Coping with Grief and Loss After a Disaster

September 17, 2020

Oregon has been going through a major crisis in the past week, with intense wildfires burning throughout the state. These types of disasters are sudden and overwhelming. It’s normal to have strong emotional reactions to such immense destruction. In regards to disaster, Psych Central explains how,”It’s not just the loss of our “stuff” and personal belongings. Rather, it’s the loss of security and the sense of stability that can be the most devastating.” The American Psychological Association describes the common reactions to disaster and ways to cope with the grief and loss that it causes:

Common Reactions & Responses to Disaster

Intense & Unpredictable Feelings

It’s normal to feel a range of emotions during or after a crisis, like anxiety, sadness, anger, or grief. Your moods may naturally fluctuate a lot in response to the event.

Changed Thoughts & Behavior Patterns

Memories of the event may come back and interrupt your mind for no apparent reason, making it difficult to concentrate or make decisions. Your daily routine might also become disrupted, where you could experience a lack of sleep or loss of appetite, or vice versa (oversleeping or overeating).

Sensitivity to Environmental Factors

Loud noises, burning smells or any other environmental sensations could trigger the same fear and stress associated with the memory of the event, thus causing more anxiety.

Strained Relationships

You may experience increased interpersonal conflicts during this time or become more socially isolated and withdrawn from your relationships.

Stress-Related Physical Symptoms

These symptoms could include headaches, nausea or chest pain. Any preexisting conditions could also be impacted by a disaster.

Ways to Cope

Give Yourself Time to Adjust

It’s okay to give yourself as much time as you need to acknowledge the losses you have experienced and to mourn those losses. You are likely feeling a range of emotions and it will take time to adjust to these big changes.

Try to Engage in Healthy Behaviors

As much as you can during this time, try to focus on healthy behaviors like getting sleep and eating full meals. Establishing or reestablishing a healthy routine is not easy after going through such a huge life change, but if you can, try to fulfill those basic needs.

Avoid Making Life-Altering Decisions

Now is not the time that you need to make any huge, life-changing decisions. You’re likely already experiencing a lot of stress and it’s okay to take everything one day at a time.

Ask for Support

Seeking support from people who love you, care about you and will listen empathetically can help a lot. Having this kind of support means that you don’t have to process everything alone. You may find that you need more help coping with grief and loss after a disaster. In that case, it may be especially beneficial to seek support from an experienced professional during this time.

If you are experiencing loss or displacement due to the recent fires, and need someone to talk to, you can request an appointment with us today. If you have limited means to afford sessions we will work with you to provide services or appropriate referrals wherever possible.

Other Helpful Articles on Grief & Loss

Living with Grief and Loss

5 Stages of Grief

Dos and Don’ts of Helping a Grieving Friend

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