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I am so sorry.  That is really really tough.  The best advice I can give you is that the less said the better at this point.  And I think that you can explain to an 11 year old that sometimes it is best to not share personal info with people outside the family.  (of course that would be a longer conversation, about secrets vs. privacy etc) .  

 

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I'm very sorry. Your family's private information deserves to be kept private, yet correcting this without sharing private information with strangers seems very difficult. I'm not really sure that I have anything helpful to offer. But I would consider going to someone at the school (principal?) and sharing the whole story and asking them for help straightening this out. They may be able to come up with some way to smooth things over without revealing things that others don't need to know.

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That is such a tough one.   I'm sorry this is happening.

If you feel comfortable, I would just be really honest with whatever parent you were talking about that might be able to spread the word.  Just approach her and say, ' hey I know about the things going around about my dh but people really do have the wrong idea.'  Then I'd be direct about the actual issue without giving away any private info you don't want to and ask if she'd be willing to help spread the word that dh's issues are internals struggles and he's not a threat to the community at all.

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I'm so sorry you are facing all of this. I pray you get some good advice, but most of all I pray he finds a way past all of this and your other children can see that we struggle through grief yet come out on the other side, changed but whole. 

 

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It seems to me that most people know the difference between PTSD/depression and a raving lunatic. It's all over TV: sympathetic stories of cops and soldiers suffering panic attacks and taking leave because of "seeing too much" or whatever. I don't mean to make light of the true story that is devastating your family -- I'm trying to say that there is a very handy narrative out there for you to play to. There is a steriotype that won't be so painful or have the same practical impacts.

I suggest that you (and your kids) become super vocal, using all the right buzz words. Teach them to say "PTSD" (if it's relevant/accurate) and/or a really specific technical and medical term  for whatever diagnosis he actually has. Put it all over your facebook: memes in support of heroes suffering after-effects, support groups, fundraisers -- you name it. Say it in casual conversation: "Because of my husband's (diagnosis) from being a dedicated cop in difficult situations, I need to (do xyz) instead of (abc)." // "Yes, he's on paid leave. His presinct has been so supportive. His co-workers call all the time to make sure he doesn't feel left out."

Shape the narrative to fit the *other* thing they are familiar with... they will get it.

I'm so sorry this is happening to you all.

Edited by bolt.
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I have no advice, but serious hugs and wish I could be helpful in some meaningful way. My family is grateful to your husband for his service both in the military and in civilian life. What an incredible sacrifice you, he, and your family have offered for all of us. I know there is nothing I can say to be really helpful to you, but please know that from the bottom of my heart we thank you. 
I am so sorry that you all are suffering and that is made worse by nosey Norahs. I pray that you all aw able to come out the other side of all this.

Edited by saraha
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Uf da...dealing with this on top of everything else must be so difficult. I wish I had good advice. So far, I think I personally would be using @bolt.'s strategy. 

Also, I wish there was something more I could do to help. All I can offer are socially-distanced internet ((hugs)) and thoughts and prayers.

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Big hugs. That’s a lot to face, right now.

I like bolt.’s ideas above, a lot, and also possibly speaking to the principal privately, like another PP suggested. Aside from that, filling people in as appropriate when it comes up, if that feels comfortable for you, and only saying what you want to share.

I’m so sorry. You’ve all been through so much, and to have people super-imposing a false narrative over it all, based on random, innocent comments… that just stinks. Sending you crazy big hugs.

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I would talk to the principal but…I don’t know your local culture or the school’s culture, and this could really be devastating with long term effects.  It may not be fixable.  Rumors are like that and if there is any kind of anti police sentiment to start with, there may not be any coming back.

I personally(and it’s just me) would probably consider just pulling my kid out of the school.  Especially if they are not supporting his emotional needs.

You definitely don’t have to answer here, but my sister is a first responder specific therapist at a therapeutic center that caters to police/fire/military/EMS.  She knows a lot of obscure resources nationwide and I’d be more than willing to tap into her network if you think there is something that might help your DH.  Trauma is trauma; and when you have traumas piled on top of traumas, it can be too much.  Feel free to PM if I can help at all. 
 

You may have this, but if not, 1-800-COPLINE(1-800-267-5463) is a great resource. It’s all retired LEOs who have undergone significant mental health training.  You as a family member can call and talk as well, and they have access to some great resources.

Edited by Mrs Tiggywinkle
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18 minutes ago, Storygirl said:

I'm very sorry. Your family's private information deserves to be kept private, yet correcting this without sharing private information with strangers seems very difficult. I'm not really sure that I have anything helpful to offer. But I would consider going to someone at the school (principal?) and sharing the whole story and asking them for help straightening this out. They may be able to come up with some way to smooth things over without revealing things that others don't need to know.

I'd definitely have a meeting with the principal and the school counselor. Let them know that there are rumors that are effecting your son so you wanted to clarify things and ask for whatever help they can give. Explain that your DH is dealing with depression and anxiety after the loss of your son, as well as some unhealed trauma from his tours overseas with the military, and with the insomnia and anxiety he voluntarily left his position because only someone at the top of their game reaction wise should have that job. 

Then, see if there are any parents you can talk to about it, as they can help spread the word via the same rumor mill. That's the best I can think to do. 

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I'm so very sorry you're all going through this. I think bolt. is exactly right, and it occurs to me that I've seen others use this strategy effectively. 

Would it be a good thing for your kids to have some service swag, so to speak? If you told them about one of your husband's awards, and how impressive he was, would the kids benefit from hearing it? And would it help their next revealing conversation at school to be more hero-oriented?

I wouldn't ask your dh to do this, because he might not be able when things are so dark for him. But could you casually show the kids some photos of your dh in his official capacity and express pride? Or a decoration citation and give them a hint what it means?

If they were younger, I'd get them service related "My daddy is my hero" t-shirts. Would they like a deployed unit patch sewn on their backpack? 

If there's any way I can help by locating gear like that, let me know directly. You have my prayers starting now.

Also, I'll delete this response if it's too revealing. 

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I'd be tempted to ask the school to allow a panel of people to speak for mental health week. A health care worker, a parent who has had a child die, etc could briefly explain their situation/trauma & how they are attempting to cope, and then they could answer the middle school kids' questions. 

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It seems to me letting the principal know enough details (PTSD/depression or whatever it is + medical leave) is important because it's the principal who's going to be dealing with the parents who are afraid to have your husband on campus. If he's able to honestly say to them, "I know the clinical details of the situation and can assure you [nervous parent] that the man in question is no threat to anyone. Let's not take the vague wording a grieving 11 year old used and turn it into something it isn't.  Let's not kick a grieving family when they're down."

I know we can't expect a devastated 11 year old to anticipate how his choice of words could easily be misinterpreted as the worst possible scenario given our current societal context and endless news cycles. It's a good time to talk about who to share your deepest heartbreak with, when, and to what degree.I agree with @bolt. that whenever it's discussed with people who don't know your husband to use precise language.

Mental illness is a huge spectrum of various conditions and behaviors whereas depression is more narrow and familiar to people outside the situation.  The word scary conveys something entirely different when said by an 11 year old in reference to watching dad have a panic attack and overall change in demeanor/personality than it does when an adult describes an armed schizophrenic having a violent episode in a crowded area as scary.  We do live in a world where mass shootings and police brutality happen, and many violently mentally ill people live without access to treatment, so choosing words and phrases that make it clear your husband's situation isn't in any way linked to anything at all like that is helpful.

Some kids need someone to give them responses to memorize and practice so they don't have to think on their feet.  Would things like, "My brother died and dad's on bereavement leave." or "My brother died and,  of course, dad's depressed." or something like that be something you're comfortable with?  Or whatever better fits.  I think connecting a child's death and a parent's depression is understandable to most people, but maybe that isn't what you want to say for your particular situation whatever reason. I'm just suggesting the idea of a general response that indicates a severe loss and the very normal reaction anyone would have to it.

As a parent of an international adoptee who came to us when our older kids were 7 and 9, I'm aware that unfamiliar scenarios get various forms of inquiries and assumptions from others who don't know what they don't know and they fumble and flail when trying to navigate and react to kids talking about their unusual situations. There's a weird burden that's put on the people in the atypical situation to educate while they deal with challenges unusual situation. It's so unfair. I can imagine the burden is dramatically amplified in a situation where a child died. I'm so sorry you're all going through all of this.
 

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I think all you can do is ride it out. 
 

We have been through a few rounds of vicious gossip and/or shunning and are going through another. Fear, jealousy, and queen bee dynamics in the listeners/gossipers usually fuel the undercurrent. 

Keep showing up. Keep being friendly. Don’t let people push you out—and especially don’t shrink yourself and begin to hide who you are. Perceptions change with exposure and experience. 

You may discover that this particular school culture is toxic and not a great place. It may all sort out. You won’t know for a while.

Our family and my daughter especially has learned a lot from the experiences: the strength of being brave and authentic, that it’s ok to be private because not everyone is deserving of things close to your heart, and that not everyone is kind or compassionate—so treasure those traits and find people who have them.

 

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I'm sorry that some people have been so ignorant as to twist your son's words like that, and then spread rumors.

Aside from telling his principal and teacher(s), I think less said is better, unless it comes up in your presence.

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This is heartbreaking. I think the principal and anyone else dealing with gossip mongers needs to know as many details as the two of you feel able. 

I will also say that as a person who has no anti-police sentiment as someone above mentioned, I would still feel very unsure with knowing what your son, who is part of a family totally new to them,  said, because tragic things have happened too numerous to mention. And the things said by your son are serious sounding.  I would not blame parents for worrying after hearing those type statements, but certainly for the abhorrent way they chose to behave. Knowing the circumstances, as much as you felt able to tell, that led to this would totally change my feelings, and certainly I'd feel crappy knowing I'd shared in the dirty gossip. And hopefully the parents are decent enough to squelch this themselves. 

I'm sorry, I'm having trouble finding a way to express a parent's fear while condemning them for such nasty, nasty behavior.

Edited by Idalou
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I'm so sorry. I don't have direct experience with something to this extent. But, my thoughts and experience on a smaller scale is that directness and truth make it difficult for the rumors and half-truths to retain their potency. Trying to retain "too much" privacy can look like secrecy, which can fan the flames. 
 

A blunt statement of fact such as, "The loss of our son/brother has had a traumatic impact on our family. As a result, our mental wellness is not great. As a LEO, I/DH/Dad did/do not feel in a position to do the job effectively, so took time off to try to heal." Every family member can say pretty much the same thing.

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(((BaseballandHockey)))

I just heard Tim Ferris's newest podcast. He interviewed a psychiatrist out of Stanford. Very, very worthwhile to listen to. The doctor goes into the trauma's in his life and Tim talks just a bit about his (warning: I've barely heard much about Tim's because it's so awful).

Tim's podcast here.

The book here, although it comes out in early October, you save if you pre-order.

This book sounds great.

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I think that dad and his wife could possibly be your new best friends. They are the only ones you’ve mentioned who handled this right. They went as close to the source as they could and just laid it out and asked what’s going on. Like a caring decent person should.  

There’s no controlling the rumor mill. But you can refuse to give them more to grind.  Ignore and take care of your family and make note of those who act kindly. 

On 9/24/2021 at 1:00 PM, Homeschool Mom in AZ said:

It seems to me letting the principal know enough details (PTSD/depression or whatever it is + medical leave) is important because it's the principal who's going to be dealing with the parents who are afraid to have your husband on campus. If he's able to honestly say to them, "I know the clinical details of the situation and can assure you [nervous parent] that the man in question is no threat to anyone. Let's not take the vague wording a grieving 11 year old used and turn it into something it isn't.  Let's not kick a grieving family when they're down."
 

I’m thinking the principal is an incompetent turd if he can’t figure out how to say that without someone dumping their entire medical and employment history first.

This crap is why there is still so much completely reasonable shame and denial about emotional and mental trauma /illness.  I mean medical privacy should be respected regardless but why the hell would anyone be honest about their struggles in a community like that? I sure wouldn’t want to talk to them about the weather much less my vulnerabilities. 

Edited by Murphy101
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29 minutes ago, Murphy101 said:

I’m thinking the principal is an incompetent turd if he can’t figure out how to say that without someone dumping their entire medical and employment history first.

This crap is why there is still so much completely reasonable shame and denial about emotional and mental trauma /illness.  I mean medical privacy should be respected regardless but why the hell would anyone be honest about their struggles in a community like that? I sure wouldn’t want to talk to them about the weather much less my vulnerabilities. 

Yeah, but it's not completely clear to me if the parents who are worried about the dad being some sort of threat are voicing this to the school or just between themselves and their kids.  If it's just between themselves at this point, I'm thinking it's worth it to let the principal know what's brewing-it might not be long before someone says something to him. And I didn't say dump their entire mental and employment history, I said let them know that it's depression (which is a clinical term) and not some other scary-in-the-adult-sense mental illness diagnosis that indicates a threat others.  Adding that it's a type of leave that wasn't disciplinary is helpful too.

Does it suck that someone might need to go specify these things to some degree to end this rumor mess?  Absolutely.  But we live in a world where dangerous things have happened and the child's unfortunate choice of words (poor kid, he didn't realize) has opened the door for reasonable people to have legitimate concern that there's a possible serious issue while they should also know it's possible it's something completely nonthreatening.

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Re the golf course situation, i actually think these things might be ideal if your DH can cope.  Get him out with the other school Dads.  Once they know him personally, the rumour mill will settle down and hopefully they will put things straight with the other mums and it may be good for him mentally to spend time with other people, even if he doesn’t feel like it.

I feel really sad reading your posts.  No one should have to deal with this stuff.

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I'm a little appalled these statements by your son now has families shunning you. 

Depression/ PTSD is scary to be around.

It isn't safe to work dangerous jobs when you are unwell.

Nothing about that makes the person suffering a danger to others. 

Talk about stigma!

I'm sorry, I don't know what I'd do, other than consider whether this is the place for me/my kids/out family. 

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44 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

I'm a little appalled these statements by your son now has families shunning you. 

Depression/ PTSD is scary to be around.

It isn't safe to work dangerous jobs when you are unwell.

Nothing about that makes the person suffering a danger to others. 

Talk about stigma!

I'm sorry, I don't know what I'd do, other than consider whether this is the place for me/my kids/out family. 

Yeah—I’m not sure these are the people I want to be around either.  I do understand the concern as a parent(I deal with a lot of mentally unstable, violent people, but that’s a minority of people with mental illness).  But seriously, jumping right to this level of gossip feels like a lot of red flags to me.

But I have been diagnosed with both PTSD and depression. I am not violent; I’ve just seen a lot of bad things and I’m sad. So this hits me on a personal level.

Edited by Mrs Tiggywinkle
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7 hours ago, hjffkj said:

That is such a tough one.   I'm sorry this is happening.

If you feel comfortable, I would just be really honest with whatever parent you were talking about that might be able to spread the word.  Just approach her and say, ' hey I know about the things going around about my dh but people really do have the wrong idea.'  Then I'd be direct about the actual issue without giving away any private info you don't want to and ask if she'd be willing to help spread the word that dh's issues are internals struggles and he's not a threat to the community at all.

That's what I'd do. I'd talk to some parents I know and ask them to clarify things. I'd find some friends who could do it. 

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I'm so sorry!  I think it's bizarre that the families are jumping to extreme gross conclusions...  You'd think if anything, their first thought would be to reach out to your ds and see how he's doing.  

I wonder if the friend's father was speaking only for a slim minority of gossipers.  Hopefully your BIL was able to give him enough info that the rumors will be shut down quickly.   I would speak with the principal and tell him what you've been hearing, and request that he put the rumors down as he hears them.   If parents really are calling the school (and I'd specifically ask the principal if they really are, or if that is not true), then he should be quashing them immediately.  Perhaps you'd feel comfortable giving him permission to say:  "The family has been through a terrible event and they are all grieving.  They need your help, not your crazy rumors."

School hasn't been going on for long.  I think as people get to know your family at various events, they'll soon realize the truth.

 

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I think that the suggestions about telling the principal (or whoever is having to deal with concerned parents) and a few of the parents and giving them permission to pass the information along would be extremely helpful.

I would also have a discussion with your son about family privacy, specifically that his father's mental health concerns and job status are not something he should be discussing with people outside the family.

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Has there been a recent family tragedy in your area that might explain why people are so apt to leap to the worst conclusions?  There was a father murder suicide (killed his only son) in my community a few weeks ago. I think if I had heard what your son said, my mind might go there because of the recent experience in my community. There was a push to try and get this man’s weapons before the tragedy but it failed. When I hear of a mentally ill police officer, I think of guns and I wouldn’t want my kids playing there because of it. 
 

Now, if I had the background and knew you and him, I would likely change my mind. I wouldn’t be calling the school, but I probably wouldn’t let my kids go over to your house without knowing the whole story. I also don’t let my kid’s go to people’s houses that I know to be very pro gun (like carrying at kid’s birthday parties) because many folks don’t lock up guns. I would have no problems with inviting your kids to my house. 
 

I’m just trying to offer an alternative explanation/ view of why people might be reacting strongly. 

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24 minutes ago, EKS said:

I think that the suggestions about telling the principal (or whoever is having to deal with concerned parents) and a few of the parents and giving them permission to pass the information along would be extremely helpful.

I would also have a discussion with your son about family privacy, specifically that his father's mental health concerns and job status are not something he should be discussing with people outside the family.

Yes - we have a phrase for information like this. My kids know that phrase means the information does not leave our house and why and it helps them remember. School counselors are an exception to the rule. 

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