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So soon after the first one, a second earthquake shook whatever was left of Haiti! We can hardly absorb the devastation of the first, and now we must also contend with a second.

It was hard enough learning that 200,000 were found dead, and how many were injured? That’s not even counting the destruction of property, the lack of food and shelter, the insufficient medical supplies, and dealing with riots and violence. This does not even take into account the exhaustion of those who are working day and night to help in any way they can. Nor, does it take away the frustration felt the world over, let alone the starving Haitian survivors,  at supplies being turned away from the ports in Haiti.

The world was barely beginning to find organized ways to get relief to the survivors. For the survivors themselves, there has been NO time to begin to recover.

How much trauma can people endure? How do we respond to multiple and almost simultaneous natural disasters over which none of us can control?  And, the question that looms large, “Why us”? Read the rest of this entry »


I cannot even begin to imagine the devastation of lives and property in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti last week. And, of course, the trauma from this natural disaster befalls those who are left to deal with the destruction.

As with any traumatic experience, the first reaction is that of shock and denial. This is the first stage of grief. The other stages are: anger/depression, sadness, acceptance and moving on. These stages do not always occur in succinct passages. The person grieving sometimes gets stuck in one or another, perhaps feeling the third stage before going back to the second.

In denial, there is disbelief that this happened, that this could be real.  Time gets distorted, everything in slow motion. Sometimes, it feels like time has stopped altogether.  The body withdraws into a sense of numbness, the heart shrouding itself from feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the loss.

I’ve talked to others who lived through 9/11. They describe how they walked around in circles for hours and thought that only a few minutes had gone by. They could not think or see straight. They thought the world had come to an end. They claimed that what they knew to be safe in their lives were all put at risk. Initially, they did not even feel the pain if they had been injured. That came later when the shock wore off.

For those whose loved ones were in the World Trade Center, they felt a sense of panic. They scrambled to see if their family or friends survived, or not. Their panic increased as they realized that phone lines were down, and they couldn’t get through. Some started walking towards the buildings, but found the aftermath preventing them for getting anywhere near. The not knowing  produced a different kind of reaction. They claimed a sense of hopeful hopelessness as they waited for word, any word.

For those who knew that their love ones had perished, they stated a mixture of shock and grief. They went over in their minds the last time they were with the person or persons. They acknowledged guilt if the last parting was with anger, or regret if they did not have a chance to say good-bye. Some were thankful that they did say good-bye.

Even for those who were far way, the constant re-running on television made this a tragedy that the world shared. With advanced technology these days, the trauma of a natural disaster becomes a global event.

And, so, this is what so many are undergoing in the wake of  the Haiti earthquake.  A disaster of this magnitude will take time from which to recover.  In conjunction with the essentials needed to survive, there will be psychological needs that must be met. Many will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd), virtually reliving, over and over , the horror of the quake.

We are reminded that life is precarious, that disasters can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. In this matter, we are all equal.

For a society like ours that believes that we can control our lives – an earthquake, a hurricane, a tornado, a tsunami, a bombing – forces us to face our mortality.

I urge you all to remember that we have a choice. We can live in fear, or we can choose to view all life as precious and make the most of everyday with those we love. We can ignore those who are suffering, or we can choose to reach out to them.

Reaching out shows us that we can move forward together.

Hoping you have all had a wonderful holiday!  Now, it’s back to NICABM presentations and learning about the latest research in healing trauma.

The first keynote address was The Healthy Aging Brain, presented by Lou Cozolino, PhD. He is a professor at Pepperdine University, has a private practice in Beverly Hills, CA., and is the author of The Healthy Aging Brain.

You might be wondering, as I was, how this topic has to do with trauma. It has everything to do with it. Read the rest of this entry »

At the End of the Year

The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline’s longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.

As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.

Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.

The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.

The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.

Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.

~ John O’Donohue ~
(To Bless the Space Between Us)

Hard to believe that 2009 is over! It seemed like 2009 just started and then the year flew by.

Around this time, much like everyone else, I like to take stock of what occurred throughout the year. I find that it’s a way to prepare for the new year, by making closure, by seeing how far I’ve come, and by being grateful for all the blessings that have come my way.

Ironically, the biggest gift was the re-occurrence of my post-traumatic disorder (ptsd). I left my social work job at the end of October 2008. We thought that Jenn’s (my daughter) work would carry us through. Due to the recession, life did not work out that way. Also, Matthew stopped working with the travel agency and put his time into large real estate investments. Read the rest of this entry »

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