As information continues to roll in on the devastation from Hurricane Sandy, I couldn’t help but think about the magnitude of the loss that so many are facing. Loss that may hit after the initial shock of the events of this week.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose everything – the family photographs, the drawings and cards my boys made for me when they were little, or the tiny necklace my grandmother wore in an engagement portrait 85 years ago. It’s a small chain of beads. It isn’t worth much of anything, except to me.
I cannot imagine how it would feel to face the tedious and time-consuming tasks involved in negotiating with insurance companies, sorting out deductibles, dealing with paperwork and payment plans. Then there are issues of relocating for a period of time in order to wait out repairs or rebuilding. And what about accommodating the stresses and trauma felt by children facing the loss of home and routines, or teenagers in the midst of worrying about midterms or SATs or applying to college?
And all of this assumes no physical injuries to manage.
Everyday stress? It pales in comparison.
Post-Traumatic Stress goes beyond anything that everyday stress involves. It leaves deep and enduring scars – a new reality that takes time to sink in – and may reverberate for years afterward over seemingly “normal” events that trigger reactions.
I’m not talking about those with minor damage or the considerable inconveniences of extended periods without power, which isn’t to say they aren’t deeply affected. But those who have lost everything, not to mention loved ones. How do they recover? How do we help?
Medicine.net describes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as follows:
an emotional illness that is classified as an anxiety disorder and usually develops as a result of a terribly frightening, life-threatening, or otherwise highly unsafe experience. PTSD sufferers re-experience the traumatic event or events in some way, tend to avoid places, people, or other things that remind them of the event (avoidance), and are exquisitely sensitive to normal life experiences.
I searched on the Internet to find a selection of resources that might be of interest on coping with natural disaster, on post traumatic stress syndrome, on what to watch for in children, and symptoms that may arise at a later point in time and linger.
There are many more; this is a small selection.
Resources: Coping with Loss After Natural Disasters
Here are a few resources on coping with loss after a natural disaster. They offer some definitions, symptoms to watch out for, and in general, food for thought.
- Depression resulting from Natural Disasters (About.com)
- Depression in Children following Natural Disasters (About.com)
- Disaster Survivors Face Risk of PTSD (About.com / Medicine.net)
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers some information on depression and disasters. It’s a stub really, but it’s a reminder that we need to keep careful watch if sadness and depression persists.
- Risk of Suicide (CDC.gov)
More on children, PTSD, and depression following natural disaster:
On Perspective, Resilience, and Community
It’s Halloween. It’s a day that makes me smile generally speaking, as I sneak a few mini-Snickers from the bowl waiting by the door, and I look forward to gleeful faces arriving in the evening – parents beaming behind them.
Tonight, I will welcome trick-or-treaters as usual – children who are painted and disguised, excited as they grab a handful of candy and drop it into their plastic pumpkins or paper bags. I may even slip into a makeshift costume of my own, if I think it will provoke a laugh.
Laughter is excellent medicine, as is a pleasant and familiar routine. I take both for granted too often. Perhaps we all do.
But worry for those we love reminds us how profoundly important people are, not things. I think of my little boys as they meandered door to door with friends for years, enjoying Halloween. Yet I think of the concept of “home,” the security of having a home, and how vital that stability is to who we are and how we operate in the world.
Tragically, there were victims of this storm. Their families will never be the same. And water damage, fire, and total destruction of property will force many out of their homes indefinitely.
But we also have incredible stories of heroism, reminding us of American heart and resilience – our ability to bounce back, to fight our way back – including through trauma.
Community – wherever it exists – is so important when we’re facing adversity. My hope is that those of us with only “normally stressful” lives appreciate what we have – and who we have. And may we all find patience and generosity for those who need our support, however long that may last.
For options on helping the disaster relief efforts, check out this article on Huffington Post Impact.