It’s been five weeks since Hurricane Sandy struck. I was able to listen to a few survivors speaking about their experience on television tonight. And I recognized their pain. I remember what it felt like in those first few hours. I was in a panic. It took time to find anyone who could help me and I did not know what to do. I did not fully understand what had happened. I did not know what made sense to do first. I did not know who to ask for help and I was by myself. The animals were okay, but there did not seem to be any dry places. Little did I know that being dry would be one of the most fleeting aspects of life for several weeks.
Like those who seek recovery now, help came from friends and my local church group. I walked and talked with the small band of folks from church who came to support me that night. We prayed together. I was making instantaneous decisions that came more from instinct that any logical reasoning. I was in shock and overlooking useful actions for whatever caught my attention. I was strictly in survival mode, focused in the immediate moment, right where we were, not yet looking forward to ‘what we may be’ later.
Survival is different for each person. Those who came from the church to help me had to impress upon me that the house was probably not safe. Judyth offered a spot on the sofa at her home which I accepted. I was too frightened to stay in the house. When Peter came home, his idea of survival was different. He did not want to leave the house at all. We still had all our utilities so his first priority was to make sure it was safe to plug in the power cord for the television set. As long as he could watch television all night, he could handle the chaos.
I guess I have to describe catastrophic loss as very much like a death in the family. There is a tremendous sense of loss, the inability to contemplate how one will bounce back. It is all overwhelming. And I think it’s necessary for even the most optimistic people to travel through Escape and Rescue before Recovery, before they can contemplate the future again – probably because that is what I did. Sure, I’d like to be able to say that I moved right into thoughts of how I would recreate my world, setting out a purpose and plan that expressed what I wanted in those first moments and days after arriving at the scene of our landslide. After all, that’s one of the first questions we are trained to ask in a coaching program. “What happened? What do you want?” But those thoughts were far from my mind.
In those first few hours, stretching into days and weeks, we wanted nothing more than to be made whole, as one survivor stated tonight. But we didn’t know how or when that could or would happen. I discovered that there is no instruction manual when you are in the middle of a disaster. We were going to have to find the help. For me, that meant prayer and inspirational reading in order to be led to where the help was. There are relief groups out there, especially in an event of this magnitude. A few were mentioned on the air tonight:
I especially like the NYinsure concept. We had no insurance for our catastrophe. Homeowners did not cover it. Who knew that landslides are not covered anywhere? I found that government agencies were more difficult than the private community, but it is better to find an organization that can help even if there are a few hoops to go through than to go without assistance when it’s needed.
By this point, survivors are looking for solutions. If I may offer one suggestion, take a few moments every day to be silent and practice centering. From that inner place, ask for a positive solution in a positive way. Be open to receive from even the most unlikely sources. What comes may surprise and delight you beyond your wildest imagining.