There are a variety of theories about the process of recovery from psychiatric disabilities, but all agree that recovery is possible.  One theory about the process of recovery from psychiatric disability after trauma was outlined by Richards (1990) and includes three distinct stages:

  1. Survival honeymoon
  2. Adjustment shock
  3. Recovery

Survival Honeymoon

The survival honeymoon is the first stage survivors go through in recovery from disability and it typically lasts 4 to 12 weeks. During this welcome time an officer will regain his/her strength and often participate in the type of activities that will help them feel normal again. No matter how encouraged and optimistic they may feel at this stage, their primary reality is that they survived and are still alive. At this point they have not yet fully grasped the impact of their limitations and the adjustments this will require as they go on with their lives.

Adjustment Shock

Once the survivor has gone through their survival honeymoon stage, they enter a period of adjustment shock in their recovery from disability. For example, Officers traumatized and/or dealing with injuries may start feeling somewhat insecure or unsure of their abilities to move forward and cope with what the future brings. They are faced with the prospect of getting less help and attention from family and friends.

Before they know what’s happening, few if any calls come in and no one stops by to visit. This often leaves the disabled officer feeling isolated and all alone in the world. When an officer has suffered a serious injury or has become disfigured, he or she now becomes very aware of their condition and how different and/or abnormal they are now. It is common for survivors to feel disappointed in themselves if they haven’t met their goals for recovery. Then tend to think they are to blame, that maybe they haven’t tried hard enough.


This stage in recovery from disability begins when the person exhibits signs that they are successfully adjusting to what has happened to them. They are starting to accept their losses and/or physical limitations and are doing their best to overcome them. One of the initial signs of recovery occurs when he/she can comfortably discuss the incident that changed their life and how they are adapting to their new circumstances.

Law enforcement officers aren’t the only ones going through the aftermath of workplace disability. The family of the disabled officer is in its own state of shock, they’re fearful about the future, they feel anguish and a sense of helplessness in the aftermath of this ordeal.

Children are usually affected more than adults. They might become confused since they cannot understand all the changes that are taking place. Children may feel their parents are rejecting them for some reason or that they somehow being blamed for the pain and unhappiness in the family. During this time children will need a lot of reassurances and constant love and attention.

Spouses typically have the most difficulty struggling through the aftermath of such a traumatic event as they stand by watching their husband or wife work their way through the stages of recovery from disability. They are usually being pulled by two different extremes: they don’t really want to accept this major change in their life and continue to hope that life will “go back to normal.” The other extreme is that they recognize the gravity of the problems they’re facing, both physically and emotionally, and see that their life and that of their family’s will never be the way it was.

What this means is that the families of disabled police officers need just as much attention, love and compassion as the disabled officer does. Usually, the disabled officer receives all the attention, at least at the start, which leaves the family without care or the support they need.  However, for all people engaged in recovery from disability, it is a process of ups and downs, not a straight line.  If you are stuck in the process of recovery and need some additional help, please give us a call today!

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