Dealing with Grief and Stress from a Katrina Survivor

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Project Healing


Editor’s Note: As communities in Texas and South Louisiana continue to respond to the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, this blog post that was written in wake of the August 2016 floods offers useful information for anyone impacted by a disaster. Dealing with the grief and stress caused by natural disasters is hard, and healing and recovery take time.

We pray for peace and healing for everyone impacted by this storm.

We also have resources available for talking to children about disaster and tragedy:


In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed my home, leaving my wife, my two young children and myself without a place to live. The events of that day and the years it took to rebuild are still a blur to me. It pains me to know that thousands of people in a community that cared for Katrina “refugees” like me, are now suffering. You’re in shock, scared, upset, depressed, confused … You’re facing so many emotions that are incredibly difficult deal with. This is what I learned and some advice to help you get you through this.

First, it helps to understand grief happens in many stages, beginning with short, intermediate and finally long term.

Short Term

Right now, you are in the initial stage of grief, and trying to find the basic necessities to survive– safety, housing, income, sleep, food. While you may feel alone, know that there are many government entities, shelters, charities and individuals who can help you. This phase can consume your time and energy and delay your feelings of grief.

Intermediate Term

Once you have figured out the basic needs for survival, you may start feeling sadness and grief as you have more time to think. This is the time to:

  • Normalize your loss. Try to get back to your daily activities and routines as much as possible. Create a daily schedule for yourself and your family. Return to work and get your kids back to school or find a school for them to go to as soon as possible. Create a consistent bedtime, eat three meals a day, and get back to exercising. Make your routine as close as possible to your life before the disaster.
     
  • Create reasonable distractions. Go to dinner with your family, watch a movie or visit the park. Escaping can help to ease stress.
     
  • Balance your media intake. Remain informed of the resources available to help you via the news media or social media but also recognize when it is too much. Watching reruns and Facebook videos of the same flood clips is not healthy for you. Shield yourself and pace yourself. There is such a thing as too much.
     
  • Know when to get help. Take your own pulse to see where you are emotionally. If you see a mental health provider or have seen one, increase or renew your contact with them when you first see signs of depression. If you don’t have a mental health provider, there are many community resources including Capital Area Human Services, the COPE phone line, the Center for Psychiatric Services and your local church or clergy.
     

Long Term

Know that healing will take time and it’s not an overnight process. Having personally been through this experience, I can tell you with time it does get better. Hold your head up high and believe you will come out on top. You may be surprised at how much strength you actually have.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you
Isaiah 43:2


About Lee Tynes, MD, PhD

Dr. Lee Tynes is the Medical Director of Mental and Behavioral Health at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. Dr. Tynes is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry with LSU Health Sciences Center, Department of Psychiatry and faculty in the LSU-OLOL Psychiatry residency program.

Contributing writer: Caitlin Richard, Communications Specialist

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