The Rabbi Harold Kushner’s book provides some insight and comfort in this difficult time. Too, a handout from Kathleen Horan, current board president of the Indian Creek Nature Center, and a professional in human service fields. In chapter four of Kushner’s book, “No Exceptions for Nice People,” he writes to the mis-notion of “acts of God,” (insurance companies like to refer to natural disasters in this silly way) Kushner counters that the phrase alone is taking God’s name in vain. Nature, is “morally blind.” Nature just is. Things happen.
God is not morally blind and does not choose one above the other. “God stands for justice, for fairness, for compassion….The act of God is the courage of people to rebuild their lives after (the disaster) and the rush of others to help them in whatever way they can.”
So in the Floods of 2008, which are continuing down the Mississippi River with levees failing (and NO, the muskrat is not to blame for the failure…why didn’t the Corps of Engineers or some responsible agency fix the holes? Someone apparently knew about the holes if they could in short order blame muskrats.)
Kathleen Horan distributed this paper based on information gleaned from the Iowa State and Wisconsin Extension Offices.
Emotional Recovery after a Disaster
Disasters bring with them a range of emotional responses. Being able to recognize and cope with these emotions is an important part of the recovery process.
Phases of Disaster
There are four phases of disaster and emotional response.
1. Historic Phase (This is the correct term) – This is the period immediately after disaster occurs and emotions are strong. People often are engaged in heroic actions as they work to save their own or other’s property.
2. Honeymoon Phase – Usually lasting from one week to 6 months after the disaster, this is a time when there is sense of having shared a dangerous experience and lived through it.
3. Disillusionment Phase – This phase generally lasts from about 2 months to one, even two or more years. Strong feelings of disappointment, anger, resentment and bitterness may appear. Many outside agencies and helping organizations have left and victims may feel the loss of community support as they work on rebuilding their own lives and solving their own individual problems.
4. Reconstruction Phase – Survivors come to realize that they will need to solve the problems of rebuilding by themselves and take responsibility for the tasks. This phase generally lasts for several years after the disaster. New buildings, new plans and new programs affirm people’s belief in their community and their capabilities. If signs of progress are delayed, the emotional problems that appear can be intense.
1. Let people help you. The additional help can make a difference between coping and suffering.
2. Take care of your physical and emotional needs. Eat a balanced diet. Try to get enough sleep. Talk with others about your feelings and listen to theirs. Look for positives in the situation.
3. Be patient with one another. It is natural to express disbelief, anger, sadness, anxiety and depression after a disaster. Emotions and moods can change suddenly.
4. Don’t overlook the feelings of children as you deal with the disaster. They need to know they can count on you for extra attention, love and support. Reassure them they are not responsible for the problems you are facing.
5. Refocus on the big picture, instead of little details and the little problems. Don’t expect things to be restored instantly.
6. Remember that a support network is essential. Family members, friends, clergy and professional counselors can all be part of the necessary support.
7. Show by words and actions that you care. A friendly arm or a few words of support can be a big help. Don’t be afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing. Ask how you can help and remember that even small, kind deeds can mean a lot to others.
Supporting Those Around You
1. Tell others that they have done a good job.
2. Laughter can help relieve tension.
3. Be considerate. Small kindnesses matter.
4. Express love and concern often.
Signs of Depression
The sadness, anger and helplessness that many people feel directly after a disaster is very normal. After a few weeks though, ongoing symptoms of depression may require the help of a professional counselor.
Signs to watch for include:
- Constant feelings of sadness, irritability, or tension
- Decreased interest or pleasure in usual activities
- Loss of energy, feeling tired despite lack of activity
- Change in appetite, significant weight loss or gain
- Change in sleeping patterns, difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening, sleeping too much
- Decreased ability to make decisions or concentrate
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
- Thoughts of suicide or death
If you notice these signs in someone, encourage them to seek help. Local resources include:
Clergy at church or synagogue of choice
Foundation II Crisis Line 362-2174
United Way Referral 211
Abbe Center for Community Mental Health 398-3562
Prepared by Kathy Horan, President of Sisters Health Club, on June 24, 2008
Source: University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service, Iowa State University Cooperative Extension Service, Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service, University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service
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