The Pain of Disaster Recovery for Seniors

Jun 24th, 2011 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

How do you start over, when your life now lies in shambles, and everything you were is gone? That is the scene in towns and villages across America this spring. That is the quandary. In some places, where the disaster is still fresh and recovery is dreadfully slow, the scars just don’t seem to heal over.  Some seniors are experiencing this for the first time. Others have been through it before.

In Joplin, Tuscaloosa, most recently Greer, Arizona, and the flooded homes and farms along the Mississippi, the crops, lost to this season, and who knows how many more, the wetlands in Louisiana, the loss of the fishing industry along the coast, the flooding yet to come from snow melt, the thousands who still await some encouragement, some sign, some help, some hope… what about all of these?

How do I share my deep down care for those who are still stacking sand bags, clearing away debris, searching for just one keepsake? Where there has been fire and wind and water and maybe more on the way, what do I do to help others, while desperately wondering about my own life today and tomorrow?

Being grateful for survival comes with the resolute desire to pick up and start over. But how overwhelming is that, when the landscape before you seems to offer little encouragement? Is it any wonder that helping hands are fewer and charitable dollars less generous? They just have to be spread over so many places to so many hurting folk.

There is no time to be idle. Every new sunrise brings the glare of more yet to be done, hands and backs sore from cuts and bruises and aches. Clothes can’t be washed, there is no water yet. Showers can’t be taken. As far as the eye stretches, there is nothing but jumble and disorder and depression.

But even so, this too will pass away. For those of us who lived in Omaha, Nebraska in 1975, we remember how it felt the days after the storm, the tornado that cut through the center of Omaha, leaving a deadly scar of devastation. For those of us who went to work to encourage and inspire and provide recovery, we learned how precious it is to be there for our neighbors. We began by picking up ourselves from the heavy winds that had blown apart our community. Then, we took on the challenge to do something about it. Finally, piece by piece, person by person was helped, life was put together from the scattered pieces of a puzzle that had been strewn, as if across a tabletop.

The healing will come. The grief will be lessened. The heartache may never quite go away. But what does fill the vacancies in one’s surviving are all the people who show up and stand up to hug, hold, help erase that terrible scar. Even now, even yet there will be need. And, for those who have the stamina and the flexibility to offer presence, get ready; inquire, offer, pack up so you can go and work with some group whose readiness, like yours, longs to offer presence, compassion and anything you can to make life better, for those whose hurt needs such attention.



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