Married to a Front-Line Worker
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Written by Bill Arbuckle | Dr. Lorna Breen’s death shook the nation. The 49-year-old emergency room doctor treated many COVID-19 patients in New York City before contracting the virus and taking time off to recover. The illness left her weak and exhausted, but Dr. Breen continued working alongside medical personnel until she was taken to a hospital and treated for exhaustion. After being released from the hospital, Dr. Breen stayed with her sister to continue her recovery. But the coronavirus claimed yet another victim: Dr. Lorna Breen took her life Sunday, April 26, 2020.
Dr. Breen’s death has drawn attention to the challenges facing America’s front-line workers: doctors, nurses, EMTs, health care professionals and law enforcement officers. In “normal” times, front-line workers deal with humanity at its worst, its most vulnerable and its most broken. The coronavirus pandemic has added increased stress as front-line workers deal with additional challenges.
Unfortunately, it’s not just front-line workers who are struggling. Their spouses must deal with extra stress and fear. It’s enough to break even the best marriages. If you’re a front-line worker … or married to a front-line worker … there is help.
Dr. Greg Smalley, vice president of Marriage at Focus on the Family, offers ways you and your spouse can deal with the added challenges caused by the coronavirus.
Practice good self-care
“Front-line workers are already dealing with exhaustion,” Dr. Smalley says. “They’re working under extreme pressure for long hours without breaks or days off. The workload has doubled. They’re not getting enough sleep. They feel lonely if they have to isolate themselves from the rest of the family just to keep their spouse and kids safe.”
For couples in this situation, Dr. Smalley recommends paying attention to the challenges and taking action to deal with the challenges.
The first step — awareness — begins by looking at what’s happening to you and around you. “Be aware of what’s happening in your life,” Dr. Smalley says. Awareness involves:
Noticing what you’re grieving. “Are you grieving the losses you’ve experienced?” Dr. Smalley says grieving is an important part of self-care.
Notice the extra stress and worry you’re facing.
Notice the physical toll of working on the front line. Identify (name) the emotions you’re feeling.
Now that you’re aware of your response to the coronavirus pandemic, take action. “Figure out what gives you life and rest during the quarantine,” Dr. Smalley says. “What does it look like to decompress?”