Residents trying to escape as Harvey's floodwaters rose

“Getting Over It”

Three and a half years after Harvey, many flood victims are still not “getting over it.” Physically, financially, and emotionally. I’ve interviewed people who:

  • Can no longer sleep during rains.
  • Break down crying when they attempt to retell their experiences.
  • Exhausted their life savings, 401Ks, and kids’ college funds trying to rebuild homes.
  • Claim they’re “past it” with thinly disguised rage in their voices.
  • Turn every conversation toward their losses.

You can’t just tell such people to “get over it; move on with your life.” That simply angers them and drives a wedge between the two of you.

Residents trying to escape as Harvey's floodwaters rose
Residents trying to escape as Harvey’s floodwaters rose into Kingwood Village Estates, a senior living center. 12 residents died as a result of Harvey. Six from injuries sustained during evacuation and six from stress after returning to find their homes destroyed.

So, what do you tell them? The following may help.

“An Emotional Response to a Terrible Event”

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster.”

The website Medical News Today cautions, “Trauma can have long-term effects on the person’s well-being. If symptoms persist and do not decrease in severity, it can indicate that the trauma has developed into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” a condition that afflicts approximately 6.8% of the U.S. population at some point during a person’s lifetime.

According to Janice Costa, one of Kingwood’s leading psychotherapists, “The people whose homes flooded definitely experienced trauma. Some developed PTSD and some didn’t for various reasons. “Trauma often goes against a person’s beliefs,” says Costa. For instance, the belief that you’re safe in your own home. “People react differently to traumatic events. For instance, neighbors who lived through Harvey might respond very differently to the same event,” said Costa.

In a previous interview, Costa said it often depends on whether the individual could find something good in the negative experience. Did insurance help them fix a home already badly in need of renovation? Did they make new friends with people who shared similar plights?

Getting Over It

“Trauma can be caused by something a person sees, physical or sexual abuse, an act of nature, the list goes on,” says Costa.  “Many people who go through trauma wish they could just get over it. Some people resolve trauma without professional help, but many live with the effects until they get help. 

Costa suggests that several popular treatments can help resolve trauma. They include:

“One of the keys in treating trauma and PTSD is to emotionally share the experience with a person in the emotional depth that they experienced the trauma.”

Janice Costa, Psychotherapist

This, of course, works best with those who have good support networks. One of the risk factors for developing PTSD is having little support after the trauma. Other risk factors include:

  • Previous trauma
  • Physical pain or injury
  • Dealing with other stressors at the same time, such as financial difficulty
  • Previous anxiety or depression

After going through TWO of the worst floods in North American history in the last 3.5 years, I’m sure we all know people experiencing several of those who could use help “getting over it.”

Posted by Bob Rehak based on input from Janice Costa

1260 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 509 since Imelda