September 1, 2017
In the Wake of Hurricane Comes Grief
Care Dimensions Bereavement Manager Offers Insight
The destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flooding is overwhelming. Cities and towns in Texas have been devastated, homes have been destroyed, and lives have been lost. At this time a multitude of reactions exist across the country.
Survivors of disaster often struggle with a range of emotions: joy at avoiding serious physical injury, confusion over how to carry on with life, anger at the forces of nature for having unleashed such storms, and grief for the many losses confronting them. Those not directly affected may experience strong sympathy with the victims and struggle with their own emotions.
“It is difficult for any of us not to be touched or to feel grief in response to the damage caused by this hurricane, and that grief may have a lasting impact,” said April Evans, LICSW and manager of bereavement services for Care Dimensions. “In general, our culture is not particularly patient with people who are grieving. Instead, we subconsciously send messages that there’s an arbitrary timeframe for grief. And that when the time limit is up, we should be done.”
Grief is a uniquely individual process. Some may cry, others may erupt in anger. People may feel extreme fatigue or sleeplessness. Grief may even emerge as a grief “spasm.” While they are normal reactions to trauma and loss, grief spasms literally feel like they come out of nowhere. One moment you’re laughing and the next, you’re sobbing. They are as powerful as they are sudden.
Evans notes that many avoid taking the time to grieve because it feels too painful or perhaps not legitimate. “They may believe that if they weren’t affected by the storm, they don’t have a right to feel sad. What they forget is if you don’t pay attention to grief, if you don’t give yourself the time you need to grieve, it will come back to bother you. It doesn’t just disappear.”
More importantly, says Evans, when people are prepared for grief and know ahead of time what might occur, they handle it better. So how do you prepare for and give yourself permission to grieve?
- Find a way to help. There are many ways to help, from making a charitable donation to participating in or spearheading a drive for much needed supplies.
- Give yourself – and others – permission to grieve. People many times struggle with their grief, trying to suppress or even ignore it, which may aggravate and intensify the feelings. With grief, adds Evans, you don’t choose your feelings. They choose you. Allow yourself to feel them. At the same time, give others permission to experience grief at their own pace, which may be very different from yours.
- Participate in opportunities to express your feelings. Look for events or healing services within your congregation or local community. Take advantage of support groups and other workshops where you can discuss your feelings or just be with others.
- Discover the hope that can emerge from tragedy. Tragedy and loss are part of our world; it is impossible to shield loved ones from pain. Yet amid the wreckage and destruction, hope can be found. By surviving disasters, such as the hurricane and flooding, people recognize that they are part of a greater community, a community built upon our shared humanity. Ultimately, tragedy can show people they have more resiliency and strength than they realized. Neighbors help neighbors. Communities come together to rebuild. It becomes clear that survival is possible. While we cannot stop the dominance of Mother Nature, we learn that the care and support of family and friends is essential to bolster our resolve.
Care Dimensions is a central resource for anyone who experiences grief or cares about someone who is grieving. For more information on our bereavement support groups or services, visit CareDimensions.org/Grief.
Care Dimensions Hospice House Video Tour
The Care Dimensions Hospice House, located in Lincoln on the Waltham town line, is a gracious and private home-like setting for patients who need hospital-level care for complex pain and symptom management. To learn more, call our Referral Center at 888-287-1255.