After a tornado, flood, hurricane, or earthquake has upset our reality, we’re not only left to face an array of decisions, but we may find ourselves in shock or struggling with feelings that we're not sure how to deal with. This brings up the question: What can we do to cope emotionally after a natural disaster? Dr. Beth Christensen, a mental health counselor in New Orleans, Louisiana was kind enough to share four survival tips with Heard's readers.
Acknowledge Your Loss
We have a tendency to minimize and even deny the magnitude of our suffering. For example, when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I was in training as a therapist and when we were talking to patients who'd come into the clinic, our Professors encouraged us to always ask the patients to share their Katrina story with us. So, these people would come to the clinic to discuss family problems, addiction issues, and other emotional struggles - anything except the hurricane's after-effects. But when I asked them to describe their Hurricane Katrina story I'd listen to them and then think, "Holy cow! No wonder this person is depressed!" These patients didn't realize that what they'd experienced due to Hurricane Katrina was at the root of their current issues.
So, it's important to acknowledge that you've experienced a loss and to give yourself permission to grieve/feel sad.
Seek Support & Offer Support
However, if you find that you feel angry all of the time, that you're having frequent nightmares, or that you've begun to abuse substances as a way of making yourself feel better then it's time to seek the support of a professional health care provider.
If You Didn't Lose Your Home...
A huge thank you to Dr. Christensen for taking the time to share the tips above. As you read this article, did you think of something that helped you to cope after a natural disaster? If so, please share your experience/tips in the comments section below.