Dealing with the death or illness of a loved one is hard, but when you’re on the road and far from home, the feelings of helplessness and guilt can overwhelm the grief.
We recently heard from an owner operator who had just found out he lost a dear friend. The driver knew his friend was terminally ill and he was doing all he could to make it home in time to say goodbye, but flights were too expensive and he had taken a lot of time off for another death just months before. The driver was trying to get loads headed back home. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it in time.
Sadly, if you’ve been a driver for a long period of time, you’ve more than likely experienced something similar. If you haven’t, we sincerely hope you never have to.
There’s no “real” way to plan for a tragedy or illness, but there are steps you can take to be better prepared.
1. Create a list of contacts, a line of communication.
Often times when you’re on the road, you may feel like you’re disconnected or the last to know. Experiencing death or illness can make even the most thorough people forgetful. If someone you love is ill, ask two to three people to keep you updated and check in with all of them frequently.
2. If you can, inform your dispatcher of the situation ASAP.
You may not always know when tragedy will strike, but if a loved one is ill or injured, contact your dispatcher ASAP and let them know about the situation and what your plans are. This way, should you need to rush home, your dispatcher has had advanced warning and he or she may be able to cover your load or get you home quickly.
3. FaceTime, Skype or Send Words of Encouragement
No one wants to say good bye to a loved one over the phone, but if someone you know is gravely ill or injured, ask someone to help to help you FaceTime or Skype with your loved one. Even if it sounds/feels morbid, say what you want/need to say to them.
Not everyone can say what they need to say out loud. Send a card or words of encouragement. Hallmark.com lets you choose a card and personalize it online. After you’ve completed your card, Hallmark will address, stamp and mail the card directly to the recipient for you, and some cards cost less than $2.50 shipped!
4. Have an emergency fund
Taking a last-minute flight can cost as much as $800+. Start an emergency fun. Try to save at least $1,000. The money could cover a last-minute flight or help with the loss of income should you need the time off work.
5. Let go of the guilt
Even if you’ve taken all the necessary steps and planned ahead, sometimes you still can’t make it home in time. Don’t let the guilt overwhelm the grief. If the person who is ill or injured is a loved one, they know what you do and that it’s not always easy to be “there” right away. Sometimes financial and logistical obstacles get in the way.
Most importantly, do all you can to show your love to your friends and family while you’re at home and while you’re away.