Updated: Mar 11, 2022
This is a list of 6 books that we’ve read and would recommend to partners and families of first responders that help explain what they go through at work, how they may carry trauma from their shift around with them, and all the other nuances that come with being firewives.
Let’s face it, when we were brand new fire wives, there weren’t blogs, social media groups, or podcasts to help us learn about the nuances of being married to firefighters. So, if we wanted to learn, we had to find another firewife in our department or get our hands on any reading material we could find.
If you’ve listened to the Dear Chiefs Podcast for any length of time, you know we are both book worms and love asking our guests what they are currently reading. You can find our guests book recommendations in the show notes of each podcast episode. With that in mind, we are hosting a giveaway for a Kindle Paperwhite on our instagram. What are you waiting for, enter the giveaway here!
With the giveaway in mind, we thought we should share a list of books that helped us navigate being married to first responders. Below are our top book recommendations for anyone in a relationship with a firefighter (or any first responder). These are our 6 favorite books that we’ve referred to many times and highly recommend.
TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide
"My husband was good at his job, but he was not built for the job."
Mindfulness for Warriors is an introduction to mindfulness and meditation as a healing tool for those who are in constant "emergency mode." It's a gentle yet brutal reminder that first responders are human and what they see and hear affects their very core.
Kim Colgrove shares her story of overcoming the suicide of her husband Dave, a police officer with over 30 years on the job and the effects of survivor trauma. Throughout the book she shares real and raw stories of other first responders struggling with their own trauma, the lasting effects it has on their families and the tools each storyteller used to help overcome their struggle.
TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT
Ali Rothrock tells her story of being a female firefighter in a predominantly male industry. At just 16 years old and a volunteer firefighter, Ali experienced the wrath of males in the firehouse insisting she wasn't competent to do the job because of her sex. Ali swore to create a "quiet revolution for equality" in the firehouse. Through the book Ali tells her story of training, running calls, persistence, and breaking down the barriers of females in the fire service. Ali's path was not what she expected but it became a path worth fighting for.
She has a new book coming out soon too: After Trauma: Lessons on Overcoming from a First Responder Turned Crisis Counselor
The Firefighter Family Academy: A guide to Educate and prepare SPOUSES for the career ahead by Rachelle Zemlok, PsyD
Rachelle Zemlock is a fire spouse, police daughter/sister and licensed child psychologist in the Bay Area. From basic terminology, what to expect during probation, and ways to prepare your family for this new life, Rachelle's book gives first hand insight and advice to spouses of new firefighters. This book is so helpful to anyone starting their journey as a firefighter and in my opinion should be given to all new families of firefighters upon hiring.
In Harm's Way: Help for the Wives of Military Men, Police, EMTs, and Firefighters by Aphrodite T. Matsakis PhD
Chelsi’s husband gifted her In Harm’s Way:Help for the Wives of Military Men, Police, EMTs, and Firefighters shortly after they were married. At the time, he felt that it would help her better understand what he went through at work, Chelsi quickly discovered that this book is really meant for the partner of the first responder to better understand themselves and the role that they play in the relationship and to help to calm their fears and stress, how to deal with their spouses dangerous job calmly, how to deal with the reality that their spouse could die in the line of duty. It also touches on how to help our children cope with their parent’s job. It touches briefly on subjects such as sex, anger, finances, and communication.
This is a great self help guide for someone who has anxiety about the job.
Chelsi has read this book over and over again. Also a book that her firefighter gifted her, I love a Firefighter: What the Family Needs to Know gives us a glimpse of what our spouses go through at work and how shift work affects marriages, and practical ways to cope as a family.
Book Description from amazon.com:
“From the effects of shift work on your marriage, to the emotional side of physical injuries and trauma, to ways to deal with job pressures and resolve conflicts at home, read on to see what you can do to help yourself, your mate, and your children navigate the highs and lows of "the best job in the world."
A must read!
Mynda Ohs, PhD has been working as a Mental Health Clinician for 14 years. For the last 6 years she has primarily worked with all first responders and their families to improve mental health awareness. Not only does she work with first responders but she has been married to a Battalion Chief for the Long Beach City Fire Department for over 20 years. This has not only given her a clinical but personal experience of being part of a fire family. While out on several critical incidents for fire she started realizing that all fire families were struggling with the same challenges but no one realized it. This is what inspired her to write this book which talks about fire culture and how we can survive it.
Fully Involved is a book that explains very well Fire Culture and what really goes on at the firehouse. We loved Mynda’s explanation in her podcast episode of what she thought happened in fire camp during big campaign fires. She thought that it was like a big camping trip with buddies. Sitting around the bonfire at night chatting it up and having fun with their cronies. This book dispels any of those ideas and tells the truth about what our spouses are going through and gives practical advice on how to keep the fires burning at home too.
BONUS RECOMMENDED READING
From Chelsi’s bookshelf:
TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault + love Affair
This story starts out with a love affair between two lifelong friends, but we quickly find out that this book has little to do with that and more to do with a secret that the main character has been keeping most of her life, that only her friend/lover knows the truth about. This is a gripping and tragic story that completely wrecked me at every single turn.
“Have you ever heard of supernovas? They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy. I like to think you and Ben were like that . . . in that short time, you had more passion than some people have in a lifetime.”
A story about a couple who meet in a pizza parlor, instantly hit it off, fall in love in a few weeks, end up eloping within months, and then only 9 days after they’re married; tragedy. He dies. I won’t spoil anymore, but to say that this is a story that will remind you that there is more than one way to find happiness. It’s a beautiful and tragic love story all at the same time.
Audra’s Bookshelf & Kindle List:
Every woman can relate to the “marsh girl” who strives to be part of a group and be loved by someone. The way this book envelopes nature, love, and the need to belong is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Delia Owens' writing skills draw you into the book as if you live in the marshes right along Kya. I could imagine the smells and sounds so beautifully throughout the book. The story of the marsh girl is so eloquently intense it will leave you breathless. Highly recommend this book and few nights of warm baths to get through it.
I’ve been a CoHo Fan since day 1 back when Slammed was new. Colleen Hoover books are unique easy reads that send you into a love affair, smack you around, put you in a paralyzed state and then bring you back to life again. Hopeless is still one of my favorite all time books. Holder and Sky have this deep young love affair with twists and turns one would never expect. I can’t spoil it but it still sits deep with me and had me gasping for air in tears. You’re going to need a glass of wine, a warm blanket, and uninterrupted time to easily read this book in a day.
What are some resources that you have used as a first responder's spouse/partner that have helped you? Leave us your suggestions in the comments below!