The unexpected has happened and you are experiencing shock, sadness, and many other emotions that are overwhelming you. Here are a few tips to help you as you begin the journey to restoration and healing.
- Talk with someone. Whether it is a professional counselor, pastor, a trusted friend or close relative; telling your story to a good listener can help. Make it someone who you can be open, honest, and real with. It can be very healing to meet up with a willing close friend weekly to share how you’re doing and to hear their encouragement. It will give you something to look forward to and opportunity to let out your feelings.
- Ask for help. Don’t try to handle the crisis on your own. There’s no reason to suffer alone. Even if you think it is too small of a request, ask anyway. Reaching out for assistance and support can help and hasten your recovery. There are likely people in your life who want to help you, but they just don’t know how. They’ll be grateful if you tell them how they can best help you.
- Allow time for grief. We are often quick to resume “normal” functioning, stuffing our feelings about the loss. We think that as soon as we can get back to normal, the better. But, pushing down your feelings and emotions can do more harm than good. Let yourself cry as much as needed. Crying can be very healing and cathartic. Time alone doesn’t heal, but time and space with support is important for grief to heal. And going through the grieving process will help us to really embrace our new reality.
- Find local support. Whether it is a grief recovery group, the Red Cross Disaster Team, or a local church small group; seek out and use the support that is offered in your area. Being a part of a small group not only helps you through the grieving process by connecting with others going through similar circumstances, but also prevents you from isolating.
- Rest, healthy eating, and exercise are essential as you cope with the stress. Studies have shown a correlation between life stress and an increase in illness. Taking extra good care of yourself following a traumatic event is very important. The stress will tax your body’s strength and stamina. Eat regular and healthful meals, try to get your normal amount of sleep, and some physical activity. Visit your doctor for health concerns occurring as a result of the trauma. Headaches, nausea, and chest pains are all symptoms common with stress, but need professional assessment. Your doctor can also advise if you’re having difficulty getting enough sleep.
- Establish routines and structure in your daily life. The simple practice of routine can bring some comfort when overwhelmed by trauma and disaster. Your old routine may no longer be possible, but you can gradually establish new routines that will help you find some normalcy and stability. Try to get up and go to sleep at regular times; eat your meals on regular schedule as much as possible.
- Expect the trauma or disaster to impact parts of your life that you thought were in the past. Don’t be surprised if the new trauma brings up past pain and hurts. Old wounds and loss often re-surface in a crisis. Talking with a counselor or other trained professional will help you sort out and better understand the thoughts and feelings that you are dealing with.
- Survivors of disaster or trauma often experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Flashbacks, sleep loss, and vivid memories are some of the symptoms. Professional help is essential to process the trauma. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is one type of integrative psychotherapy that has been proven effective for the treatment of trauma. Seek out a therapist who has been certified to see if it’s something that may help you.
- Avoid adding stress. Making major life-changing decisions (divorce, job change, relocation) cause us to experience stress and require our full attention and mental energy. Even pleasant life changes such as martial reconciliation and vacation can add additional pressure. Concentrate on the next right step and allow time for recovery to make any major life changes or decisions.
- Pray and meditate on God’s Word. Be intentional about spending time talking with God about your experience. Honestly express your anger, disappointment, and loss. God can take our anger. He wants us to share our fear and pain with Him. God promises to be with us through our struggles. Mediate on scriptures such as Psalm 23, Isaiah 41:10, 43:2, Joshua 1:9, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, and John 16:33 and Philippians 4:19.
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The simple practice of routine can bring some comfort when overwhelmed by trauma and disaster.
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