Many of us have been glued to the Weather Channel and CNN watching as the waters have risen in Houston, Texas. And the rain isn’t over. We are watching as thousands are rescued from buildings now under water. There are videos that show people catching fish – in the flood waters that have overtaken their living room. In all this we, wonder, “How can I be helping? What can I do to help when I’m so far away?”
It feels helpless to be in another location, but watching the catastrophe unfold. Helping is on our mind and many are telling us what we can do (or can’t). Naturally, there are cries for money and resource (the Red Cross and Salvation Army are great choices), but what else might we want to consider?
Notice your feelings
When we see Mother Nature’s power unleashed we are reminded of how small we are. It can feel overwhelming to watch this unfold, even if you’re nowhere near the event itself. Pay attention to what you’re feeling. Acknowledge those feelings and don’t try to push them away by immersing yourself in problem solving. By all means, do provide the support you can, but don’t ignore your own feelings in the process.
The coverage may trigger PTSD symptoms for some people
After Hurricane Katrina (just to name one) people were forced out of their homes and many relocated to Houston. But they also relocated to may other places in the US – and some who have experienced what we’re seeing in Houston in real life – their real life. The coverage and constant images may be very triggering to them – or you, if you’re a survivor of a natural disaster. Be mindful of that as you talk with your friends and family about it. Give people space to tell you what’s happening for them. Even “all these years later” the feelings can be very strong.
Don’t make conversations about you
Yes, this is shocking and the images are heart-wrenching. If you do know someone in Houston and surrounding areas devastated, just listen. Let them tell you what they need. If you know someone for whom this has triggered PTSD and ripped open an old wound, give them space to talk about it. Don’t interject your story while you’re listening. I’ve had more than a few clients this week tell me, “I felt like I had to take care of others when they heard what happened to me, so then I had to deal with their grief and my own. It was overwhelming.” It is a beautiful thing to sit and just weep with a friend. We don’t have to have the answers and our quest for empathy doesn’t always have to include us talking about our own experiences.
Don’t discount anything you are able to do
It may feel insignificant to donate or buy a case of water or even pray, but it’s not. Even if it seems like a small drop in a sea of need, each bit helps. Do what you can. Be a good listener and a good friend. Pray for the people who are enduring this – and who will have years of enduring this on their plate. Be kind – to those hurting and to yourself.
Get help if you need it
If you are struggling with your feelings about the events taking place, seek out support from friends or a therapist. Sometimes these things can trigger feelings of helplessness that persist and talking to someone about it can help.
If you find yourself at a loss for dealing with your own emotions, are struggling with how you can help or how to respond to a loved one’s suffering, or have found yourself or a loved one triggered by the events unfolding in Houston, I may be able to help. Reach out for your free, 15-minute consultation. You don’t have to go it alone.