People who have faced deep loss are often unable to share their grief with those who have not experienced something similar. That’s certainly true for the women and children of police officers who have lost their lives on the job.
It can be isolating to fall into that category. Even the most loving friends and family don’t really know how to react, a sentiment widow Grace Russell, 72, shared.
“Nobody else understands what it’s like to be a police widow,” she said in a video shared by the New York City Police Benevolent Association. “It’s different. … I don’t know how to explain it to you unless you experience it.”
Russell was just 29 when her husband was killed in 1979, according to Fox News. Michael Russell died attempting to arrest someone involved in a shooting while he was off duty.
After all those years, the pain is different, but it’s certainly not gone — and the PBA has made sure she and others like her know they’re not forgotten through its Widows and Children’s Fund.
“The PBA Widows’ and Children’s Fund, Inc. (the ‘Fund’) provides aid and assistance to widows, widowers and eligible dependents of police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty,” the organization’s website reads.
“Eligibility is defined as all widows, widowers and children of active police officers who lose their lives in the line of duty as the Directors may deem either worthy of or otherwise in need of relief or assistance,” it says. “Benefits are determined on a yearly basis, by a majority vote of the committee established to oversee procedures.
“Benefits provided to eligible beneficiaries vary on a yearly basis, depending on, among other things, the availability of funds.”
And part of that support is holding an impressive yearly Christmas party to honor the families and their fallen heroes.
This year’s bash was held Saturday in Queens, Fox News reported. There were oysters. There was prime rib. There was a chocolate fountain.
“This is our way of saying thanks to these hero families — not for the sacrifices they’ve made, but for the strength they show every day,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said, according to Fox News.
But most important, it’s a time that families walking the same paths of grief can talk to one another as equals, share stories of their departed loved ones and feel a deep sense of camaraderie.
Nobody knows what it’s like to be a police widow unless you’ve experienced it,” says Grace Russell, wife of murdered @NYPD75Pct PO Michael Russell. This weekend’s return of the @nycpba Widows’ & Children’s Holiday Party brought generations of #BlueFamily heroes back together. pic.twitter.com/9sGmqgkU0I
— NYC PBA (@NYCPBA) December 15, 2021
“My children got to be with other children whose fathers were killed … the children got to sit with each other just like I got to sit with all the widows, and tell the story,” Russell said.
Lynch said the families’ presences are a huge encouragement to those still on the force, too, as seeing the “families have the strength and courage to carry on despite their pain gives us the strength and courage to do our job and protect this city.”
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