Sunday, August 31, 2008
Warning! Gustav is a Trauma Trigger!
Gustav is already doing a lot of devastation in the hearts and spirits of those who lived through the wreckage of Katrina. It is very clear that the emotional toil is great! Trauma is very hard for us to process. Most of the wounds and pain caused by Katrina have not healed yet. I have heard several family members and other New Orleans residents state, "Life was just getting back to normal....Our city was beginning to look as though a storm had not devastated it....My children were just getting settled into schools, making new friends, getting routines established...We just finished all the work on our home...We finally got the insurance settlement to begin to build."
This is not only discouraging, it is numbing! For many hurting people they are reliving one of life's greatest traumas - being physically relocated in an emergency, forced to select items that are most important, surviving enormous evacuation travel, driving away from their "homes" knowing they may never see them again. Can you just imagine the emotional horror....the dread of pushing through the feelings of not wanting to do this again...in order to act responsibly to get their families to safety.
I am most certain that many residents are not able to think rationally, functioning on whatever automatic pilot that is left, trying to distance themselves from the televised facts, disassociating in order to protect their very soul from further intense trauma.
When someone experiences trauma triggers they are taken back - its like passing through a time warp - to the same feelings, thoughts, and experiences - of the initial trauma...that for most of these people would be Katrina. The emotional trauma triggers can be so intense that it will literally cause physical and chemical bodily reactions as though they were right back in the days before, during and after Katrina. While experiencing trauma triggers it is hard to separate current reality from past experience reality. Often the too can blend. All of the emotions of the past experience will ungulf the soul as thought they are right back in the initial trauma.
During these times of trauma triggers, it is very hard to hold onto spiritual truths, such as "possessions are just stuff, it is the people that are valuable, that you can't take any stuff with you when you die and enter eternal life, that it really doesn't belong to them anyway - they are just stewards of what really belongs to God." It is hard enough learn and live by those principles in normal daily life...it is near impossible to hear, understand or hold onto them in the middle of a taumatic crisis.
The people are feeling any possible combination of fear, impending death, loss, grief, anger, disbelief, apathy, forsaken, victimized, hopeless, helpless, suicidal, revenge, worthless, unstable, numb, and many more feelings. It is important to remember if you are helping anyone coming out of this area, to be very attuned to listening to their heart. Validate their feelings, don't say "nice little comforting statements" that will minimize their pain. One of the best things you can say is, "I am so sorry!" And if and when appropriate, lend a shoulder for them to cry on and give them a deep loving hug. Let them know you don't fully understand but that you know it is terribly painful...if they begin to share.
By validating, you can say things like "you should be angry...frustrated...hopeless....", reiterating back anything that they tell you or attempt to express to you... let them know they are only human to have these thoughts and feelings. Love them unconditionally and provide random acts of kindness/ thoughtfulness.
There is a time and a place for healing, for giving sound advice, for helping people to see life's circumstances through God's truths and Sovereign love. But a person must first be able to express how they feel, to identify their weaknesses, to confess their true inner self. This can only be done with a person that listens with love and grace, who doesn't judge, who is not critical, who is not going to try to fix everything, but who is going to serve, encourage, get underneath the person to help carry them or hold them up. The only way you will be strong enough to help is if you center yourself in the One true Living God - Jesus.
Look, serve, listen and help through Him, with His view and His mindset. Pray! In your weakness, confessed to Him, you will be made strong to do what you must. Your actions will speak volumes to these dear hurting people. Allow yourself to be God's ministering stranger to anyone that He puts in your path to help. You have a blessed opportunity to be God's hands, feet....do everything to His glory. Let me know how God uses you by commenting back.