Concerns of Police Survivors Rebuild Shattered Lives
Jan Blaser-Upchurch will welcome nine new families to the Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) Holiday Party this month with open arms and an open heart. It will be a bittersweet welcoming, because each of these families represents an officer lost in the line of duty. However, the gathering will be a happy one for surviving spouses, children, family and co-workers and an opportunity to share memories and support each other through the holiday season.
Blaser-Upchurch is the president of C.O.P.S. Arizona and a victim advocate at the Arizona Department of Corrections. She is also the surviving spouse of DPS Sgt. John Blaser and knows all too well how challenging the first holidays can be for someone who has lost a loved one.
“My husband had been an officer for four years when I met him. He was such a good person and a good man. We get through it by thinking something like that isn’t going to happen to them, but we know the risks,” says Blaser-Upchurch. “You can’t think about that every day, and then something like this happens and it’s shattering. And that’s what C.O.P.S. does, it helps rebuild those shattered lives.”
There are a lot of great organizations that help when tragedy strikes, but C.O.P.S. services are lifelong. Blaser-Upchurch remembers her husband’s funeral and the immense support she felt. However, after all was said and done, she was left in a fog and couldn’t figure out what next.
Even though her husband passed away 25 years ago, she recalls the name of the C.O.P.S. volunteer who knocked on her door. Her name was Cathy and she too had suffered the loss of her husband just three years prior. Cathy told her that she could help her walk this path.
“We did not have children and I had to reinvent myself. Cathy helped me figure out what I was going to do with my life. By helping others, I’ve helped myself so much and it helps me honor John’s loss, because he paid the ultimate sacrifice. I’m honored that I was married to him. He was taken way too soon, but we don’t have choices in these matters and we get through the best we can,” says Blaser-Upchurch.
C.O.P.S. supports parents, spouses, children, siblings and co-workers after the loss of an officer. They find ways to work with each unique situation, because everyone grieves differently. Members of C.O.P.S. meet the families and tailor support services to their needs and each group will connect with others who truly have walked in their shoes.
In addition to localized support, C.O.P.S. also hosts retreats – offered at no cost – to families and co-workers. The retreats and services are there for these survivors no matter where they are in life. Sometimes adults who experience loss at a young age discover when they start having a family of their own that it brings up emotions and grief.
“It’s amazing seeing children connecting with other children, when they go to C.O.P.S. Kids Camp. They really connect throughout life,” says Blaser-Upchurch.
Everyone at camp will be offered grief counseling, but they’ll also have some fun, too.
A Candle in the Dark
The C.O.P.S. Holiday Party is an opportunity for law enforcement families to get to know each other during an upbeat and joyful gathering. Blaser-Upchurch loves seeing the officers interacting with the families. Plus, it’s not another memorial, it’s a happy place to share stories and make new memories.
“It’s a very positive experience and it’s so fun to see the kids excited about Santa. It renews your excitement about Christmas, especially for the new survivors. The kids are smiling and laughing and having a good time with other kids,” says Blaser-Upchurch.
Santa will be taking photographs with the guests and passing out gifts. Stuffington Bear Factory will help kids make a special toy to take home. There will be fun surprises for the teens as well, along with dinner and treats for all.
“For some of the families it might be the first year or second year and they need to have new, different traditions and find comfort in those who understand. Sometimes people just need to know we are a family. I’ll walk up and give them a hug and let them know that we are here for them,” says Blaser-Upchurch.
The party’s theme is Project Blue Light after the C.O.P.S. national campaign, in which people light a blue light for fallen officers. The event will glow in remembrance of loved ones lost and survivors will be gifted a light to take home to help keep memories bright.