For those unaffected by Hurricane Sandy, the storm may be slowly fading into the recesses of memory. For many, it lives on only as a part of our collective history. This is perfectly natural and appropriate; after all, if we were all completely unable to move forward weeks after tragic events, we wouldn’t be a very functional society.
Those affected by the storm, however, are facing a very different reality. As the rest of the country has moved full swing into preparations for the holidays, many victims of Hurricane Sandy are still trying to find warm, dry places to stay while they wait for FEMA and their insurance companies to help them rebuild their homes. They are facing the crippling fear that comes with living on the brink of homelessness. For those who lost family and friends, the weeks since the storm have been filled with the agony of knowing that loved ones will never walk through the front door again. They may be haunted by many what-ifs.
While many people probably fit squarely into the categories of directly affected or unaffected by Sandy, there are those who, while not directly affected, have felt somehow unable to return, completely, to business as usual. If you fit into this third category, consider adding Sandy relief to your holiday list. There are so many ways to contribute to the relief effort while just going about your regular holiday activities. Adopting a Sandy family or committing to donate a few toys to a local toy drive just means picking up a few extra gifts while you are doing your own holiday shopping. If you are hosting a holiday party, consider including some sort of Sandy donation in the gathering, whether it is asking guests to bring items to be donated (just make sure you check with an organization that will accept the donations about what items are needed) or taking up a collection to be donated to the Red Cross or similar organization. Maybe you are a person who enjoys baking holiday goodies; if so, before you go to the store to pick up ingredients, check in with a nearby church, community organization, or food pantry to see what kind of food donations are needed and add a few of those items to your shopping list.
If you’re feeling inspired and eager to help but low on cash, there are plenty of ways to contribute without spending a penny. Perhaps you’ll get a new coat as a gift; if your old one is in decent condition, donate it. Whether students or employees, many people get a few days off for the holiday; consider committing at least one of those days to volunteering—serve a meal, sort or distribute donations, muck out homes, clean up parks, or visit with displaced seniors. If you’re low on time and money, consider dropping by a blood-donation center before or after work/school or on a lunch break.
Finally, if you know people who were directly affected by the storm, check in on them. Consider inviting them to your holiday celebrations or sharing some of the goodies from your celebrations with them. Ask what they need and how you can help. In your interactions with Sandy victims, be on the lookout for significant changes in their behavior. If they are talking about experiencing nightmares or having difficulty sleeping, or if they seem irritable, jumpy, detached, or uninterested in things they used to be, these are signs of posttraumatic stress. If you identify any of these symptoms in your loved ones, encourage them to get help. Let them know that many of the people who survived Sandy are experiencing exactly what they are and that there is help and hope for recovery.
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