Recovering from the Flood

Recovering from the Trauma of the Flood

Our hearts go out to all who have lost their homes or sustained damage in the flood.  We also know that this has been traumatic for the whole community.  We would like to help.  BIPR offers affordable mental health care to all people in the surrounding areas.  Our expertise is in trauma so we are equipped to work with people affected by this disaster.  Please call us for an appointment if you need someone to talk with 303-442-4562 ext 5.  In the meantime, we have created this information sheet.  Please check our website www.bipr.org for updates.

At times like these, we are all reeling from the recent crisis.  We hope that having these concrete suggestions may help.

For Everyone

Many people have found themselves glued to the television, computer screen, or mobile device for news of the flood. While the flood was happening, this information helped us insure our safety and let us know where the danger was and what we should do.

  • Now that the danger has passed, stop watching videos and viewing pictures of the flood to the extent this is possible.  Every time we look at these pictures it etches more images into our brains, adding to the horror of the event. There is even some evidence that there is a greater possibility of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder if one repeatedly watching these images.  For example,  J. Ahern (Ahern, J. et.al. 2002) found that people who repeatedly watched images of the September 11th attacks were more than twice as likely to develop symptoms of PTSD or depression than those who did not.  This constant bombardment of traumatic images interferes with our recovery
  • Take good care of yourself physically to the extent that that is possible.  Try to eat well, get good sleep, exercise.
  • Trust in our community.  Disasters seem to bring out the best in communities.  Say “yes” to all the help that is offered.  Let people know what you need.  This is not a time to prove you are “self-sufficient.”
  • Sometimes helping others is a great way to help yourself.  A kind word, a nice gesture goes a long way toward helping someone feel better and will give you as sense of your own ability to make things better.
  • The sense of smell is very grounding for our nervous system.  Think of a smell you find comforting and try to expose yourself to that smell.
  • Be part of the recovery. After an event such as this feelings of helplessness can set in.  While we could not do anything to prevent the rains, we can do something now.  Get involved with helping or make a donation.  You will feel better knowing you were part of the solution.

 

Helping Children:

The first and best thing you can do to help calm your child it to calm yourself.  Children are very tuned in to their parents’ emotions.  They look to you to see if they are safe; if you feel unsafe, they will feel unsafe.  There is a great deal of evidence that this happens through our Mirror Neuron System.  So take a deep breath (or several) to calm your nervous system and then focus on them.

  • Let children know the danger is past.  Reassure them that this was a “hundred year flood” so this is very, very, very, very rare.  It is really unlikely that it will happen again. (I would not even add the words “in our lifetime” because at times like these children are worried about dying or losing loved ones.  I would also not get stuck on the technicalities of the 1% chance/year definition of a hundred year flood.  This is likely to be more confusing.)  Children need to feel safe and secure to grow and learn.
  • Stick to routines.  Children are reassured by structure and typical routines.  It will reassure them things are back to normal if you stick to day-to-day activities.  Make sure that sleep and eating good food are priorities.  Children cannot be emotionally regulated unless they are physically regulated.
  • Follow your child’s signals.  During times of crisis, we all have a need to be close to loved ones.  For children, being close to their parents becomes even more pronounced.  If your child indicates they need to be close to you (either with direct requests, actions, or through negative behavior) set aside non-essential tasks and pay attention to them.  Read to them, play with them, do things with them.  For older children, go to a movie or play outside.
  • Distractions work well.  Engage your child in something you think will draw their interest.  This may be the time to pull out the craft materials or try that fun baking project.
  • Minimize children’s exposure to the media coverage, especially media images.  You do not have control over what a newscaster tells your child or what pictures they will be shown on T.V. It is best if information about events such as these come from you.  You know your child best and know what they should hear and what is likely to frighten them.  You can also gage what is appropriate for their age level.
  • Music can be very helpful.  Play familiar or soothing or upbeat music.
  • Children can often draw their distress better than they can put it into words.  Suggest drawing.
  • Dance and movement give children a sense of control over their bodies.
  • Kid yoga can be very helpful in calming children.

 

For Adults who are displaced:

Short of losing someone we love, losing one’s home or having one’s home damaged is one of the most disorganizing and distressful things that can happen to us.  Our home is our foundation.  It represents safety and security for us.  It is a place that we go to regroup, to relax, to refresh.  Not having a home to go to or having it severely damaged is like having the rug pulled out from under you.  You may feel adrift and unable to cope.  It is typical to feel anxious and unable to settle down. You may also feel numb or in shock.  All of these feelings are normal.

  • Promise yourself you will take things one day at a time.  Worrying about things that are out of your control or worrying about the future is likely to be unproductive.  Worry and anxiety are our inborn signal systems that we need to pay attention to something.  Use that signal system the way it was meant to be used—to be alert to dangers and to plan to take steps that you will need to take to survive.
  • Make lists of things you will need to do when the time is right and stop worrying about it.  Sometimes just the act of writing things down makes people feel that they are on the road to taking care of things.  Journaling may help at this time.
  • Take good care of yourself physically to the extent that that is possible.  Try to eat well, try to get sleep.
  • Trust in our community.  Disasters seem to bring out the best in communities.  Say “yes” to all the help that is offered.  Let people know what you need.  This is not a time to prove you are “self-sufficient.”
  • Sometimes helping others is a great way to help yourself.  A kind word, a nice gesture goes a long way toward helping someone feel better and will give you as sense of your own ability to make things better.
  • The sense of smell is very grounding for our nervous system.  Think of a smell you find comforting and try to expose yourself to that smell.
  •  Times of crisis often produce amazing change.  Think of this as a new start.  You can do things differently.  It is your opportunity to make some changes.
  •  Try to look at the positive side of things.  You may make amazing friends during this time or become closer to people in your community.  You were long overdue for a new carpet; now you have the opportunity to get one.  Having a positive attitude will make everything go better for you.  Look for the good that may come out of the event for you.
  •  Yes, reconstructing or cleaning and restoring your house is likely to be a LOT of work but it will get done, little by little.  Accept help from the community.  There are lots of people who are longing to volunteer to help.  This is when taking things a day at a time is helpful.
  •  Allow yourself to grieve after the shock of the event passes.

 Talking helps.  If you need a professional, please call us 303 442-4562 ext 5.  We can help.

 

 Helping Children Who Have Been Displaced:

Most of the suggestions for children above will need to be modified for displaced children but most of the principals still apply.  Please read those and apply them to your particular situation.

  • The most important thing to remember is that YOU are the source of your children’s sense of security.  Your children may not have their beds, books, stuffed animals or toys to rely on to make them feel comfortable but they have you.  They will depend on you to keep to the same routines.  To the extent possible, keep the same bedtime.  If you usually read stories but do not have books, tell them stories.  Your job is to create a “psychological space” that feels like home.
  • Help children think of the experience as an adventure.  Tell adventure stories about children who were marooned on an island and built a hut and hunted for food.  Do what you can to put a positive spin on the experience.
  • To the extent that you know what is happening, let your children know what the plan is.  If you don’t know, just say, “We are going to stay here for a few days, and then we will find somewhere else that is safe to go.  Right now we are just going to have fun here.”

 

For those who want to help:

  • Go to www.HelpColoradoNow.org or dial 2-1-1 for additional information regarding volunteering.
  • Foothills United Way has joined with the Community Foundation serving Boulder County to create a fund to help flood victims.  Donate now.
  • Donate to BIPR to help provide therapy and counseling for children, adolescent, and adult flood victims.

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