What do you do when disaster strikes? Fortunately, many will never be faced with a natural disaster. But I was. Last week, I shared my blow-by-blow account of living through Hurricane Florence. At the end, I promised to give you strategies for coping with the emotional aftermath of a natural disaster. Here goes…
Find the New Normal
The new normal will look different for everyone. If you’re dealing with mucking out your home after it’s been flooded, it’s going to be difficult. But, it’s important for you and your family to get to that place. Going “to work” may be getting protective gear on and grabbing a sledge hammer or it may be entertaining a toddler in the camper that you’re now living in. But we all need to deal with what is. Unfortunately, no one is going to swoop in and make things the way they were. It’s up to each one of us to help ourselves and each other.
This is much easier for me to say as my home was not damaged during the hurricane. My new normal is doing what I can to serve my community and rearranging my priorities. My focus has been on supporting my family and friends. Blogging has definitely taken a back seat.
The kids in our area were only in school ten days before the hurricane. While my daughter only missed ten days of school, some of the kids will miss more than a month. It was really like starting all over again. Karly needed quite a bit of support in getting back to the business of learning and focusing and getting to school on time.
When you’re feeling bad, do something nice for someone else. That’s something I’ve tried to follow for many years and it’s served me well. Seeing all of the chaos and destruction around me made me feel pretty bad, so I got busy.
Each day, I try to do something nice for someone else. It may be as small as a word of encouragement but the act of kindness makes me feel better.
The need after disaster strikes is so big that it can feel overwhelming. You can’t rebuild all of the houses but you can donate a Lowe’s gift card. Feeding all of the hungry people would be impossible but you can give your time to a food bank. Serving doesn’t necessarily mean grand gestures, it means helping in whatever way you can.
Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so take care of yourself first.
Focus on Gratitude
When I drive around and see a tree right through someone’s home, it’s easy to get caught up in “what if that were me.” Replace “what if” with “I’m grateful for.” I’m so very grateful that my house didn’t flood and a tree didn’t fall through my roof. Now I can move on. What ifs just push you down a hole of fear and worry.
When Hurricane Michael destroyed Mexico Beach in the Florida Panhandle, it brought on a whole new rush of what ifs. If Florence had not weakened at the last minute, that could have very well been Wilmington’s beach communities. But it did and it wasn’t. I’m so very grateful that Florence didn’t hit us as a Category 4 and so very sorry for those who are devastated in Florida right now.
Give Yourself Time
Finally, after disaster strikes, you need to give yourself time. Allow time to grieve, to be angry and to heal. In the moment of a crisis, you probably try really hard to keep it together, which is productive. But afterward, when it’s safe, give yourself permission to feel all the things.
When I was writing the post describing my experience, weeks after the storm, I cried nearly the whole time. My mom said that when she read that post, she cried too. We couldn’t afford to let go while we were in the midst of things nor did we feel like we could admit how scared we were. Now we can talk about our fears and work through that.
My friend, Miranda, at the Reluctant Cowgirl wrote a great post about the 4 Keys to Maneuvering Through Life Transitions. She stresses how important it is to take time to process. She also says that change allows for growth, which may be a silver lining to this dark storm.
Before I let y’all go, I want to recognize some real heroes. Both of these groups worked tirelessly here in Wilmington, then moved down to Florida to help those folks.
The United Cajun Navy is made of up of amazing people. They go where disaster strikes and rescue people and animals on their own time, with their own money. They delivered special baby formula by boat to a flooded community. The stories are endless and I don’t know what the Carolinas would have done without these brave souls. If you’re wondering how to help in the aftermath of a hurricane, please consider donating to this organization.
Lineman from all over the country and even Canada showed up in force to restore power to the Carolinas, then they moved right on down to Florida. You can’t imagine what a relief it is to see these trucks lined up to get your power back on! There were so many kind people who came to Wilmington after the hurricane that all of the hotel rooms were quickly full. These poor fellas were sleeping in their trucks and donated campers. Volunteers came to do their laundry and bring them food. In fact, I heard about a couple of gals showing up with cookies and beer. Nicely played, ladies! Anyway, if you see a lineman, tell him thanks for all he does..
Okay, enough therapy for me. Thanks for hanging in there. We’ll be back to our regular scheduled programming next week: cleaning and cooking and decorating. See you soon!