Ironically, I've also learned to become emotionally detached. Heartless and soulless. My brain will block things out so I don't have to think about them. If I zone out enough, I don't have to have feelings of sadness or moments of waterworks. That emotional detachment has helped me a lot in my line of work.
Being the "first" first responder as a 911 Dispatcher is very rewarding. I'm the person people call in times of distress. It's up to me to calm and console people, all while dispatching the appropriate agencies. And I'm actually pretty good at it. I usually keep myself in check when someone calls crying uncontrollably, or when they call screaming like a banshee. A lot of times I'm the person to blame when things don't go exactly as the person wanted or when response time isn't quick enough. After all, they want someone to magically be at their doorstep AS SOON as they call.
There's no professional training on detachment. I don't have a guidebook that tells me to emotionally remove myself from the situation. But this line of work will break you if you don't.
I live in a community that I wouldn't consider high-crime. Our large city is made up of approximately 40,000 people, while the surrounding towns in the county are comprised of 27,000 locals. There's the occasional meth busts, some gang activity, and your run-of-the mill petty crimes. Most occasions I deal with baby mama drama, thefts, and bar fights. Murders or killings are very rare. Yet, that rarity occurred just a few days ago. And it was a 12 year old boy.
I worked the night of the shooting. A boy standing outside in the middle of the night was shot down. No apparent reason to be known. I fielded the calls and listened to the screams and cries. I was able to remove myself and do what I had to do. The days following have been flooded with news reports, sadness and anger. I've read the articles, watched the TV, and listened to general talk of the tragedy. Yet, I still removed myself. It's not that I didn't care, but I couldn't afford to get attached.
And yet, somehow, I managed to get drawn in. A dear friend of mine text, asking me if I'd attend a small prayer vigil with members of the off-campus branch of our main church. I hemmed and hawed for hours. My heart and mind debated with each other. I finally agreed to go.
My husband and I, along with twenty other people, walked to the scene of the fatality (which admittedly isn't the best part of town). We got down on our knees, with arms linked and recited the Lord's Prayer. We then each took turns praying aloud, that God lift up the family and community with peace and strength. Wooden crosses were left at the makeshift memorial. That's when it became real to me, and really hit hard. During all this time, neighbors stood outside and watched us. One came over and prayed with us. Vehicles stopped to see what we were doing. But most beautiful of all was the little children who thanked us. It was an extremely humbling moment. I was no longer unattached. My emotions were overwhelmed. It was somebody's child. Damn it, it was somebody's child!