First Christmas

by Robert Cubby

Diana and Robert Cubby
Diana and Robert Cubby

Christmas 2016. This was my first Christmas without my wife who died November 1, 2016. Trying to prepare myself for that reality was difficult. I tried to juggle putting on a “happy” face for my sons and family while, at the same time, trying to remain as upbeat as I could and avoid the demons of despair, loneliness and emptiness. They are very good at what they are capable of doing, sneaky in their attacks and looming around just waiting for me to be most vulnerable. Once they attack, there is a prolonged period of recovery. Most of the time, I feel them coming and scream at them to just leave me alone.

These demons are not new to me. We’re old enemies. They tried to take over my life when I was suffering from PTSD. After 38 years of attacking me, they succeeded in breaking down my defenses. One thing I learned in “recovery” was that I’d have to reinvent myself, that the old life I lived no longer exists, and that a new me was born. During that recovery process, I had to get used to, and be re-acquainted with, the new me. Not an easy task reinventing yourself. I liked the old me and wanted to go back to him. But he died in that shoot out, died from PTSD.

So I was successful in making the transition and became happy with the new me. Everything was going smoothly. The demons left me alone most of the time, only reappearing on the anniversary of the shootout, or other memorable anniversaries that tore down my defenses piece by piece. But I was happy once again, looking forward to enjoying my retirement and a life with my wife. Fulfilling my promise to her that I would retire and we’d grow old together.

But just like promises I made in the past, to keep my officers safe and get everyone home to their families, this wasn’t to be. Crushed by the loss of one of my officers in that shoot out, I thought that, at least I could make good on my promise to my wife. Now that promise was wiped out upon her death. Once again, I died inside when she died. Once again, those horrible feelings washed over me like a huge wave nearly drowning me in despair. Once again, I was told that with her death, that the life I reinvented was now dead and gone. That I’d have to reinvent myself, bring myself to a time in my life when Diana wasn’t a part of it. I’m 66 years old. 47 of those 66 years were with Diana, my wife. To try to recall any time without her was nearly impossible. Now, on top of all that, to try to reinvent myself once more because the former me died when she died, was just too much to ask.

So there I was, dealing with all those personal issues, yet aware that family and friends were worried about me, concerned about how I was doing or how I’ll get through the holiday season. I’m not sure either. I was taking it day by day. I, honestly, could not plan too far ahead for fear that something else would go wrong, or more plans for the future will be smashed. Trying to get to know the new me that’s emerging from the ashes once again. Trying to understand things to deal with them better. Trying to spare those I care for and love any pain from the pain I suffer from time to time.

The recovery process is agonizingly slow. Much slower than PTSD was, and much more painful. But looking back to where I was 11/1/16 to where I am now, I see things improving, slowly, but surely. The demons are still persistent, still trying to drag me down into that dark hole again. I won’t go there, never again. They brought me to the edge, they forced me down into that endless pit. But I saw what it was doing to me, to my family, to my friends and loved ones, to all those that cared so much for me. I couldn’t let those demons win. I’m sure with the support and love of those around me, I will prevail. I will heal. I will rebuild and reinvent myself once more. I have to.

About the Author: Robert Cubby attended Montclair State College (University) earning a BA degree in psychology. Shortly after graduation, Robert was sworn in as a police officer for the Jersey City Police Department. After attending the Police Academy, he was assigned to the patrol division. After seven years of working in two patrol districts, he was transferred to the Emergency Services Bureau where he was an instructor for the Police Academy. After 8 1/2 years, Robert was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the Property Unit. This was followed by assignments back in patrol as a sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. As a lieutenant, Robert was deployed to assist in the efforts during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Captain Cubby retired from the Jersey City police Department in 2011 after 38 years. As the result of his service to the department, he was diagnosed with PTSD and continues to struggle with it on a recurring basis. Robert also appears in the documentary film, Code 9 – Officer Needs Assistance.