Water… check. Non-perishable food… check. Boards for windows, generators, FEMA #… check, check, check! But, what do we do when we are disconnected from the outside world for days — no phone service, no internet, no power? We are forced to connect with the people who live under the same roof as us. Wait, what?
As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I have received emails and phone calls stating they don’t know where they went wrong, but they don’t like the person their child has become, or they didn’t realize how distant they’ve become from their husband/wife. They feel lost and disconnected from the people they love. When did my son stop liking soccer, when did my daughter stop wanting to cuddle during a storm, when did my wife no longer need me to help her get through the scariest storms of a hurricane? And, why do I feel so alone when my husband is sitting right next to me?
If there’s a few things Hurricane Irma has taught us, let’s learn this:
- It is important to look into the eyes of those we love. We talk through text, through words across the room without actually looking at each other. When we can’t see into their eyes, we don’t realize they may be feeling lonely or wanting a partner to hug them as well. If we take the time to look directly at our loved ones, we notice they are sad or may have a lot on their minds. We can see that they still have dreams that have been unfulfilled that we can still be part of.
- Post-Traumatic Stress is Real // so is Secondary PTSD. We crave knowledge, but too much knowledge causes us to feel as though we are right there in the midst of the crisis. Then, we are terrified or our extended family is terrified for us, pacing the floor, yelling out of fear, or sleeping to avoid it altogether. Our lights flicker and it takes us back to this week of an overheated house, no air, and spoiled rotten, food. We may be the heroes of our town – the first responders. It NEVER gets easy to have to see a corpse or a loved one screaming while holding their young child who is not breathing. The vivid pics of people being trapped in their cars with metal piercing their skin, that are forever etched in our minds never go away. Secondary PTSD happens to the Dr’s, paramedics, and nurses who help the trauma victims in the ER. It also happens to law enforcement and 9-1-1 dispatchers who deal with trauma on a daily basis. It hardens their emotions, so they can focus on the job at hand. But they remain distant with their husbands or wives when they get home. They tell their children “they have nothing to cry about” when their child is disappointed with not making a sports team or band chair because “others have it so much worse”. Secondary PTSD keeps us from getting close to those we love the most.
- There is value in face-to-face visits and time away from social media and texting. We are not going stir-crazy from the lack of luxuries in life like power and A/C, but rather, the effects of reality that we have lost the relationships of those we thought we were close to. Is it too late to get it back? I mean, it’s been a few months or years, since I’ve actually had a heart-to-heart conversation with my spouse or my family. The loss is real. I thought I knew my best friend or my cousin or my childhood neighbor, but the reality is: I haven’t SEEN them in years. Only their words or pictures on a screen. I know that people only put their best front on social media, so without seeing their actual faces or feeling their struggles with them, we really don’t KNOW them at all.
- Therapy is not always long-term and about deep rooted issues of the past. Therapy allows us to regroup, reconnect with our own thoughts, things of importance and helps get us set back up on the right track. With a professional who will not judge or scold us for our selfishness or for losing our way on what is truly important, we can talk through how to admit to our faults and face the friends and family members who are that important to us – who are worthy of seeing us in their living rooms again, feeling our hugs again. It is not easy to try and connect with the friends and family we’ve lost contact with. There is a fear of rejection or resentment for letting all those months or years pass by.
- Feeling disconnected doesn’t have to end with leaving or letting by-gones be by-gones. You’ve worked hard to create the life and family you have. Don’t leave now. Don’t let old friendships die off into just a memory. Rather see this as a sign to recognize that it’s time to go deeper, love stronger, recommit to those we love, and get back to what is truly important.
YOUR FAMILY IS