Kathy Murphy, Ph.D.

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What People Need after a Storm

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.
~ Willa Cather…..

Twenty three years ago ~ overnight ~ I was displaced from my home because of Hurricane Hugo, another superstorm that wreaked sheer havoc in South Carolina. Mass destruction and billions of dollars in damage.  It took six months just to move back into our house.

Today, as I watch my brothers and sisters be displaced and devastated by Hurricane Sandy, I remember all too well the anxiety, the helplessness, the devastation, and all the hard work. I remember it as if it were yesterday. Even though I survived exceedingly well, you might say I still have a bit of PTSD around storms. I learned firsthand what is needed after a big storm.

People need help.

These are the times I am truly grateful for what our government does for us.

Hurricane Hugo (like Sandy) passed through in the middle of the night. The next morning, roads were impassable, electricity was out, and everything had flooded.  Entire houses were gone. We needed help with our most basic primary needs.  And while we needed big help, every act of kindness was appreciated.

Help in any way you can.  Donations and prayer are great places to start.  Danielle LaPorte provided this fabulous list of all the agencies and resources that are available to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

I LOVE THE RED CROSS.  One of my deepest memories was the American Red Cross giving out cups of hot coffee the morning after the storm.  Bless the Red Cross.  Give to the Red Cross. If you’ve ever been in a disaster and the Red Cross shows up, you will, forever and always, be eternally grateful.

After a storm, we need to know we are not alone and that people care.

For the most part, tragedies and disasters bring out the best in people.  Right after a disaster, we reach out to each other in the streets. We bring people into our homes.  We give people money. These are times when we see our humanity and our true nature.  I often wonder how different life would be if we lived like that all the time?

Reach out to people who have been in the path of Sandy (or any other disaster) and let them know they are not alone.  I am grateful for the obsessive TV coverage. It helps us to understand what our friends  are going through. People in the path of the storm want us to see what has happened.  They want us to know of their loss. I know  the people in New England appreciate everything – our thoughts, our prayers, even our FaceBook posts.

We need to know that there is a silver lining to every storm.

Today may be  too soon for New Englanders to see the growth that always comes out of destruction, but they will. I remember a friend of mine who had every possession he owned packed up in his jeep the day after Hugo. He had lost everything else. He took it as an opportunity to start over –  on so many levels.

We all know these stories. Stories of how we can rise out of destruction. Stories of the wisdom that is hard won through the storms of life. This is where we learn some of the deepest lessons of what’s true and important.  We can help people by remembering these stories.

People need to talk.

During the time of Hurricane Hugo I had a private psychotherapy practice. For an entire year after the storm, my clients were people who just needed to talk about their experience.  We talked for months. Some told the same story over and over again, until they had finally wrung every emotion and reaction out of it.  You can’t go through life’s true tragedies without being affected one way or the other.  The only question is: How are you going to allow it to affect you in the long run – after the storm has passed?

When someone you know has gone through a  disaster (whether made by Mother Nature or by other humans), be very interested in their story. Ask them how they are and really listen. Care about them. And if they tell the same story over and over for awhile – know that that’s okay. Trust that one day, they will come out on the other side with the kind of wisdom one only gets after having weathered the big storms of life.

To all of the people affected by Hurricane Sandy:  Know that I care.  Know that I am watching and praying for you constantly.  Know that we are all watching and caring about what you are going through. Know that one day, there just may be a silver lining and lessons learned about survival, endurance, strength and goodness.

Powerful Questions:

What was one life lesson you learned from tragedy and disaster?


What would you say to someone who has been hurt by this storm?


How can you help?


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6 Responses to “What People Need after a Storm”

Gail says:

I woke up this morning wondering how I could donate to the rebuilding and repair of the subways then realized I already have! I’m so grateful for all those NY and Federal taxes I have paid!

Cindy says:

I too have weathered hurricanes and personal storms. My strength came from needing to be strong and positive for my children and for those around me that needed my strength. At those times I savored my friendships, laughter, and people reaching out just to check on me, us. When Pensacola was devastated by Ivan and my college age daughter was there it was the Red Cross and first responders with coffee, phone connections and food that gave her the strength to finally be able to leave until she had basics to come back to. Food, water, finally electricity. Do what you can from where you are and with what you have to work with. A text message, a donation and making sure we continue to support the social services that always are there when disaster strikes. Thank you Kathy, as always for your heartfelt message.

Bonnie Compton says:

Thank you Kathy for your beautiful message…this storm has also been a reminder of gratitude…gratitude for all of the first responders, gratitude for the human spirit and for life itself.

jeanne cullinane says:

I too lived thru Hugo and while I suffered no damage the evacuation experience alone was beyond stressful. I now sit back and helplessly watch all my family in the NY area struggle and try to cope with the aftermath of this powerful storm…….Since my retreat with you I have been even more off course. I woke up this morning and made a decision to take out your book again and try to start to create the life I deserve. The moments we have are so precious and you never know when yoru reality can just be whisked away. Thank you for your insight and please continue to hold all the victims up north in your good spirits and thoughts.

Kathy Murphy says:

It means so much to me to have you all add your support by commenting. It’s now three days after the storm and the real damage, both external and internal is showing up. It is going to be a long recovery for many people. Let’s not forget them.

Thank you Jeannie for the sweet note about the book and the retreat. Let me know how I can be of support to you as well. Sometimes our storms don’t come with wind and water, just the everyday messes that we create ourselves. Know that I care about you too and am here for you. I will keep you in my heart.

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