Emotional toll of hurricanes can linger
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?
CANDYCE OSSEFORTRUSSELL, AUSTIN