I was scheduled to travel to Long Island last Wednesday to conduct a healing intensive with 12 other people. Of course, it had to be postponed due to the storm.
As I watched the devastation from my Colorado home, I felt heartbroken for what so many were going through. I cried deeply when I learned that the step-brother and wife of a friend had been crushed to death when a tree fell across their truck as they were evacuating from their home. Their two young children, who were in the back of the truck, were injured but not badly. Both were screaming when rescue workers found them. How will these children heal from watching their parents killed in front of them?
I have worked for 44 years helping people to heal. Many of my clients have suffered from unspeakable trauma. Much of the trauma came from their parents and other trusted people, and some of it was from natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy.
Through the years of doing this sacred work to help people heal, I've discovered some powerful tools that I hope will help some you who are suffering from Sandy.
Some of you have lost loved ones. Many of you have lost your homes and/or your means of livelihood. Some of you still don't have food, water or power. Some of you are alone in all of this. Some of you are terrified, fearing that you cannot make it -- physically or emotionally -- through this disaster.
Here are some things that may be of help to you:
• Don't Try to Stop the Tears
Crying is a natural way to release fear, grief, heartbreak and feelings of helplessness. Don't try to be "strong" by shutting down the pain. Allowing yourself to cry deeply can bring great strength, as it allows the pain to move through your body rather than getting stuck inside. You will likely find that once you allow yourself to cry about what is happening to you, you will then find renewed strength to do what you have to do to deal with this tragic situation.
Each time the tears come, let them come. Grief generally comes in waves and then subsides. Sometimes people believe that if they allow themselves to cry, they will never stop, but this is not the case. The thing that turns your tears into a healing experience, instead of a "bottomless well" of pain, is holding yourself in compassion as you cry. This is vitally important.
• Be Self-Compassionate
Being compassionate with yourself means being very kind, caring, tender, gentle and understanding with yourself. The last thing you need to do at a time like this is to judge yourself for anything. Hold yourself with compassion, just as you would hold a terrified and traumatized child, allowing the feelings to move through. Treat yourself with as much caring as you would treat a traumatized child.
• Name and Acknowledge the Feelings
It is very helpful to know what the feelings are, such as grief, heartbreak, loneliness, fear of real and present danger, and helplessness over the situation. These core painful feelings are all extremely hard to feel, and you might find yourself wanting to numb them out by being stoic, or using various addictions, or getting angry. While these reactions might help for the moment to stave off the deeper pain, this is like covering a gaping wound with a Band-Aid. The wound can later become infected if not properly attended to, and the same is true of feelings.
• Connect With Your Higher Power
One of the hardest things is to feel very alone in the midst of trauma. Even if you are not actually alone, your partner or others might be going through their own trauma, and not be available to help you not feel alone. This is where turning to a higher power -- whatever that is for you -- is so helpful. If you do not have a connection with a higher source of comfort, imagine an older, wise part of you holding you and comforting you.
Connecting with a higher source of love, comfort and wisdom is also important in helping you know what to do for yourself as you deal with the physical aspects of whatever happened to you during the storm. This is where, for me, connection with my spiritual guidance is vital. When I ask, with a sincere desire to take the most loving action for myself and others, "What is in my highest good right now? What can I do right now to best support myself and others?" answers pop into my mind. I'm so grateful for the guidance I receive whenever I ask. It doesn't matter if you don't believe in "god" or in a higher power. Even if you just ask the air with a sincere desire to know what is in your highest good, answers will pop into your mind. It is my belief that these answers come from our higher soul, but whatever you believe is fine. All I know is that it works, when we sincerely ask with a desire to learn about what is most loving to ourselves and others.
• Ask for Help
None of us can deal with trauma ourselves. When you feel overwhelmed with what you are dealing with, ask for help -- from loved ones, friends, neighbors, your church, temple or mosque, a community center, or where ever help might be available.
• Help Others
Do all you can to help others, even if it's just with a hug. Helping others fills the heart, soothes the soul, and takes away some of the feelings of helplessness.
I send my prayers to those of you who are suffering in the aftermath of Sandy. Please let me know if there is any way I can personally be of help to you.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, and receive Free Help.
For more by Margaret Paul, Ph.D., click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.