The experience of Grief and Loss following Hurricane Katrina

As I struggle with loss today, on Mother’s Day, I am reading some old reflections written for the faculty and staff at my high school after Hurricane Katrina. I’m just looking for hope.

Grief and Loss

The experience of grief accompanies any loss, and feelings of loss can be created by any change. The degree of grieving will vary according to the degree of perceived loss. Thus the same change of circumstances can be experienced with varying degrees of loss depending on the individual. Another factor is that the experience of loss will be compounded when there is a history of loss.

So, what does this mean for us? All of us have some grieving to do. We have lost a lot. We have lost each other, the support of friends and peers. We have lost our sense of security and normalcy. We have lost our sense of self-worth as a professional in a community dedicated to the education and Catholic formation of young women. We have lost a whole Semester of classroom content. We have lost a whole Semester of community memories, Ring Day, The Rosary Assembly, the Christmas Adopt a Family drive. All of us have lost these things but some of us have lost much more. Some of our community have lost all their worldly possessions, literally. It is also possible that some of us have lost family members and friends.

How do we deal with this? There are no simple or single answers but it has become obvious to me that there is tremendous possibility here. We have the opportunity to re-evaluate; the classroom question, What five things would you take with you from your home if it was on fire? is no longer rhetorical, except it was a flood not a fire. We have the opportunity to simplify our lives and reorient our priorities. We have the opportunity to rebuild relationships with family members as we all share food and floors which also provides us the opportunity to practice and strengthen virtues such as patience and tolerance as we remember why we left home in the first place!

But before we even get so far as to consider these potential lessons we have to give ourselves permission to grieve. It is really important that we don’t succumb to survivor guilt and listen to those inner voices that say, I don’t have the right to feel sorry for myself, look at what other people are suffering? It is important to our health and sanity that we allow ourselves at least a few minutes of sadness every day. Loss is loss; regardless of how our loss compares to others. If we do not allow ourselves to grieve we will more likely become depressed. If we do not allow ourselves to grieve we may find ourselves feeling more and more isolated from the Source of all Love and Healing whose hands hold us always even when we feel most er Her alone.

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