Arriving at our Florida home for the winter, we find ourselves in the
wake of the churning disaster called, “Hurricane Irma”, and the tornadoes this powerful storm spawned.
Irma took a deadly toll as it ravaged the Caribbean, and then turned its toppling winds, rain deluge, and crashing waves to batter Florida, USA.
Many of our neighbours have sustained damage ranging from minor to major. Some have lost everything. Their homes swallowed and then spit out by the tornado, as the hurricane turned their world upside down. The booms, pounding, and rumbles have shaken their bodies, souls, and lives.
We are in a community in recovery. As we walk the quiet streets now mostly clear of debris, we observe the destruction. We hear the people’s stories of the stress and confusion of the situation, all of which has placed heavy demands.
My mind turns back to the health disaster and creation of my ostomy, “Percy”. Like our neighbours who have lived and are now recovering from their natural disaster, the impact is huge for those who survive them.
We usually have strong emotional reactions to these situations. Akin to the grieving process, we go through cycles of intense emotions.
As the hours, weeks, and months go by, most of us have recurring vivid memories of the disaster. These are flashbacks. Sometimes flashbacks are triggered by images or sounds that bring back memories of the event.
Some of us have difficulty concentrating, eating, and sleeping. We can experience physical symptoms in response to stress or trauma. We go into denial, shock, often experiencing feelings of being overwhelmed and numb. This is common.
Like the amazing nurses, doctors, and caregivers that are there for the ostomate, emergency crews, rescue teams, and repair corps, enter the disaster setting and become our life line. This is an emotionally powerful experience for everyone.
“Okay, how do we cope with all of this?”
To begin with, it’s plain hard! For the most part, in the beginning, we feel trapped as we try to stand in the storm. We need to be patient as we give ourselves time to experience the emotions, and try to deal with them as they come. We have to expect things will take a while to create a new normal.
If you feel alone in this, as often happens, ask for support from family, friends, and try a support group of people who have experienced the same thing. The ostomy community worldwide for example, have Ostomy Support Groups in many communities across the globe. Talking to others about your traumatic experience can help lift a heavy burden.
Work on getting a daily routine, we all need to experience some sort of stability in our life. Try to get plenty of sleep, and remember to eat healthy. Take care of your body, this will help in easing the stress on your mind. If you don’t experience relief, contact a psychologist or counsellor for extra support.
The bottom line is: Take it one bit and one bite at a time. Try not to tear off a whole chunk all at once.
“How do we go beyond coping and start healing?’
The majority of people will take whatever steps are available to protect and comfort themselves. Individuals and communities in recovery will reconstruct themselves, gradually assimilating the disaster into their history, and continue the process of healing. Communities like people, have an amazing capacity to adapt to dramatic events and go on with life. People and communities undergo permanent change which has to be integrated with past and future.
People generally are for each other, helping those in need where possible. We certainly observe this quality in our Florida neighbours as they recover and rebuild.
An extraordinary outcome of surviving health and natural disasters is; “POSITIVE REAWAKENING”.
From the moment we become aware and feel gratitude for having survived we never look at the sky the same way again. The blueness is now so brilliant. The storm clouds so lurking with power. We become astounded at the startling intensity of biting into a piece of fresh fruit. The sunset reveals such exquisite colours. And so on…
Arriving at our Florida home for the winter, we find ourselves in the midst of toppled trees and damaged homes. We are part of a community that only a few months ago was twirled, spun, torn, and tattered. Yet, it is a cohesive community bound together by strong and resilient folks, bent on helping and supporting one another to rebuild their lives and each other one bit and one bite at a time.
Jo-Ann L. Tremblay
“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”
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