Advice from Amy: Retired First Responder Needs Comfort Now

By Amy Dickinson | November 3rd, 2021

He spent his career helping others


New York City fire truck. For article, retired first responder needs comfort Image

This retired first responder needs comfort now, after a career of helping others. Amy Dickinson addresses this retired firefighter’s needs.


Dear Amy:

I am a retired fireman. I spent my career solving problems and not thinking about the underlying stress I was experiencing.

I just did what needed to be done.

I recently had a parent die (not unexpectedly), but then my best friend died as well.

I am not afraid to say it has taken its toll on me. I’ve felt withdrawn and depressed – not to the point of self-harm at all, but I just feel down and grumpy, starting from the moment I open my eyes in the morning.

I can’t find any enjoyment in anything I do and do not want to continue having it affect my family. I know they understand that I’m in a crappy mood – and the reasons for it – but it’s not fair to them.

The bottom line is I want to enjoy life and laugh again, before I get too old to do it.

– Really Sad

Dear Sad:

You deserve much credit for putting all of this together and for describing your symptoms, along with your stated goal to feel better in the future.

As a first responder, you experienced high stress on the job, including physical danger and trauma, as well as sleep deprivation. You were an occasional witness to intense human suffering.

Now you are using your training and insight to triage your mental health and response to these very tough losses.

I believe a multi-pronged approach would help you, including a clinical assessment regarding your depression, individual counseling, peer support from other first responders, and mindfulness work on your own (meditation, movement, and spending time each day in nature).

Also, you are grieving! For many people, this is what intense grieving feels like. Sadness plus anger equals grouchiness. Self-care for you would involve learning how to be as gentle and generous toward yourself as you have always been toward others.

I hope you will let your family soothe and take care of you for a while.

The Code Green Campaign was founded out of concern for the unique mental health challenges of first responders. They host a helpful state-by-state database of mental health professionals who work primarily with first responders, as well as a Facebook group.

I hope you will keep in mind that you are strongest when you recognize that you need help, and that you absolutely deserve to receive it.


Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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