I recently had the experience of assisting a friend and her family who basically lost all of their physical possessions during the massive flooding brought to us by Hurricane Harvey. During this process, my friend asked me if I thought it was okay that she was completely devastated by the loss of her home (and almost all of her earthly things), even though she was grateful that her husband and three children were safe. She wanted to know if this made her a “materialistic person” because she grieved what she lost.
After contemplating this questions for several days, and trying to put myself in her incredibly difficult situation, I heard the words that conveyed the exact message that I wanted to communicate to my hurting friend. It is absolutely okay to grieve anything and everything that you lost. Grief is not materialism. This storm has violated victims in the same way as a thief coming into their homes, and taking all of their possessions. By all means, it is okay to grieve this.
But, what is grief? Grief is a natural process that is painful, personal, and normal. Grief does have a purpose, and that is to allow a person to come to terms with a meaningful loss, while making sense out of a new reality. The grieving process is not linear, and the person grieving may go from one stage to the next, often stopping and going back to a previous stage.
The Kübler-Ross 5 stage model of grief describes five main responses to loss:
“This can’t be happening.” Not accepting, or denying the situation is happening.
“Why is this happening to me?” May look to place blame on self or others.
“I will do anything to change this.” May try to change or delay loss.
“What’s the point of going on after this loss?” The loss is recognized. Depression often happens because the loss is now accepted.
“It’s going to be okay.” Understanding the situation logically, and coming to terms emotionally with the loss.
Knowledge of the stages of grief can help you in recognizing the stage that you are currently in, and to normalize and navigate it. Everyone grieves differently. Do not compare your grief to someone else’s because no two people will grieve in the same way.
To those who want to support a family member or friend currently grieving the loss of their home, possessions, or loved ones lost by Harvey, the best thing to do is to meet them where they are. Those going through this process implore unconditional love, empathy, acceptance, and understanding. Some days they might request you to stick with them really closely. The next – they will require more space in order to process the trauma and loss. All of this is normal and to be expected.
As a community, we are all here for each other during this ultimate time of need. If you find that you would like some extra help with grieving Harvey, or anything in general, please feel free to contact us at 832-421-8714 or email us for an appointment.