By Pablo Godoy
It is widely know in therapeutic circles that certain negative life events may impact on an individual not only in psychological terms, but if left unresolved, may also affect a person’s general wellbeing including their health.
Reflecting on our earthquake counselling support since Last September’s earthquake, Cantabrians have gone through some of the most distressing life events that a person can experience.
In fact, many have experienced some of the 10 most significant of those events - losing a loved one, an end of an intimate relationship, and experiencing a life threatening trauma. Others include losing a home, a job loss or economic hardship, and significant change in life structure such as schooling and leisure activities. For some people more than one of these has occurred, and for most the disruption of life in general, and a sense of loss of stability and control in our lives is a central theme.
We know by reviewing both national and international natural disasters, recovery becomes the key motivator for individuals, their families, and their communities.
Recovery can mean different things to different people but overall it’s about how we transform adversity into opportunity. We also know that most people, with a little support, actually become more resilient as time goes on. Not resilient as they once were, but as they have developed greater internal and relational resources than before, they in fact they become stronger. This resilience can also be seen in their communities and has been evident throughout Canterbury since September 2010.
The challenge for us all with recovery is that it seldom occurs as quickly as we need or want it to. That’s why anniversaries can be fraught with mixed emotions, some of which may make us feel that we have taken one step forward and two back. The reality is that for most of us the journey from loss and grief to growth and strength takes time because the process actually requires revisiting some aspects of those distressing experiences from time to time. The less we hold on to or fight feelings of sadness, anger or loneliness and the more we reach out to share with others, the more likely we will navigate our way through to recovery and resilience.
We have all heard the old saying that time heals all wounds, yet it is also important to be mindful that what we do within that time actually makes the greatest difference.
Some try and make sense of what’s happened by holding onto expectations of ourselves in the form of “should have” and “could have” and judge themselves for events out of their control.
Judgement of ourselves can be the greatest adversary we can face, and lets face it,haven’t we had enough of adversity already without putting greater pressure on ourselves?
So let’s try to be kind to ourselves, leave the critical part at the door and remember that we are not as alone as we may feel. What you may be going through is more than likely being experienced by others…it takes courage to reach out for support, and grace to give support to those that may need it.
Anniversaries are a natural point along any journey for reflection and connection with loved ones. Reflection on just how far we have all come, how much we have accomplished in the most trying of situations as well as a time to acknowledge our grief and loss. Most of all it is a time to be thankful and honour what we still have.
Pablo Godoy is Relationships Aotearoa Whakawhanaungatanga’s (RSW) Canterbury Clincial Leader. RSW has seen more than 10,000 people since last September’s earthquake. It is providing free earthquake support which can be reached by calling 0800 735 283. Or visit www.relationshipsaotearoa.org.nz for further advice.