Regardless of where we live, we can unwillingly and unwittingly become victims of a disaster, either fueled by nature or by human error. A lightning strike in a beetle-killed forest, a single burning cigarette tossed into dry grasses along a road, or a campfire left untended can turn into an out of control inferno that results in major loss of property and even life. A rainstorm can develop into a raging tornado that levels everything in its path. Rivers can and do overflow their banks, inundating the countryside and leaving a devastating layer of mud and muck that befouls everything it touches. However disasters strike, devastated lives and shattered dreams are left behind in their wake.

Long after the fires are out, flood waters have receded and communities have begun to rebuild, the devastation remains forever burned into the memories and psyches of those who experienced them. So much has been lost it is difficult to measure the depth and breadth of it—homes, vehicles, farm animals, pets, businesses, valuables, priceless and irreplaceable family possessions and mementos, and in many cases, a way of life that was close to heart and soul. How can one come to grips with losses such as these?

When life is as it should be and we are standing on familiar ground, we know what to do. We are able to predict outcomes and react accordingly. But when our world literally gets tilted on its axis because of a traumatic event such as those brought on by natural disasters, we have reached new territory. We no longer know how to react, what to expect or even what to do. It is only after a long and sometimes arduous process of adjustment that we are able to achieve equilibrium once again. Until then, our identity must become that of a traveler embarking on a journey to unknown places.

Traumatic life-changing events cause us to leave much of ourselves behind; they force us to adjust to a new way of living whether or not we want to or are ready to do so. They require us to call on our inner strength and use our coping skills, even if we don’t believe we have them. They compel us to make fundamental changes to how we see the world and to re-define what is important in life. On the bright side, although the present is a time of loss and sorrow and positives are hard to see, transitions, if we let them, can eventually become a time of hope and the cornerstone for rebuilding the future. They are the equivalent of animals shedding their skins in order to grow.

If you have been displaced by fires, floods, or storms of major magnitude, it is important to talk about your losses and acknowledge your grief. Grieving is not easy or a quick process, but it is something that must be worked through in order to remain healthy both mentally and physically. Unresolved grief can have long term ramifications. The English word “grief” is derived from the French word “greve” which means “a heavy burden.” Since grief can literally weigh us down and put us on our knees, that is an accurate description.

When experiencing a major shock, our autonomic nervous system automatically goes into a stress mode commonly known as “fight or flight.” Stress mode causes higher production of steroids, which increase heart rate and blood pressure. Prolonged grieving can also cause a wide variety of other physical symptoms such as sleeplessness, shortness of breath, head and other body aches, dizziness, heart palpitations, digestive problems, anxiety, weight loss or gain, and uncontrolled crying. Lethargy, muscle weakness and exhaustion are also common reactions. There is a major negative impact on the nervous and immune systems that cause a decrease in the body’s ability to fight infections. Thus grieving individuals are more prone to colds and other minor illnesses, and pre-existing health conditions can worsen.

Then there is the anger. Years ago, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified six stages of a normal grief cycle, one of which is anger. Once the initial shock and denial wears off, it is a common reaction to start raging over the unfairness of it all. Questions such as “Why me?” and “How could God let this happen?” are hallmarks of this phase— there is a desperate need to lash out and even find someone or something to blame.

There can be a more serious kind of emotional fallout as well. Although most of us are familiar with the devastating effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experienced by returning war veterans, we are unlikely to think it could ever happen to us. However, PTSD is a severe emotional condition that anyone can develop. It is not limited to war—it can occur as the result of any terrifying event or ordeal during which severe physical harm actually happens or is threatened. Traumatic events that can trigger PTSD include automobile accidents, violent personal assaults and devastating natural disasters.

People with PTSD generally have difficulty engaging in normal daily activities. They commonly experience paranoia and flashbacks, sleep disturbances, anxiety, intense guilt, depression, chronic irritability, and both emotional numbness and irrational outbursts. When encountering something that reminds them of the original trauma, they start experiencing their ordeal all over again. As a result, substance abuse often becomes rampant as people desperately seek relief from their emotional pain.

Fortunately there are other effective and less destructive ways to deal with all of this. Among these are Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Psychological Kinesiology (PSYCH-K). While neither can change what happened or erase the memory of it, what they can do is take the sting out of it. If you are still coping with the emotional after effects of a recent natural disaster, be good to yourself and find a trained practitioner who can help you release the remaining effects of the trauma and move on. Even though the events themselves will never change, you will be able to find peace of mind again in spite of them.

Author's Bio: 

Judith Albright, MA, is a stress management specialist who works both in person and at a distance to help people neutralize stress and change underlying beliefs that are sabotaging their lives. If you are ready to offload the emotional baggage of a lifetime, give Judith a call at 970 218-8643 or connect via Skype (judith.albright1) to schedule a complimentary half hour no-obligation consultation. For more information about her work, e-books and personally supported courses, visit