September 14, 2017
We all waited nervously for Hurricane Irma. Anticipating the high winds and high ocean surges perhaps created stress and anxiety for many. This time New Providence was spared the direct hit of the hurricane. However, the damage caused by the hurricane in Ragged Island, Inagua, Acklins, Grand Bahama and Bimini will long be remembered and will require lots of patience and money to store lives and communities back to normalcy.
The most immediate need now, in addition to fresh water, electricity, restoring dwelling places and businesses, is emotional wellness. Each year after a hurricane I share how we can adjust after a traumatic event like a hurricane and what to expect emotionally. It is clear already, after listening to the talk shows this week, speaking to individuals, and reading social media, that many are going to a trying time of adjustment. Some have misconception, are confused and deeply hurting.
Interestingly, there are a few who are angry at Irma because the hurricane did not come to their island. After shutting up their homes to prepare for the fierce winds, purchasing extra food and water, and spending money to prepare for the hurricane, they are disappointed and angry that the hurricane did not get hit their homes. This is certainly a spirit of ungratefulness that can rob an individual of vital energy to assist those who really need the help to recover. In my 2016 article on the subject I also stressed that "Mental health experts say that those who escaped the hurricane untouched often suffer "survivor's guilt". People suffering survivor's guilt often push themselves to the limit trying to help. Children, in particular, resent the shattering of their routine. That resentment may manifest itself in enormous guilt, nightmares, temper tantrums and problems at school. I encourage those who escaped the hurricane to think of it as an opportunity to help those who did not escape. The extra resources you purchased will be needed to help you through post-hurricane adjustments, and to assist others in need.
A big concern I have is the response of many (not all) religious folks who boast of how God "treated them special" because the hurricane did not come to their island.
Yes, we are grateful to God for being alive, however, it is wrong to say "God heard our prayers," "We are highly favored," God lives in The Bahamas," suggesting the he did not hear the prayers of persons in those countries or islands that experienced the brunt of the hurricane. Some even go as far to suggest that the reason an island or area got damaged so badly is because of "all the sins of the people."
This makes God out to be a wicked God.
First, it displays religious arrogance. Second, it suggests that God has selective mercy when it comes to His response to tragedy.
Third, this kind of reasoning that blames God for hurricane damages that took place.
God does not create storms. It is my view that God does not interfere with hurricanes. They are all a part of nature. He promises not to abandon us but to be with us through the hurricane. Let's just be thankful and view not having experienced the hit of the hurricane as a gift to those who are hurting at this time. Help them.
Tips to recover
Here are a few tips I shared in previous articles over the years that can be helpful to you from the American Psychological Association.
Recognize that this is a challenging time but one that you can work to manage. You've tackled hardships at other times in your life. Tap into the skills you used to get through past challenges.
Allow yourself to mourn the losses you have experienced. Recognize that you may experience a variety of emotions and their intensity will likely less over time.
Take a news break. Watching replays of footage from the hurricane can make your stress even greater. Often, the media tries to interest viewers by presenting worst case scenarios. These may not be representative of your home or community.
Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen and empathize with your situation. But keep in mind that your typical support system may be weakened if those who are close to you also have experienced or witnessed the hurricane.
Find ways to express yourself when ready. Communicating your experience through talking with family or close friends, keeping a diary, or other forms of self-expression may be a source of comfort. Find out about local support groups led by appropriately trained and experienced professionals. Support groups are often available in communities following large-scale disasters. People can experience relief and comfort connecting with other hurricane survivors who have had similar reactions and emotions. These can be especially helpful for people with limited personal support systems.
Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals and get plenty of rest. If you experience difficulties sleeping, you may be able to find some relief through relaxation techniques. Avoid alcohol and drugs since these can increase a sense of depression and/or impede you from doing what is necessary to be resilient and cope with events.
Establish or reestablish routines such as eating meals at regular times and following an exercise program. Take some time off from the demands of daily life by pursuing hobbies or other enjoyable activities.
If possible, avoid major life decisions such as switching jobs because these activities tend to be highly stressful.
You can read the entire recovery article entitled "Emotional Wellness after a Hurricane" at http://www.soencouragement.org/hurricane.htm. Feel free to print it out and share with office staff, church member, community.
o Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, is a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to email@example.com or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980.
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