The BOOM Heard Around Houston:: Dealing with the Devastation of Disaster

The BOOM Heard Around Houston:: Dealing with the Devastation of Disaster

It’s never good when you wake up to a million messages asking if you are okay, including your grandma, who lives in another state! {Though let’s be honest I am pretty sure she has an alert for all things Houston to monitor my safety! Hi grandma! She’s for sure reading this.} If you are confused, my grandma was referring to the BOOM heard around Houston, which made national news. Early morning on Friday, January 24, 2020 an explosion erupted at a local manufacturer warehouse in Northwest Houston. Luckily for me, I heard and felt nothing because I was in Southwest Houston, and my recent jet lag had left me unconscious in my sleep. Unfortunately for many others in the surrounding area, the blast caused mass devastation to many homes, injured several individuals, and at the time of publication, killed two people. When checking in with my loved ones around the city they reported the impact of the blast could be felt still with a force all the way to the Montrose area, almost 20 miles from the disaster. 

We’ve had a rough few years here in Houston with major traumatic events that have rocked the entire city:: from major natural disasters, like Harvey and Imelda to this devastating blast. In writing this post, I began looking up synonyms for devastation because that was the word that kept coming into my mind and I needed other descriptors. The second definition of devastation on google that came up for me was “severe and overwhelming shock or grief.” 

I can imagine that many of you right now are in just that. Shock and Grief. It’s hitting you like a ton of bricks. It’s paralyzing. You’re numb. For some, you have lost all of your worldly possessions, and for others you have loved ones that have been hurt or killed. Pure devastation. 

I want you to know a few things in this moment::

  1. You don’t have to do anything right now. Give yourself some time to adjust. The impact of what happened feels insurmountable at this moment. You don’t have to make any decisions right now. 
  2. Lean on your support system. Let other people in your life help you. I am going to say this louder for the prideful folks:: ACCEPT THE HELP! You would help someone else in this situation. You just went through a horrific event, let them help right now. 
  3. Try to establish some sense of normalcy. There’s been a disaster. Everything feels out of control right now, but there are still things in your life that you can control amid the chaos. They may be small things, such as getting up at your normal time or eating what you usually have for breakfast. When you can, attempt to get back into as much of your old routine.  
  4. Stop watching the news and get off of social media. When a disaster happens it’s very easy to be inundated with the event. Step away from the TV and the continued coverage, as this isn’t helpful for your current state. 
  5. Know that what you are feeling is normal. You may feel ways you have not felt before. You may notice you aren’t able to sleep, you are more on edge, you are uncontrollably sad. There are some general stages of grief to be aware of that people typically go through when experiencing loss. One of my favorite ways to explain the stages of grief is through this grieving giraffe {PG Rating}. With these stages of grief you don’t necessarily experience the stages in order. When a traumatic event or disaster like this happens, your body and brain are doing their job, even if it doesn’t make sense to you, trust it knows what it’s doing and what you are experiencing is most likely a normal reaction given what you just went through. Give yourself some grace. You just went through so much. 
  6. Be mindful of when it might be a good idea to seek out professional support. Especially if you have had some major losses, grief is normal. While no one can tell you how long you are allowed to grieve, there may come a point where this disaster feels more than you can handle. Nothing you have tried to do to cope is working for you. You feel like others in your life have moved on from the traumatic event and aren’t as supportive. A sure sign is using substances to cope. Know there are many professional counselors that are trained in dealing with trauma like this. They can help you work through the trauma, teach you healthy coping skills to reduce your symptoms, and help you get back to yourself again. 

Let’s Talk About Our Kids and Disaster

On another note, I don’t want to forget the kiddos that are watching this disaster through TV and social media. Our kids are sponges and most likely have seen the blast on TV or have heard others talk about it. When an event like this takes place, children understandably have lots of questions and you may not know how to answer. Here’s a few tips:: 

Try not to put adult feelings on the child. What do I mean? Sometimes when something major happens, as adults we put all of our adult knowledge onto our children, forgetting their knowledge is limited. Just because we may be scared doesn’t mean they are. Try asking them what they think about what they saw before you tell them what you see. Simply asking, “what do you see?” can be helpful. 

Assure them of their safety. Children are extremely perceptive. If you are scared, they will sense it and will act accordingly. Let them know that as their parent or loved one, part of your job is to protect them. Talk to them about others in their lives that are there to help keep them safe. Point out the people helping, like the firefighters putting out the flames. 

Talk about plans of action if an event like this occurs near your family. In helping children feel safe it can be helpful to walk them through what they can expect if a tragic disastertranspires. For instance, “If you are at school, mommy will come to your classroom. If mommy isn’t there, then grandpa will come.” Or, “If there is a fire in the house we will all meet in the outside by the big oak tree.” 

As a parent or adult, you don’t have to have all the answers. And in the moment, if caught off guard, you may not. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know {why bad things happen, why they hurt them}.” 

If nothing else positive I have learned through all of the tragedies we have had in our city, during times of crisis and disaster Houstonians are amazing at coming together and helping one another. In the great words of Mr. Fred Rogers, “Look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping.” 

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