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Being There for One Another When You've Lost So Much

Coping After a Disaster


Menacing Sky

Menacing Sky

Photo: Larry Stritof
There are lots of articles written about disaster preparedness, but what happens to a marriage relationship after the headlines?

Here's how to be there for one another, how to cope with the devastation you see around you, how to deal with the inevitable changes, and coping with the practical aspects of surviving a disaster.

Realities to Face

After a disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, tsunami, or fire, a married couple has several realities to face.
  • The first reality is the realization that your treasured possessions are gone forever. What has taken you years to build has been destroyed in minutes.
  • The second reality is that you need to be there for one another as you rebuild your lives and make decisions as to what you can and can't replace.

Acknowledge Your Sense of Loss

It is important to acknowledge your sense of loss. It is okay to grieve the loss of your material things.
  • Although there is a natural grieving process following the disaster, it will be different for each of you.
  • How deeply you mourn the loss of an item will depend on what memories are attached to it.
  • Give yourself and your spouse permission and time to grieve.
  • Be supportive and non-judmental. If your spouse wants to save a scorched or soggy Christmas ornament, don't make a big deal out of the decision.

Accept Feelings

Accept the feelings that you are each experiencing. Triggered by the sight of an article in a movie or store, anger may still well up inside you months, even years, after the disaster.
  • After a disaster, it is normal to have feelings of disbelief, grief, anxiety, sadness, anger, disorientation, numbness, fear, depression, frustration, powerlessness, suspicion, being overwhelmed, disappointment, panic, bitterness, resentment, guilt, hopelessness, and shock.
  • The stages of death and dying are often experienced after a disaster or major loss, whether it be the loss of an item, hopes, or dreams. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

Start a Journal Together.

  • Write down not only what you are doing after the disaster, but also record your feelings and random thoughts.

Being There For Each Other

Remember that although you may have lost a great deal, you still have each other.
  • In the midst of the chaos in your lives, make time each day to reconnect with one another and to share your feelings and thoughts.
  • Listen to one another!
  • Hug and touch each other more often.
  • Take walks with each other every day.
  • Make getting enough rest a top priority.
  • Find something to do that you both enjoy.
  • Use humor and find things to laugh about with each other.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Be flexible.
  • Affirm one another with praise and appreciation.
  • Give your spouse space if needed.

Importance of Rituals

Don't ignore the rituals of your lives. Rituals can help you and your family heal by reaffirming the bonds between you.
  • Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and special holidays even if you can't celebrate them in the way you normally would.

Dealing with the Aftermath of a Disaster -- Making Practical Decisions Together

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