Overcome Your Sense of Helplessness

Everyone is talking about the disaster on Tuesday night that struck the capital of Haiti and the surrounding areas where approximately two million people live. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake essentially destroyed the capital. The death toll may reach tens of thousands of residents and those visiting the island nation. One geophysicist said the earthquake’s power rivaled that of several nuclear bombs.

Correspondents in Port Au Prince and its suburbs reported whole blocks of collapsed buildings, with bodies lining the road as Haiti awaits assistance. People are disoriented and desperately seeking medical attention, water, food, shelter and electricity.

This kind of tragedy evokes powerful emotions and a collective sense of loss, pain, and suffering. No one escapes the ripple effect produced by exposure to this massive destruction. “The reports and images that we’ve seen of collapsed hospitals, crumbled homes and men and women carrying their injured neighbors through the streets are truly heart-wrenching,” President Obama said.

Earthquake victims in Haiti
Earthquake devastation in Haiti

When we are faced with tragedy of this proportion and are unable to attend directly to the fears and cries of others, we experience a collective sense of helplessness. This helplessness can be expressed by our own feelings of anxiety, depression, withdrawal, shock, confusion or fear. Staying focused on problem solving or doing something, however small, is key to dealing with traumatic events, even when they don’t feel like our personal traumatic events. The immediacy of the media brings home the message to all of us: we are in this world together.

Talking about the earthquake with family and friends is also important.  It helps us to process the range of emotions we feel.

Taking action is the antidote to going numb and disconnecting from these events. There are many opportunities to help the victims of this disaster in Haiti. According to former president Clinton the most valuable way to help is by sending money. Every dollar makes a difference. Here is a link to some of the organizations that are involved in the relief efforts for Haiti; Impact Your World: How you can help.

How do you react to devastating news?

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