A resource site provided by Anne Bisek, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist
Phone 510.797.4911 or email Anne@Doc911.net


Do you still remember the first baby not breathing call? Does your stomach knot up when you drive by that certain play ground? Do you wonder why, after all of this time you can’t seem to let this one specific call go like all of the other calls for service in your career? Is the death of a child somewhat different than any other medical call?

This web site is for first responders (communications, EMTs, police, fire, medical examiners) who witness, attend to or investigate the death of a child during their shift.

There are books on death notification and classes on grief reactions you can expect from the family members at crime scenes. Much has been written for teachers and parents when a child dies; but this web site is for emergency service workers.

This site is NOT about:

  • How to perform your job when
    a child dies
  • How to handle the death of your own child, outside your line of duty

This site IS about:

  • Why the death of a child may affect a first responder differently
  • Helpful coping strategies for dealing with normal reactions after an abnormal event
  • Resources for peer support teams

Identification with the victim is:

“A cognitive process of emotional involvement by which we come to see others as being similar to ourselves.”

-Fullerton, McCarroll, Ursano & Wright, 1992

And may occur if:

  • If a first responder has a child the same age as the victim it is easier to think, “That could have been my child.” Most parents are not confronted with this horrific thought on a daily basis.
  • If a first responder has a similar family background to the victim, such as the same race, religion, athletic activities, or situations in life it can be a tough call.
  • If the call for service happens in the first responderʼs neighborhood (especially common in rural areas) then a familiar safe place can become a crime scene. This merges the personal and the professional life in a painful way. If the first responder knows the victim or the victims school that can be a difficult situation.
  • If the first responder has something in common with someone on the scene such as both of them being step parents, or both having children late in life, or belonging to different Rotary clubs then the protective shield of “us” vs. ʻthem” or “sworn” and “civilian” can be penetrated.
  • If the first responder had a similar life experience (i.e. was involved in a car accident as a child and then responded to a car accident involving a child) it might remind that responder of that childhood incident. That reminder could bring up old memories, thoughts and feelings long since past. A good question to ask if a call is troubling you is, “Where or when have I felt this way before?”
  • If a first responder is in a similar stage in life it can also be a grueling event. For example, if a firefighterʼs wife is 9 months pregnant and the firefighter responds to a SIDS call the identification with the victimʼs family could be important.
  • If a first responder has lost a child of any age, then responding to a call and attending to the grieving parents or family may bring up old familiar feelings and thoughts to the forefront of their experience.

So, let's talk about you and coping skills. How do you deal with this? Go here >

More on Anne Bisek, Psy.D. can be found at her website www.Doc911.net
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