The word “trauma” often promotes images of war, accidents, rape or bombings but natural disasters are also a source of trauma. Trauma often begins with feelings of loss of control over the situation and continues into depression and anxiety. Many of the news photo’s we have seen this week confirm those feelings on Texans’ faces as they reside in shelters or where rescued by boat. Left untreated, trauma can escalate into nightmares, applying these fears to everyday life and other people, and feelings that person has lost complete control of their life.
Healing from a natural disaster is usually less difficult than from other forms of trauma because the cause of the trauma is not human and because you are not alone. Talking about the effects of natural disasters and sharing of stories is often healing. Regaining a sense of control by beginning to clean out a home or seeing the site of the devastation may help to decrease the feelings of uncertainty.
Traumatic stress will not “go away.” It must be addressed. Trauma often needs “language” to help decrease its effects and aid the victim in moving forward.
- Allow all family members to express how the event affected them and what they have personally lost. The traumatic event will affect every member of the family differently and cause different losses. Everyone must feel their loss and feelings are valid.
- Offer age appropriate tasks in the clean-up. Discussing the feelings occurring from these tasks is vital.
- Teen’s often express their feelings easier through art or music. Offer teens opportunities to paint murals, write poetry or songs, and to meet with other teens who have experienced the event. Children may not have the vocabulary to express their fears and emotions so offer them they ability to draw or write stories.
- Focus on the difference between loss of things and loss of items of significant value. Most of our homes are filled with things that can be replaced. Children need to understand their possessions can be replaced at later time but still have value.
- Seek professional help to avoid becoming stuck.
Recovering from a natural disaster will require time and patience. It is important not to ignore feelings of fear, depression, and anxiety. If these feelings are increasing or impacting your ability to function daily, please seek me out for help.