Phases of Disaster
It has been one week since tragedy struck our city. We haven’t been able to turn on the TV or get on social media without being reminded of the mass shooting in downtown Orlando. There are many people stricken with grief and loss not only in Orlando but throughout our country. In the next couple of days, the national media will leave Orlando. There will be another story, another tragedy. We, here in Orlando, will move on, back to our routine, back to way our operating. We will be changed by this event, always.
During a tragedy like the one we have experienced in Orlando there are several types of victims:
- Direct Victims: These are the individuals who were in the building during the event, those who are wounded, as well as the family of those who were killed.
- Indirect Victims: First responders, friends of direct victims, neighbors and the community can all be considered indirect victims of the tragedy.
- Hidden Victims: These are people that have experienced a similar tragedy or suffered a recent loss and the current tragedy has triggered memories and emotions from what they have experienced in the past.
All of the above victims will experience grief and loss in different stages. One of the most difficult phases of grief takes place once we are forced to get back to our everyday life. The full impact of loss can really be felt once everyone has gone home and we are left to pick up the pieces.
This graph is commonly used in grief and loss. It shows how it is not until several days or even weeks after the tragedy that our deepest pain and hurt are experienced. Immediately following a disaster we can have a time of cohesion, as we have seen in Orlando, that helps to ease our pain and lift our spirits. As reality begins to set in and we come to experience the impact of the loss the pain can become overwhelming.
The work in assisting those in the healing process has just begun here in Orlando. In the months and years to come the grief process will begin to move forward. The process of grief can be a difficult one. Grief is often described as coming in waves, that is why you see those dips in the graph as a person is working their way up to a new beginning. Through those waves individual will experience anger, depression, denial, bargaining and acceptance. These five stages will come and go in different orders and at different times.
As a community we are called to assist those through these waves. We will need to:
- Listen as those hurting share their stories over and over.
- Comfort those who mourn.
- Create a safe environment for those who are angry to express their feelings without judgement.
- Allow those who are healing the freedom to change and grow so that they can experience a new beginning as they seek to work through their grief and loss.
This graph can also be a reminder of the hope we can have through our pain and loss. If you notice the starting point on the left is lower than the ending point on the right. We grow through disaster. We will come out of disaster with a new beginning and we will be stronger then when we started.
Written By: Megan Miessler, LCSW, DCE
For more information about how to talk to children about tragedies, click HERE.
For more information about how to lead a group discussion after tragedy, click HERE.
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Motivated by the grace of God, LCS provides faith-based professional counseling, mental health education and consultation for individuals, families and communities seeking growth and renewal, sharing God’s Healing and Abundant Grace in Our Community. The mission of Lutheran Counseling Services, Inc. (LCS) is to provide professional counseling, mental health education and consultation for individuals, families, and communities in a grace-based context for the whole community. Our Objectives remain in line with our Mission and Vision. Our goal is not only to reach our local community but also to touch the lives of people all over the United States and even the World and continue to share God’s healing and Abundant Grace.
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