Emotional Recovery Tips – Handling Emotions After a Disaster

Hurricane aftermathSince disasters usually happen quickly and without warning, they can be very scary for both adults and children. They also may cause you to leave your home and your daily routine and deal with many different emotions, but realize that a lot of this is normal human behavior.

It is very important that you understand no matter what the loss is… there is a natural grieving process and every person will handle that process differently.


Right after disaster – shock, fear, disbelief, hard time making decisions, refuses to leave home or area, won’t find help or help others.

Days, weeks or months after disaster – anger or moodiness, depression, loss of weight or change in appetite, nightmares, trouble sleeping, crying for “no reason”, isolation, guilt, anxiety, domestic violence

Additional reactions by children – thumb sucking, bed-wetting, clinging to parent(s) or guardian, won’t go to bed or school, tantrums (crying or screaming), problems at school

Please note: If any of your disaster reactions seem to last for quite some time, please consider seeking professional counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There is nothing wrong with asking for help!


Death – You may lose loved ones or need to handle bodies during a crisis.

Deal with it – Recognize your own feelings so you can deal with them properly and responsibly.

Talk or not? – Talking to others can help relieve stress and help you realize you are not alone… other victims are struggling with the same emotions, including your own family. And don’t leave out the little ones … let them talk about their feelings and share your feelings with them. But don’t force anyone to talk about their feelings since they might cope better by keeping their thoughts private.

Accept help – Realize that the people who are trying to help you want to help you so please don’t shut them out or turn them away.

Time out – Whenever possible, take some time off and do something you enjoy to help relieve stress… and do something fun with the whole family like a hike, a picnic, or play a game.

Rest – Listen to your body and get as much rest as possible. Stress can run you down so take care of yourself and your family members.

Slow down – Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once and pace yourself with a realistic schedule.

Stay healthy – Make sure everyone cleans up with soap and clean water after working in debris. Also, drink lots of clean water and eat healthy meals to keep up your strength. If you packed vitamins and herbs in your Disaster Supplies Kit, take them.

Work out – Physical activity is good for releasing stress or pent-up energy.

handling emotions after a disasterHug – A hug or a gentle touch (holding a hand or an arm) is very helpful during stressful times.

They’re watching you – Kids look to adults during a disaster so your reactions will impact the kids (meaning if you act alarmed or worried – they’ll be scared, if you cry – they cry, etc.)

Stick together – Keep the family together as much as possible and include kids in discussions and decisions whenever possible.

Draw a picture – Ask your kids to draw a picture of the disaster to help you understand how he or she views what happened.

Explain – Calmly tell your family what you know about the disaster using facts and words they can understand and tell everyone what will happen next so they know what to expect.

Reassurance – Let your kids and family know that they are safe and repeat this as often as necessary to help them regain their confidence.

Praise – Recognizing good behavior and praise for doing certain things (even the littlest of things) will help boost morale.

Watch your temper – Stress will make tempers rise but don’t take out your anger on others, especially kids. Be patient and control your emotions.

Let kids help – Including children in small chores during recovery and clean up processes will help them feel like they are part of the team and give them more confidence.

Let others know – Work with your kids’ teachers, day-care staff, babysitters and others who may not understand how the disaster has affected them.

Above extracted from IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? by Bill and Janet Liebsch


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