Dwight Bain, M.A.
We are excited to feature a special blog series by Dwight Bain, Executive Director of the ICCA, giving you practical tips to share with clients and friends who may have been affected by the recent Boston Marathon bombings or the tragedy in West, Texas. Below is the third and final installment.
How can I help my family get back to “normal” after a community disaster?
It may take weeks or months for people to feel that things are back to “normal.” The actual psychological impact will vary widely between people based on factors like age, their previous experiences with crisis events, and most significantly how much stress they already had in their life before the disaster. The more stress someone had in their life prior to the traumatic event, the longer it takes to recover.
Here are some immediate ways to bring order and calmness back into your life after the chaos and confusion that follows a natural disaster, community crisis, or terrorist attack.
1. Reconnect in relationships
You can’t get through a crisis alone. Since everyone is impacted differently, it is vitally important to talk about the stress and pressures you have experienced with the people closest to you. Reach out to friends and family as soon as possible, and call people you haven’t heard from in a while. Just checking in to see if they are okay will only take a few minutes, but it will empower and help both of you. Talk about what each of you experienced through the crisis and how you got through it.
Tremendous connection can occur through crisis, so this is an especially good time to reach out to friends or family who may have drifted away from your closest circle of relationships. Take action now to reach out to people with words of encouragement and support, but don’t wait for someone else to call you. Go find them and then reconnect the relationship while helping each other rebuild.
2. Rebuild your routines
This is one of the most important factors to quickly get life back on track because we all draw strength and security from a structured daily routine .Consider your normal bedtime, dinner time, getting up to go to school, work, church, or the gym. To regain strength, quickly identify what your normal routines were before the crisis-and then get back to them as soon as possible.
Even if you are staying in a hotel, shelter or with family members for a while, stick with the rituals that you have typically followed that make up your daily lifestyle. This way you will feel the comfort of your stable and predictable routines, regardless of the stress of the many changes happening around you.
3. Reach out for faith
In times of crisis, everyone believes in the power of prayer and the importance of their faith. There is tremendous strength in knowing what you believe and living in harmony with those beliefs and values. Plugging back into your faith after a community crisis will allow you to release anxiety over the things that you know are too big for you, because you can trust God to handle them.
Dedicate a few minutes or perhaps even an hour per day to quiet mediation and reflection on what matters most if you want to continue to grow strong in spite of the crisis. This is especially important when you or your children may feel lost, alone or afraid. God cares and taking time to pray and release those burdens will help you and them make it through the rest of your day.
Many churches and houses of faith have chaplains, recovery teams, support services and even financial assistance available to help their members cope with the crisis. Helping others in need is one of the greatest ways people of faith model what they believe, so avoid the tendency of being “too nice” to ask for help if you need it. Having a committed personal faith combined with the connection of a local house of worship will give you a tremendous sense of community to get through this crisis as well as the ones to come.
4. Retell your story
Young and old alike will benefit from hearing about how other people survived the trauma they experienced. There is tremendous power in telling your story—healing power for you and helpful power for others who will gain insight and strength by hearing how creative people can become through the crisis. As you speak up about what happened, it will make it easier for other family members or coworkers to talk about their feelings of loss as well. Things will never be the same as before, but life will go on and we can rebuild and get through it better together. Telling your story will give you additional strength as well as connect you to the neighbors and friends as they share their story with you.
No matter what the size of crisis event, you can find strength on the other side. Following the action steps in this resource guide will allow you to begin building strength back into your personal and professional life no matter how big the crisis event was. As you grow stronger, you can tell others, which will encourage them to press on as they rebuild their lives, right next to yours. Stronger people create stronger communities. I encourage you to stay with it as you build an even stronger life after the crisis, and then reach out to others in rebuilding your community.
Dwight Bain has dedicated his life to guide people toward greater results as an Author, Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984. His primary focus is on solving crisis events and managing major change as a Critical Incident Stress Management expert and speaker for over 3,000 groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress He speaks over 100 times per year to groups across the United States.