This morning is still following the chaos that was Hurricane / Tropical Storm Irma. Looking outside my window I can only see a few small leaves with any movement at all. It becomes quite difficult to believe that we have lived under the threat of a major hurricane and the reality of a tropical storm for the past week.
I’m usually quite confident in a storm. I wasn’t this time. Maybe it was because we had such a bad hurricanehere just 11 months ago. Maybe it was because we all just watched a massive city, Houston, flood in ways none of us thought possible. Maybe it was because it was the largest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic. Maybe it was because evacuation didn’t seem possible as it was going to hit the entire southeast. And maybe it was because my parents and my daughter were in the direct path of the storm and none of us were together. Maybe it was all of it.
As our community begins to breathe a sigh of relief that we seem to have made it through with minimal property damage, I am aware of how we WERE impacted and the very necessary next steps of recovery. The internal turmoil of uncertainty created by a physical storm needs to be felt, processed and released.
The impact of trauma on our psyche cannot be seen, but it is very real. Just because the event has passed doesn’t mean the feelings have moved along quite yet. The emotions are still swirling and screaming of danger even though the threat has passed.
Others may feel guilt or embarrassment over their behavior during the storm or the inability to have helped others. It is easy to look back and Monday morning quarterback decisions made during the past few days, but probably you did the best you could with what you knew at the time.
As a defense mechanism, it can become quite common for us to tell others, and even ourselves, to “let it go” and to negate the experience by saying something like “at least nothing happened”, “you are upset over nothing” or “it could have been worse”. All of those kind of statements are the exact opposite of empathy and rather than helping they fuel negative feelings and prevent their release.
Allow yourself to spend time thinking about how you felt before and during the storm. Notice where your body may ache from carrying the stress, notice where your emotions may still be high or where you feel irritated or angry, notice the thoughts that may be swirling in your head. Take some time to simply breathe and let yourself settle. Let this day get easier and cut yourself some slack for however you feel. Whatever that might be is so OK.
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