Time is healing balm for traumatic events
- Disaster can cause a wide range of intense, confusing and scary emotions
- Important not to obsess about a traumatic event
LITTLE ROCK -- For victims of a natural disaster, the recovery continues long after the house is rebuilt and they’ve returned to the routine of their lives before.
“The emotional toll of a natural disaster can create a wide range of intense, confusing and scary emotions,” aid Wally Goddard, professor and family life specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “It is important to remember that it will take time to feel normal and secure again.”
Along the path from the shock of a sudden loss to gradually feeling more secure, people may be surprised by their own reactions. They may cry easily, brood or avoid their feelings.
“You may think you are fine, but something seemingly insignificant can trigger an overwhelming emotion,” said James Marshall, associate professor and family life specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “It’s important not to obsess about the traumatic event. Replaying what happened can engulf a person in negative emotions, making it difficult to think clearly and move forward.”
Limit exposure to media coverage of the disaster because learning of others’ suffering can cause additional trauma, in addition to providing a replay of the event.
However, “when we are ready or able to identify things we have learned and ways we have grown stronger from the event, then is the time to tell the story,” Marshall said. “It is best to delay replaying the disaster until you’re calm enough to start making sense of it. Giving yourself and those you care about the time to face emotions and talk about how they feel is crucial in moving on to the future.”
Another important path to recovery is to “seek out a calm, caring person you can trust,” Goddard said. “Talk about your feelings. Support each other.”
To help in the recovery, Marshall said it’s important to reach out to people you love for support and solace. “People want to help in whatever way they can,” he said. “Ask them to sit with you, take you to dinner -- anything that makes you calm and centered.”
An additional help is making time to do favorite activities or hobbies -- activities that can help raise your spirits.
“You can also take some control in your life,” Goddard said. ”While it may seem impossible to create organization out of chaos, you can set up your own schedule, prioritize phone calls -- anything to give you a sense of normalcy.”
For more information, visit extension's newly revamped web site, www.uaex.edu, or contact your county extension agent.
The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
By Kelli Reep
For the Cooperative Extension Service
U of A Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service