To the victims of Hurricane Harvey and especially Houston
I’m sorry you’re in pain right now. I’m not in a position to give money, or able to go volunteer.
But I know a thing or two about pain, trauma, and loss, and I wondered if I might be able to help after all.
The hardest part is right now.
If you’re in a shelter, no doubt you’re feeling scared, overwhelmed, helpless, or all of that and more. The helplessness is always hardest for me, the waiting.
What I’ve found helps is a practice called Tonglen. Yes, it’s Buddhist, and I know you’re deep in the heart of Baptist country. This doesn’t require any interaction with Buddha, and is easily transferred to Christian practices.
In Tonglen, you pray for the well-being of those in a similar situation. It does two things: you are reminded of your faith and draw strength from it, and it’s a reminder that you’re not alone.
Distraction also helps this portion of recovery. Eventually you have to deal with the emotions, or they will deal with you, but it can wait until you feel less overwhelmed.
Offer kindness to someone
This is the worst possible time to visit your pain on others; deep down you know you’re being an ass, and you end up feeling worse for it. It’s hard to be kind when you’re scared, but it truly does help.
Find something to laugh about
It’s cathartic, and laughter is known to have health and mental benefits. Make up silly songs with your kids, or silly stories. Make a weird hat and go around doing the chicken dance at random. You may feel like a fool, but you won’t be a sad fool.
Try to stay busy
Once you can start cleanup, you’ll still be grieving, but you won’t feel helpless anymore when you have something to do that helps solve the problem. And physical activity helps burn off the stress.
If you feel overwhelmed, break it down into smaller tasks.
Just keep going. A wonderful friend taught me a coping mechanism for panic attacks where you talk yourself through a minute at a time, or a second at a time. My favorite is “Just get through this breath”. Once you get through that one, you get through the next one. Then the next.
Once you get through pulling the clothes out of the closet, just get through removing the shoes. Then get through cleaning out one dresser drawer. Just keep going.
For all I know you guys are pro’s by now at dealing with floods, and all this may be advice you didn’t need. If so, at least you know people care. I felt it was the best I had to offer.