How to support those affected by Harvey…

With the hurricane and subsequent flooding going on in Houston and the surrounding area, emotions are running high.

Growing up in Sugar Land, Texas and still having a significant number of family and friends there​​​, this devastating catastrophe is hitting close to home, both literally and figuratively.

Nearly every post on my social media page is about the devastation of Harvey and at this point it is purely about survival, as the rains are still coming.

While I feel tremendous gratitude that my family and friends are still safe, I want to also acknowledge the tremendous amount of grief that is welling up.

Grief has many faces. As you probably know by now, grief is the conflicting feelings that come when things change. In Grief Recovery we also talk about how unresolved grief is about things we wish were different, better or more…

To me, this sums up what many may be experiencing in regards to Hurricane Harvey and all of the damage.

There is gratitude for those who are safe. There is fear and sadness for those who are suffering. There is relief when people are rescued, and yet devastation that they had to abandon their homes, their lives… their memories.

Many feel grateful for the fact that people are coming together to help, and yet there are others who are gravely disappointed by the fact that people are taking advantage of this vulnerable time and looting abandoned homes.

We wish it were different. We wish that this weren’t happening. We wish that the rain would stop. We wish that people’s homes and lives weren’t in ruins.

So what do we do? Let’s start with what not to say:

Try not to say things that are intellectually true but not helpful emotionally.

○      If someone were to say, “My home was so flooded we had to leave,” you would NOT say, “Don’t worry, it’s just a house. You can rebuild.” While this may be true intellectually, it is emotionally painful and unhelpful.

Try not to use the words “at least” or other diminishing words when responding to someone sharing their pain or challenge. Anything following the words at least can diminish someone’s feelings.

○      “At least you’re safe.”

○      “At least you got to bring some of your belongings.”

○      “At least you can rebuild your house.”

○      “At least you don’t have to go to work.”

Don’t offer platitudes or clichés like:  

○      “Now you have an excuse to remodel.”

○      “Everything happens for a reason.”

○      “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

Don’t “story-steal” or compare stories as better, worse, or the same. One of my students, Mar Feder, put it best when she said, “Every loss deserves to be honored with grief.”

○      “You think that’s bad? Listen to what happened to me . . .”

○      “My friend had something way worse happen. You’re lucky you . . .”

○      “That’s nothing, I . . .”

To learn more about how to communicate with compassion during the most challenging times, please check out my new book, The Compassion Code.

To contribute toward the relief efforts, please check out this link.

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