The fact that we describe some types of natural disasters as having “seasons” is always striking to me. It is intriguing that we both know that we will be faced by the destruction fires, mudslides, and hurricanes bring, and that the fear and loss left in their wake never ceases to surprise and devastate us. Seasonal disasters challenge us and remind us of the realities of both wonder and difficulty in the world and bring to light the wonderful human qualities of hope and a spirit that rises up to overcome adversity.
Hurricanes are one of those disasters that have a season. Changing weather systems rise up and the resulting storms over the ocean are full of power. The impact of these storms is often felt by coastal inhabitants in the form of raging wind and sometimes flooding. If the storm makes landfall and the might of the entire system is felt by those living near the coasts, the effects on communities can be devastating. Like many natural disasters, there is often some warning that the storm is coming, but it is difficult to predict the outcomes and what the damage will be. In many cases the rebuilding trajectory is long as people wait for power to be restored, wait to return to their homes, wait for insurance claims to come through, wait for new structures to be built, the list goes on.
One of the realities of living in a part of the country where hurricanes often make landfall, is that the disaster is experienced again, and again, and again. Many people exposed to hurricanes suffer from depression and anxiety or develop PTSD. There are also often marked changes in community health following a hurricane. In meeting for spiritual direction after a hurricane, how can you find space to address the chronic nature of the disaster? It may be that there is room to not only heal from what has happened, but also to begin to prepare the soul for next time, looking forward with a sense of purpose and agency. What are the strategies for health that people who have spent their entire lives in “hurricane country” are using? How are the cycles of preparation, weathering the storm, rebuilding, and quiet seasons helpful in understanding life? What strategies for calming and communication worked well? What can be adjusted to serve better next time?
In meeting for spiritual direction after a hurricane, how can you find space to address the chronic nature of the disaster?
Lament and remembrance may be particularly helpful disciplines to practice after surviving a hurricane. Writing a personal lament or one on behalf of the community helps give voice to the emotions accompanying the loss. The ICTG resource guide for Spiritual Directors6 contains guidelines and suggestions for creating a personal lament. Practicing remembrance may look like creating a memorial, story-telling, or simply lighting candles to represent individual losses. Being a spiritual director after a disaster is truly walking with survivors through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Helping to make space for very real and present grief to be vented allows the beginnings of hope to be restored.
Guidelines for creating a personal lament:
Do you have ICTG's Spiritual Direction Resource Guide?
It's an in-depth training manual for trauma preparedness and response for Spiritual Directors. It includes restorative strategies to expand care and provide safety for traumatized people to heal and thrive.
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.
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Expanding understanding and best practices for holistic health in the context of spiritual direction.