Emo­tional toll of hur­ri­canes can linger

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - VIEWPOINTS -

In the af­ter­math of hur­ri­canes Har­vey and Irma, the news is right­fully fo­cused on com­mu­nity-re­build­ing ques­tions: How do states man­age mas­sive cleanup and re­build­ing? How do we re­lo­cate peo­ple who lost their homes?

Th­ese ques­tions are cru­cial, yet they’re about do­ing. When dis­as­ter strikes, Amer­i­cans are great at swing­ing into ac­tion to help peo­ple “over­come ad­ver­sity.”

What Amer­i­cans are not good at is help­ing with painful emo­tions. Har­vey and Irma wreaked in­con­ceiv­able losses — of loved ones, busi­nesses, and homes, and of ba­sic senses of safety, con­trol, and pro­tec­tion.

Sloppy, long-last­ing grief is the nat­u­ral, heal­ing re­sponse to stag­ger­ing loss.

When sup­ported, grief gen­er­ates heal­ing and growth. Dis­re­garded, grief leads to iso­la­tion, shame and ill­ness.

As a men­tal health pro­fes­sional and loss sur­vivor, I raise th­ese also-cru­cial ques­tions: How can we sup­port the griev­ing of hur­ri­cane sur­vivors? Can we garner the courage to comfort those who suf­fer? For as long as it takes?


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