Surviving a Tsunami
by Mary Macek, M.A.H.E., M.A., PCC,
As I have been watching the tragedy unfolding in Japan in the wake of the earthquakes, tsunami and radiation, I find myself praying for two things. The first is for the release of the Japanese people from the suffering they are experiencing, and the second is for them to have the resilience to survive the loss and devastation and go on to live well. I don’t think this will happen overnight, nor will it happen without leaving physical, emotional, and ecological scars, but I believe it is possible.
I probably think about crises in this way as a result of many years of counseling survivors of trauma. Most of the trauma I encounter in counseling is childhood trauma, and the survivors are adults who have been abused inside their families when they were children. Others have survived trauma as adults, such as traffic accidents, robberies, domestic violence, street violence and war. I am struck by the similarities between the paths to recovery for individual clients with personal traumas and the journey that the individual survivors and the nation of Japan will be making as they cope with the overwhelming tragedy they are experiencing. And as I watch, I am filled with sadness and hope.
There is hope in the aid that is coming into Japan from around the world. This aid offers needed practical assistance from food to technological support. It also sends the message that they are not alone, that others know and care about their plight. And all of this assistance will relieve some suffering.
Like survivors of this large scale crisis, individual survivors of private trauma can have their suffering relieved by sharing their story and opening themselves up to the support of people who care about them and who can offer support and comfort, and by knowing that they are not alone and that others have experienced losses similar to their own and survived.
I continue to be amazed at the resilience of the people I encounter who have experienced trauma. Again, there are parallels to the people of Japan in the wake of this disaster. I am thinking of the child who assumes responsibility for the care of themselves and younger siblings when parents are unwilling or unable. And I am also thinking of the workers at the nuclear power plants who are risking radiation sickness and death to try to prevent a larger tragedy. These are the heroic acts that are most visible. But my guess is there are countless smaller and less visible examples of resilience going on daily in Japan, just as there have been with survivors of family violence.
Whether you have survived your own personal trauma or been witness to the crises unfolding in Japan and around the world, I think it is important to acknowledge the countless things, large and small, that you and others have done to aid in their own survival and the survival of others, whether that survival is physical or psychological. This kind of acknowledgement of our own power can be protective and life sustaining, even in the face of overwhelming odds. That is the hope I have for all survivors everywhere, that if unavoidable, we can all survive a tsunami