Facing any natural disaster can easily be an overwhelming experience. There is often a sense of complete loss of control as well as absolute loss of material possessions. With a flood there is potential for a long continued set of discoveries having to do with damage from the flooding, such as structural damage, mold, and erosion. Survivors of a flood may feel that they are swirling in questions and unknowns as they watch the waters rise and recede. How bad is the damage? Will we be able to repair it? Am I still in danger? How long will this last?
Floods sometimes come and go very quickly, washing away memories and homes. And sometimes the flooded area is under water for weeks before even basic assessments can begin to be made. The language of describing flooding lends itself very well to also describing the feelings of those affected. “Drowning,” “washed away,” “torrent,” “adrift,” all may be ways that one’s directees experience their emotions. Patience and a calm presence from a spiritual director will be a great gift to those who are displaced by or recovering from flooding.
Directors should also be attuned to the fact that most cultures and faith traditions have some sort of flood narrative in their collective stories or scriptures. It is possible that with floods more than other natural disasters, that individuals may have unconscious associations of the event with Divine wrath or punishment. As always, sensitivity, openness, and compassion are necessary in walking with these survivors.
If you are meeting locally with people in your community then it is also likely in cases of flooding, or any widespread disaster, that you too have been affected. Be sure that you are taking the time and space to care for your own wounds in this healing period.
Some practices that may be helpful for directees who have survived a flood include:
-mindfulness or meditation
-physical grounding exercises
-“praying the hours” or other rhythms of worship
-connecting with neighbors
A Prayer For After A Flood
Oh God, the waters just kept rising.
They poured down the streets and through our doors.
Our feelings of agency and control have literally been washed away.
Our homes and jobs are gone or put on indefinite hold.
This waiting and wondering makes us weary deep in our bones.
Some of us have lost material possessions.
Some of us have lost beloved pets.
Some of us have lost people who provided meaning in our lives.
All of us have lost what we thought of as normal life.
Give us the endurance to honor those losses.
Pull our feet and souls out of this muck.
Put us on a firm foundation.
Restore us to our land and ourselves.
Help us to see moments of joy and relief.
Remind us of all that we are grateful for.
Show us the clean start, hidden under the debris.
Erin Jantz received her Master’s Degree in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care from the Institute for Spiritual Formation. She also holds a B.A. in developmental psychology and has furthered her education with trainings in trauma care from Boston University and intensives with Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk. She has been practicing spiritual direction since 2012, helped to author ICTG's Spiritual Formation Resource Guide, and also teaches and speaks on a variety of spiritual formation topics. Erin lives in Southern California with her husband and their four marvelous children.