For many, the wounds are still fresh. Memories that many thought were behind them have been triggered. As Hurricane Harvey moved through Texas and Louisiana, images and of the events stirred emotions and replayed devastating memories. Consequently, a level of anxiety or depression may develop with the expectation that a painful emotional cycle may begin to repeat itself.
Watching recurring television reports, reading articles or listening to conversation may raise grim feelings. Those currently experiencing emotional struggles may notice that they are mulling over the current events in Texas and reacting in ways that seem out of balance to their present situation. In part, that is because a mental association with past painful events can quickly impact the emotional state; forgotten feelings connected to memories return. For this reason, a disordered emotional response can occur because of previous psychological wounds. The pain of the past can feel present. And although one may not be impacted directly by this recent disaster, recognizing this natural response, in ourselves and those near us, is critical to maintaining stability and health.
For some, overpowering emotions post disaster may develop immediately. Others may react after a period of months or even years. If the ability to manage daily affairs is severely impaired because of severe anxiety or depression, take note and seek professional guidance to avoid feeing out of control.
Keep in mind that people with different temperaments, react differently. Many people who experience disturbing events may only have temporary difficulty functioning. Just knowing that time and self-care can aid recovery from psychological wounds may be enough for some. Time does heal wounds. This is because memory fades over time; a person will recall troubling images less often. This is also part of our human nature. Healing takes place with proper psychological tools, a resilient spirit and grounded perspective on suffering.
Most are familiar with the pain of physical suffering, likewise, emotional or moral suffering is another source of pain and anguish. Emotional suffering results from anxiety, fear, depression, loss, loneliness, even for remorse for something we have done. Suffering can be damaging when it initiates a sense of abandonment by God. If trying experiences lead one to believe that God was not present to help, the result may be anger and a hasty response may be to reject God.
Our Catholic theology offers an understanding of suffering that provides meaning and purpose. Suffering is part of our life experience; it is unavoidable. Suffering is not punitive; it does not exist as a consequence for something poorly done. God does not create misfortune, but he gives us free will allowing us to determine our response.
Suffering is an invitation to follow God. Christ endured the cross, and we are invited to follow to the same cross. Suffering is valuable because it is an opportunity to unite with Christ. We are called to do something with our suffering, to use our pain for the benefit of others. Our suffering is not useless when directed to improve the lives of others.
Pain is remedied through the works of mercy. Just as we can recall the traumatic and trying events of our past, we can recall the good that has come. We have watched the loss of so many in Texas, we can now participate in their recovery. The pain of suffering lessens when there is some purpose.
Given our recent challenges and the needs of our Church family, those who can may support the Catholic dioceses and charities that organizing to assist those in Texas and along the Gulf Coast. In solidarity, we can all offer prayers and unite our sufferings to all those affected in a disaster that is so familiar. The Lord of mercy and compassion will, through us, provide the way.
If you are a loved one is struggling with the emotional impact of this recent catastrophe, counseling services can hasten the recovery process. Counseling can aid in developing psychological tools and guiding one toward a renewed understanding and purpose. You can contact Catholic Counseling Services at 504-861-6245 or visit http://ccs.arch-no.org for more information.