Loss of a Partner: Recommendations from the CIC

The NFOP Critical Incident Committee (CIC) assists service workers who are affected by a traumatic event by providing them with services and resources that will lessen the impact of critical incident stress and accelerate recovery. CIC Chairman Mike Haley recommends the following and advises friends and family members to watch for signs of a stress reaction.

Within the first 24-48 hours

  • Periods of strenuous physical exercise, alternated with relaxation will alleviate some of the physical reaction.
  • Structure your time; keep it busy.
  • You’re normal and having a normal reaction — don’t label yourself as crazy.
  • Talk to people — talk is the most healing medicine.
  • Be aware of numbing the pain with overuse of drugs or alcohol; you don’t need to complicate this with a substance abuse problem.
  • Reach out — people do care.
  • Maintain as normal a schedule as possible.
  • Spend time with others.
  • Help your co-workers as much as possible by sharing feelings and checking how they are doing.
  • Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others
  • Keep a journal and write your way through the sleepless hours.
  • Do things that feel good to you.
  • Realize those around you are under stress.
  • Don’t make any big life changes.
  • Do make as many daily decisions as possible, which will give you a feeling of control over your life. If someone asks you what to eat, then answer them, even if you’re not sure.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Reoccurring thoughts, dreams or flashbacks are normal — do not try to fight them — they will decrease over time and become less painful.
  • Eat well-balanced and regular meals, even if you don’t feel like it.

For Family Members and Friends

  • Listen carefully.
  • Spend time with the traumatized person.
  • Offer your assistance and a listening ear if they have not asked for help.
  • Reassure them that they are safe.
  • Help them with everyday tasks, like cleaning, cooking, caring for the family and minding children.
  • Give them some private time.
  • Don’t take their anger or other feelings personally.
  • Don’t tell them that they are “lucky it wasn’t worse” — that statement does not console traumatized people. Instead, tell them that you are sorry such an event has occurred and you want to understand and assist them.

Common Signs and Signals of a Stress Reaction


  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tremors
  • Twitches
  • Chest pain*
  • Difficulty breathing*
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Thirst
  • Visual difficulties
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Chills
  • Shock symptoms*
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting


  • Confusion
  • Poor attention
  • Poor decision making
  • Heightened or lowered alertness
  • Poor concentration memory
  • Problems hyper vigilance
  • Difficulty identifying familiar objects or people
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased or decreased awareness surroundings
  • Poor problem solving
  • Poor abstract thinking
  • Loss of time, place or person, orientation
  • Disturbed thinking, nightmares, intrusive images


  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Grief
  • Denial
  • Severe panic (rare)
  • Emotional shock
  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
  • Loss of emotional control depression
  • Inappropriate emotional response
  • Agitation
  • Apprehension
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Intense anger


  • Change in society
  • Change in speech patterns
  • Loss or increase of appetite
  • Withdrawal
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Suspiciousness
  • Change in usual communication skills
  • Pacing
  • Startle reflex
  • Hyper alert to environment
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Inability to rest
  • Antisocial acts
  • Nonspecific bodily complaints
  • Erratic movements
  • Change in sexual functioning

*These are definite indications of the need for a medical evaluation.

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