Mother Nature and Human Nature
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina we all are struck by the realization that change can come in many ways. It can be gradual and gentle or sudden and violent. It can come from the actions of other human beings or from the forces of nature. It can be planned and anticipated or unexpected and out of our control.
If any of our newsletter subscribers have been affected by this tragedy, please be in touch with us. Let us know how you and your loved ones are doing and if we can help in any way. We are here for you.
When we see the degree of devastation heaped on our fellow Americans in the Gulf Coast, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. We think about ourselves and are either grateful for our good fortune or worried that we might suffer such a misfortune. However it is common, after initial personal feelings, for individuals to realize that they can reach out and make a difference. Whenever any of our neighbors experience the effects of the violent and uncontrolled forces of nature, each of us has the ability to bring some control to this event, and to our own feelings, by our actions and reactions.
Rosemary and Phyllis have been working with the Red Cross to provide brief counseling and support to residents of Louisiana and Mississippi who have made their way to Los Angeles. We have been deeply touched by the stories we have heard of the difficult journeys these evacuees have made. We have talked with those who have lost homes, jobs, family members, friends, clothes, other possessions, educational opportunities, pets, and the basic security that we take for granted.
As in grieving any loss, the evacuees are experiencing mixed emotions. Initially, many were grateful for having survived the catastrophe. For some, the support of family and faith have been a great comfort. For others, feelings of shock and denial are giving way to disappointment and anger.
We have seen first hand how the survivors have supported each other. People who may not have even known each other before have felt the camaraderie that comes from sharing – sharing a loss, a need, or even food and very limited space. Knowing that someone else truly understands their own experiences and feelings has drawn these people – young and old, rich and poor, black and white – together. This joint effort has helped bring about some of the resiliency we are now seeing. The ability to once again feel hopeful and positive about the future is a powerful motivator.
Some folks are longing to return home, despite the hardship. Others are saddened by the fact tht they cannot go back or are frustrated by all the delays. Still others are using this terrible experience as an opportunity to begin their lives again in a new environment. None of this is making light of the fact that these people have a long way to go before feeling safe and comfortable again.
Even though we may be out of harm’s way ourselves, we can all understand the need for nurturing in the midst of the dramatic changes our neighbors are facing. Americans, and our friends across the world, have been pouring out help at an unprecedented rate. We understand that the recovery, both physical and emotional, will take a long time. If you wish, you can contact service agencies in your community to learn what you can do to help. Even now, three weeks after the “hell and high water,” anything any of us can do to assist is valuable.
Perhaps some of you may think, what resources do I have? But we have been amazed by stories of the courage and creativity of ordinary folks who just wanted to do what they could to help. The American Psychological Association has provided information which you or someone you know may find useful. Available for reading and downloading are:
Managing Traumatic Stress: After Hurricane Katrina
Managing Traumatic Stress: Hurricane Katrina and Children
Managing Traumatic Stress: Dealing with Hurricane Katrina from Afar
This last document notes several suggestions to help you deal with the feelings of vulnerability you may be experiencing:
• Take a break from the news.
• Be kind to yourself.
• Keep the situation in perspective.
• Find a productive way to help if you can.
• Control what you can in your life.
• Look for opportunities for self-discovery.
• Recognize your strengths.
Rosemary and Phyllis continue to work with both the evacuees and volunteers who have returned from working in the shelters in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. We look forward to sharing our experiences with you in a future newsletter. Please let us hear from you as you deal with the aftereffects of Katrina yourselves.
Our Invitation to You
Do you have your own transition story? We invite you to share it with our readers for the benefit of women who themselves may be dealing with similar changes. The skills you used may be Stepping Stones for others. If you are interested, please e-mail us at mentors@HerMentorCenter.com
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