.

The thin blue line does not run. A fallen hero will be laid to rest. Bagpipes will play. Twenty-one shots will be fired. Many tears will be shed. We hope that we can begin to heal and know that we will fight on from one call to the next, because we cannot allow his death to have been in vain.

In honor of Det. Brad Lancaster of the Kansas City (Kansas) Police Department. You will be missed more than you could ever know. Rest easy, we have the watch from here.