Millions of people in California are suffering a very real loss of power both physically and psychologically.
And we are grieving our loss of power, sense of safety, and for some the loss of a home. In simplified terms, each of us is in various stages of the process. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance that comes and goes, alternating with any number of mixed emotions. Fear bumps the peacefulness of acceptance and overwhelms us to the core.
Fear. Our survival systems are on high alert. We need that built-in system to motivate and energize for evacuation. For those who’ve not had to evacuate, the waiting is anxious and exhausting hyper-vigilance.
The danger to our physical bodies and belongings is easy to recognize. The danger to our mental health is not so much talked about, though it’s there in large doses. We are in survival mode.
The good news is we are good at this. Survival is a human mandate written into our DNA.
There’s a catch though. Sustained survival mode wears us down and adds to our vulnerability. We are distracted, numbed out, or so focused in thought about things happening or possibilities, that we don’t see the intersection we’ve driven through a zillion times before that now has no signal light to alert us. To give us guidance on what to do. Go, Use Caution, Stop.
We are impatient and angry. The kids’ roughhousing is too much on our nerves. We snap at them to “settle down!” They are burning off their own emotions which are much more than exuberance about school being closed. They are suffering their own feelings of loss, the unknown and uncertainty. They are reacting to the adults around them and the news of catastrophe at home or elsewhere. We cannot blame them, we must acknowledge them and show them how to deal with the relentless roller-coaster of emotions.
It’s important we recognize the processes we are in. It’s important we understand that millions are going through the same processes, each in our own stage, or collectively sighing a huge relief the wind is not blowing this morning. The sun came up and there’s no smoke in the air.
Others are grief-stricken, injured, and needing care, kindness, food, water, shelter, and personal power.
Grief, trauma, and survival mode. Multitudes of us sharing this experience from our unique perspectives.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, the roller-coaster of mixed overwhelming feelings, and for those who get there, acceptance; it can be a long process.
Acceptance does not mean we like how things are. It means we’ve gained a clear understanding of reality – the blur of denial and other feelings has cleared, we can adjust accordingly, and as a result, we gain back our power, balance, and humor.
Could it be we are bonding on a massive community level, not just with our neighbors who we rarely talk to otherwise, because we are sharing a loss of power?
Many are still in harm’s way due to dangerous fires still burning and the threat of more every hour. Thousands are living in evacuation centers.
Some of us dread nightfall and are having difficulty sleeping. Some of us are sleeping in our day time clothes in case of an emergency in the darkness. Some of us are sleeping in day time clothes because that’s all they have left.
Some of us dread the sunrise and the devastating scene that comes with the light. Homes are piles of ash and debris. Pets gone. Mementos only a memory.
Some of us have lost more than electricity and a sense of safety in the world. It is for them we grieve, as well. Our nightmares turned reality for them.
Small businesses are losing money from loss of revenue. Employers are closed due to loss of power. Paychecks are curbed. Even if temporarily, this can mean devastating financial recovery issues. People are already feeling the loss.
And then there are the heroes among us going through the same processes, yet they continue to work to save lives and property and run hospitals, nursing homes, radio stations for the information we need to stay safe, and a myriad of other services vital to safety and survival, vital to living.
3 Ways to Cope
- outside and listen for the sounds of nature below the thrum of generators and people.
- look for signs of nature you’d normally enjoy.
- touch a tree or plant.
- feel the sun, breeze, or stillness.
- check-in on a neighbor – offer a helping hand, a conversation
- hug someone – smile at someone
- find something to laugh about – humor helps!
- play cards or other games that don’t involve screen-time
- do something physical like take a walk (or shovel gravel like I did yesterday 😉). Use the chemicals for survival that are surging through your body unspent. You’ll feel better and sleep better too.
- Use Caution:
- Pay attention to your focus. Focus on the right things, like the road when driving.
- Limit exposure to traumatic images
- Notice your mood – use kindness when interacting with others
- Don’t get dehydrated or too hungry
- Remember your medication – create a new reminder to compensate for change in habit
- Don’t stay too serious for too long. Figure out how to lighten up the mood for others. It’ll help you too.
- Being impatient
- Ignoring reality
- The Galloping Grumps. When you are cranky, others react by being cranky.
Millions are adjusting to a change in routine and habit. How long does it take our brain to stop flipping light switches with no power? It’s day three of the third round for our household. I am still flipping switches.
Leave your mark. I’d love to know you’ve been here.