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During 4th of July festivities, fireworks — the sound, the smell, the smoke in the air — can trigger flashbacks to those suffering from combat related PTSD, or PTSD related to gun violence. Flashbacks are like waking nightmares. Flashbacks can come on suddenly and feel uncontrollable. They are more like a nightmare than a memory because sufferers often cannot distinguish between the flashback and reality, feeling like the traumatic experience is happening again. Flashbacks are vivid, sensory experiences.

During times like the 4th, veterans might feel they are back on the battlefield, re-experiencing a fellow soldier dying from an explosive, or re-living their own trauma during their time serving in the armed forces.

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Those impacted by gun violence might be taken back to the terrifying moment or moments of their lives. You might be wondering how can flashbacks be such an all consuming, visceral experience? How can they transport you back to the traumatic experience almost instantly? The amygdala is associated with emotional memory — especially the formation of fear-related memories. It catalogs all the different details of an experience — who was there, where it happened, and what time of day it was — into one cohesive event you can consciously recollect as a memory. In your typical, day-to-day life, your amygdala and hippocampus work together to turn your experiences into distinct long-term memories.

However, during a traumatic event this system works a bit differently. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense: the processes involved in building a cohesive memory are deprioritized in favor of paying attention to the immediate danger. As a result, your memory becomes jumbled. When the threat has passed, you are left with a strong, negative emotional memory of the experience, but you lack clear recollection of the context of the event.

In other words, you may learn to associate individual sights, smells, and sounds from the event with danger, but be unable to recall the sequence of events clearly. Later on, if you encounter things that remind you of the traumatic event, like a smell that was present when it happened, your amygdala will retrieve that memory and respond strongly — signaling that you are in danger and automatically activating your fight-or-flight system.

This is why during a flashback, you start sweating, your heart races, and you breath heavily — your amygdala has set off a chain reaction to prepare your body to respond against a threat.

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Normally when your amygdala senses a possible threat, your hippocampus will then kick in to bring in context from past memories to determine whether or not you are really in danger. Also, since the memory is retrieved without context like where or when the experience happened, you might even feel like the traumatic experience is happening again. Although you may not know whether someone close to home suffers from combat related PTSD, there are small precautions everyone can take to make the holiday a safe, fun experience for all. We think of emotional support as knowing the right thing to say, but sometimes our silence allows the bereaved to express and understand their emotions.

Sitting quietly and holding their hand might provide more comfort than all the words in the world. Those suffering from grief know that the situation is complicated and awkward. Grief is a physical condition along with being an emotional one. Grief can cause sleepless nights, physical pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, and even weakening of the immune system.

Because grief can cause such physical distress it can make daily life difficult for those in turmoil. Simple, helpful actions can have a deep impact on the bereaved. A clean kitchen, full cupboards, a mowed lawn, or help with the legal details of death can be incredibly beneficial to those in mourning.


Whether you choose to prepare meals, clean their home, or even just take out the trash, remember that you are taking the problem off their plate and allowing them the time and space they need to heal. They have named it the FallenOfficerTribute Runs. So, together with me, we have learned about every single officer killed- their names, the specific office they served, how each was killed, and who they leave behind.

Beginning on June 24th the night after I received the alert that Officer Michael Langsdorf was killed , my kids Cash and Sidnie, and I, made the commitment to run 1 mile each day for each of the officers who have died this year. I will run 2 miles each day, representing 2 officers instead of just one.

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We agreed to run 4 miles every day to honor 4 specific officers until we have run a total of what began as 59 miles in honor of these heroes. What began as 59 officers killed in the line of duty as of June 24th has now grown to 73 officers. We have made a vow and commitment to run for and honor every single officer who may be killed through the end of the year ; the three of us have now run 73 miles to date in honor of these heroes.

We started our runs each day starting at a local Sonoma or Marin County law enforcement offices. Our first run began at Windsor PD, where Deputy Larry Matelli will actually ran 1 mile with us to represent the very first fallen officer, Joseph Shinners. For every run, we always include a video message to name and recognize the specific officers we are running for on each given run.

The past five years have been especially hard on the law enforcement community. On average, between officers die in the line of duty each year. All across media outlets, the nation views the funeral. American flags line the streets, citizens salute, the mile-long procession is filled with flashing lights, bagpipes fill the air with sounds of honor, officers come from all over the country, and the family sits in the front row waiting for the dreaded folded flag to be placed in their hands.

A premonition every law enforcement family has had and deeply fears. Or the gut wrenching announcement that the officer was months away from retirement after 25 years of serving to protect. Seeing the looks on the faces of the spouse, kids, parents and siblings as their greatest fear becomes a reality. Watching tears run down the faces of men and women in uniform as their brother or sister in blue is laid to rest.

Afterwards, the officers who traveled so far go back and hug their families a little tighter.

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The bagpipes deflate. The flags are taken down. The families… the families remain lost in their grief. Everyone else goes back to their normal everyday life.

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A normal so many of us take for granted. This normal no longer exists for the family members and co-workers, the survivors, who are affected most by the loss of an officer. That is where Concerns of Police Survivors C. They also know the feeling of having to tell small children their hero is never coming home. They know what it feels like to bury the love of their life and have their happily ever after shattered. They know what it is like to bury their child when life and death is not supposed to work that way. When the procession ends, members of C.

Literally, they are there at the funeral. They connect with the agency to help with the funeral and to meet the family.

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  7. They help make all the moving parts run a little smoother. They know what to say and what not to say because they have all been through it. All 55 C. They provide resources such as assistance in applying for benefits, getting the family to National Police Week the following year to honor their officer, offering scholarships to the children and spouse, and hosting Hands-On Programs where survivors are able to connect with others who have experienced a similar tragedy.

    The peer support between survivors is the heart of the entire C. I hope they will be ok. If a survivor is struggling, they know they can call any member of C. This is the part of the blue family that nobody wants to be a part of, but if faced with it, this is the organization that helps families rebuild and gain hope again.

    The Instant Survivor: Right Ways to Respond When Things Go Wrong

    Yes, laughter. And when a survivor laughs for the first time after the death of their officer, I mean a deep in the belly, take your breath away, tears down the face kind of laugh, they realize they are on the upward climb to healing and being ok. There is nothing quite as bone-chilling as contemplating your mortality, which is why most people find estate planning so unsettling. No matter how much or how little you have you can and should estate plan. If you are married and your spouse outlives you then all your worldly possessions go to them, but so do all those questions that you were too scared to answer, such as what to do with your remains and how you want your debts managed.

    When an estate is mismanaged it can lead to a family catastrophe. One kid wants the house but the others think they should sell. Seven unknown relatives pop out of the woodwork to lay claim to the bank accounts. Some families can pull together and overcome the fear and confusion of an estate settlement, but no matter the family they all deserve to have peace of mind instead of confusion as they mourn their loved one.

    A written will might give your family some slight assurance, but it will never be as effective as a complete and comprehensive estate plan. When you sit down with a qualified estate lawyer and decide how you want your resources to be utilized you are giving your family the gift of peace of mind. Estate planning should begin as soon as you have resources or responsibilities that will outlive you and your plan should grow and change as you do.

    Consider using a living trust, which will help your family avoid probate court and all the expenses that go along with it. Remember that one size does not fit all and that your plan should fit you and your lifestyle. We must each try to leave behind a better world than the one we entered, and part of that responsibility is to manage our resources and take care of our assets as far into the future as we possibly can.

    Dare to plan for a future without you and make sure that it is the brightest possible of futures. They see the most unthinkable acts of criminal behavior in our society. But are we doing a good job helping officers navigate these events over a course of a twenty to thirty year career? We continue to see officers suffering from PTSD in growing numbers.