By TERI M BETHEL
When tragedy strikes you realise how fragile life is, regardless of your age, social standing, or wealth. During these traumatic times our differences can seem so minuscule in comparison to the bigger picture of life. In walking through your challenges, the stress that often accompanies trauma can affect relationships negatively if left unchecked.
Crying is not a sign of weakness
Those who were viewed as the pillars of the family can become fragile. This is an excellent opportunity for families to come together to help each other overcome their loss. The old saying "Big boys don't cry" has kept many in fear of expressing themselves for dread of being considered weak. Weeping or expressing sorrow for a season is not a reflection of weakness. Rather than judging, choose to be supportive as your loved one goes through a difficult time.
According to Dr Judith Orloff, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and the author of "The Empath's Survival Guide", our bodies produce three kinds of tears: reflex, continuous and emotional. She notes that each type has different healing roles. Dr William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Centre in Minneapolis says emotional tears have benefits. They contain stress hormones which get excreted from the body through crying. After studying the composition of tears, Dr Frey found that emotional tears shed these hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress. So crying can be beneficial when you are experiencing trauma. However, if you find that you are crying for extended periods and are experiencing depression you should consider speaking with a professional counsellor or pastor to help you through this time.
Identifying survivor's guilt
Regardless of where on the spectrum you fall, after going through a natural or personal disaster in life there are sometimes haunting thoughts that keep people from celebrating, or at the least being grateful for a favourable outcome. A gentleman who overcame cancer after battling it for many years found himself in a slump. Why he survived the ordeal when countless others had not was the new war he waged as depression quietly slipped in. The 9/11 tragedy in the United States of America had its own survivor's guilt challenges in the aftermath of New York's Twin Tower catastrophe.
But what about natural disasters--situations when your loss is not as traumatic as your neighbour who may have lost a home, or even a family member, who has nowhere to turn? The pain is real and can be magnified even more when there seems to be no apparent solution to ease your neighbour's agony. In addition to seeking help, those experiencing this guilt need to be celebrated and affirmed by their loved ones and community.
Silencing the rising beast
In a society that is reeling from the impact of an unprecedented natural disaster, social media, along with some unseasoned news forums, have become anti-social in propagating information. Those who never had a voice, and some that did, are displaying unfettered and many times irresponsible views with no consideration of the emotional damage they are doing to others. In many instances, hearsay is being spread to people who are easily incited and won't fact-check, but will rather quickly accept the information as truth. Unfortunately, very few of these purveyors correct erroneous statements after their comments have been debunked by those who are informed.
This type of activity, which from the outside appears to be one of solidarity in standing with our brothers and sisters, is in fact having the opposite effect. It is instilling more fear, riling up anger and unrest in a nation that is in desperate need of solidarity. Undermining the efforts of those who are attempting to save and restore some form of normalcy until a heartier solution is determined is counterproductive.
What can the ordinary person do?
Rather than using your words to break down, let's come together to rebuild. As a community, with youngsters looking to us as an example of how we ought to conduct ourselves, let's show them how we can positively impact our family, friends and neighbours. Small-minded people complain and agitate, while responsible people see the problem and look to help with the implementation of solutions. Perhaps we are not all on the same level in what we can do or give, but here are a few suggestions that may add value to the lives of those in distress:
• Pray for the safety, recovery, peace of mind and restoration of our people.
• Pray that our leaders and first responders exercise wisdom and sensitivity in the recovery and restoration effort.
• Comfort those who have lost loved ones, homes, livelihood, pets, et cetera.
• Ask how you can help to lift the burden of those experiencing loss.
• Donate what you can to support the recovery effort.
• Volunteer your time to local charities and feeding centres.
• Encourage your church to adopt several families for spiritual, emotional and physical care.
• Refuse to use a natural disaster as a political football field.
• Host a family in your home for a meal and/or shelter.
• Sponsor a rental house for a family.
• Provide transportation to those needing to sort out their medical and other concerns.
• Help to connect families to local or international relatives.
• Organise family members to assist in providing school supplies for children.
• Limit the amount of traumatic news/photos shared with youngsters.
• Mute conversations with suppliers of negativity.
• Be appreciative of those who are assisting in the recovery effort.
Today, not long after Hurricane Dorian wielded his destruction, thousands of skilled and unskilled Bahamians, residents and visitors have banded together to lend their assistance to save lives and rebuild our nation. As a people, we can stand like Nehemiah, a simple cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia, who received permission to rebuild the walls of his city, Jerusalem. In the process of building, he was goaded by the idle, disruptive Sanballat to discontinue the work. Nehemiah decided he would not stop; instead, he continued the task until completion. Nehemiah was a layman who got the job done.
We are a gifted, resilient people. Despite this overwhelming tragedy, we are a blessed nation. Should we choose to stand together, with God's help, we can overcome the obstacles we face and allow healing to come to our land.
• Teri M Bethel is a publisher and an author of relationship enrichment books which include: "Before We Say, I Do…" and "My Marriage Matters". She has also published romance and adventure novels, purse-making and fabric painting DVDs. Additionally, Teri provides a free online directory for local authors to showcase their family-friendly books. She and her husband have two adult sons. Visit her website, www.BooksByBethel.com, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.