by Deborah Olson
The past months have left many of us reeling from natural disasters and the following aftermath. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as the numerous west coast fires, have left behind more than flooded or burned homes and cars and mountains of debris. It has also left its mark on our hearts and souls.
In the midst of the pain and agony caused by an extreme event orchestrated by Mother Nature, we have witnessed the best of humanity coming to the rescue. Whether watching television news or experiencing first hand the outpouring of compassion and love, we have been touched by the angels moving among us. It reminds us of the human connection we all share.
Strangers Bringing Hope
As somebody impacted by Hurricane Harvey, I saw many stories of complete strangers going door to door, offering hot meals and water as people were tearing down wet drywall in their homes and hauling what used to be their treasured possessions to the curb. We all saw the pictures of people and pets being rescued by boats as the flood waters continued to rise.
My daughter and her husband were able to retrieve a few belongings from their Houston home despite six feet of flood waters. This was due to the selflessness of two good Samaritans from Indiana who saw the news coverage and traveled south. These angels of mercy, hauling a flat-bottom boat, helped people who were trying to collect what was salvageable from their water-soaked homes. Although we will never know their names, nor will we be able to thank them properly, our souls are forever connected to their spirit of immeasurable generosity and kindness.
Finding a New Normal
We find ourselves, weeks later, trying to find a sense of normal. For some, there is no turning back to how it was. Instead, many are searching for a new normal. The loss of routine during the aftermath of a disaster is unsettling, for some it is anxiety-provoking. Life as we knew it is gone for a brief while and, possibly, forever changed. Precious lives are lost, homes are gone or badly damaged, and prized keepsakes are washed away. Yet, in the midst of the devastation, the resiliency of the human spirit shines through the darkness and we realize that there is hope on the horizon.
As we try to navigate the challenges after surviving disasters, there are key actions that help move us through recovery and promote emotional healing and well-being.
How to Promote Emotional Well-being
First, make sure to give yourself time to mourn the losses and changes left behind by the disaster and adjust expectations to acknowledge and accept that this is a difficult but temporary situation.
Second, garner support from friends, family and the community. Stay connected to others and be willing to ask for assistance from trusted people. Tell your disaster stories to others and listen to their accounts. Sharing helps us feel an instant bond, encourages us to heal and helps us move on.
Third, self-care is instrumental for proper healing. Engage in healthy behaviors such as eating balanced meals, getting plenty of rest, exercising and finding positive ways to relieve stress. Although demands are keen to deal with the aftermath of a disaster, carving out time to take care of oneself is crucial.
Finally, become future focused and look ahead for better days on the horizon. Recovery is a process. We need time to grieve and find acceptance with the sadness of the disaster and what we have lost. However, we must seek hope and strive to move ahead to a new normal, decisively determining the positive aspects and plans for the future.
In ConclusionFollowing the many catastrophes experienced in 2017, there has been a revival in our cities, our states, and in our nation. We have seen a renewal in the goodness of mankind, of strangers helping each other, and of people spreading love and kindness to those who have lost so much. What these disasters have left us in the aftermath is a poignant snapshot of what love and compassion look like, how beautiful we are as a human race when we all come together and experience the new hope in our midst.
Disasters - natural or otherwise - can bring out the best in people. Strangers volunteer to go out and help rescue people, pets and belongings as best they can.
When the crisis passes, sometimes it is hard to settle back into a routine. Often, an entirely new one needs to be created.
There are key actions one can take to help us through the recovery process into well-being:
- Give yourself time to mourn the losses and changes that result, knowing that while it is difficult it is also temporary.
- Stay connected to others and be willing to ask for assistance. Become a good listener to other's stories.
- Try to focus on healthy activities such as eating balanced meals, getting plenty of rest, exercising and finding positive ways to relieve stress.
- Look to the future, and know that healing is a process. It will take time.