At the moment that I am writing this, the headlines on every news show and Internet news site are telling the story of the impact of Hurricane Harvey on Texas. The property destruction has been horrendous. The impact of the resulting downpour means that the destruction will continue for many days to come, as swollen rivers, far from the coast, overflow their banks and cause additional flooding. It’s only thanks to people heeding the calls for evacuation that more lives have not been lost. The news outlets also remind us that this hurricane season is far from over, and that additional storms are tracking across the Atlantic Ocean from the African coast as well.
These reports have highlighted the property damage and economic impact of the storm in great detail. With the closing of oil refineries, this storm will affect not only the economy of Texas, but the entire nation as well. They have also touched on the grief of those who lost loved ones as a result of the storm.
For some time to come, there will be any number of federal, state and local agencies that step in to offer economic support to these people. Those in government will take action to help rebuild the area and help businesses reopen to provide both services and jobs.
One area that is rarely addressed, however, is the ongoing emotional pain and grief that will continue to be felt by everyone who lived through this event, or who had loved ones displaced as a result. The grief for those who have lost property and a sense of security, rather than life, falls under the broad heading of Disenfranchised Grief. The grief and loss that these people are facing, if not dealt with, may follow them the rest of their lives.
A story of a delayed grief response
Back in the early 1980’s, I served as the funeral director for a woman whose husband died. She was, what was called, a “German War Bride.” Her husband was stationed in Germany after WWII, where they had met and married. It was not until the late 1970’s that her sister was able to escape from East Germany and join them in The United States. As part of the services, he was honored with military rights, including a 21-gun salute. Even though I announced that this was coming at the end of the service, those men firing the guns were out of sight of those attending the committal service inside a community mausoleum. When the guns fired, the widow’s sister dove for the floor and curled into a fetal position. Her English was such that she didn’t understand what I said and it immediately took her back to her escape from East Germany and a heavy round of gunfire. It was a delayed grief response that brought that same fears back into her life.
The people who have been impacted by Harvey, and the many other brutal storms that have hit our nation over the last many years, may find themselves also dealing with delayed grief issues. It might be the sound of an oncoming train or thunder that reminds them of the winds, or a gushing stream that brings back memories of the flooding. There are any number of sights or sounds that could take them back to those fearful moments that they felt in dealing with the impact of the storm. If they do not effectively deal with the emotional pain of this event, they will be particularly susceptible to having such memory triggers take them back to their moments of fearfulness.
If Harvey has impacted you, another natural disaster or any traumatic event has impacted you, you would be well served to take grief recovery action. The sense of fear and loss of safety generated by that event could otherwise be something that impacts you for years to come. Worse still, in failing to take action, you could be passing your same inner fears on to your children. This being said, it's equally important that we recognize the impact this event has on children. Grief is the result of the end of, or change in, a familiar pattern of behavior. Any large scale event, such as hurricane Harvey, any other natural disaster or incident, results in significant loss and changes to familiar patterns of behavior.
The Grief Recovery Method offers direction in how to deal, not only with those relationships to people that may have been impacted as a result of such an event, but also with the loss of possessions and sense of safety. It’s a step-by-step approach to saying “goodbye” to what has been lost, so that you can better face a future that is perhaps quite different from the one you expected. It offers you the opportunity to take emotional care of yourself and your loved ones.
Please look for a Grief Recovery Specialist in your area to assist you with dealing with this impactful grief process that you are experiencing. We also encourage you to seek out a copy of the Grief Recovery Handbook, which is available through most libraries in the United States. We also suggest you seek out When Children Grieve for additional tools and resources to help children with loss. Once you find help for yourself, you may wish to train as a Specialist yourself, so that you can make a difference for others when the next disaster strikes.
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Photot Credit: 123RF Stock Photo - Stephen Finn