Resilience After Natural Disaster

 
 
Posted by Sara Perry at 5/29/2011 1:33 PM |
Healing After Loss: A Matter of Resilience
“The resiliency of the people here in Missouri and across the south is one thing that’s impressed me the most.”
(Richard Serino, FEMA
The Washington Post, 5-24, Section A, page 8).
 
You have probably heard, read, or seen about the tornado that mowed down about a third of the city of Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday, May 22nd.  According to an Associated Press article on 5-27-11, the Joplin tornado was the deadliest on record since records started being kept in 1950. More than 900 people were injured and the death toll has risen to 132.
 
The stories and photos of people in Joplin whose lives were turned upside down by the tornado have been both heartbreaking and inspiring.  Heartbreaking because of how much they lost during what some described as “fifteen minutes of hell.”  Inspiring because of how much courage and resilience they have shown in the days since the tornado.
 
Early theories about resilience portrayed it as an ability that certain individuals have that enable them to endure harsh circumstances or losses and become even stronger in the process. Later theories have portrayed resilience as a combination of factors that go beyond individual qualities to include social and environmental support.  
 
In her book, Strengthening Family Resilience, Froma Walsh identifies the key processes in family resilience as Making Meaning of Adversity, Positive Outlook, Transcendence and Spirituality, Flexibility, Connectedness, Social and Economic Resources, Clarity, Open Emotional Expression, and Collaborative Problem Solving. (, p. 133).
 
“Resilience can be defined as the capacity to rebound from adversity strengthened and more resourceful… The capacity to rebound should not be misconstrued as simply ‘breezing through’ a crisis unscathed by painful experience, as if fortified with a Teflon ego, troubles bouncing off without causing pain or suffering… Our culture breeds intolerance for personal suffering:  we avert our gaze from disability, avoid contact with the bereaved, or dispense chirpy advice to ‘cheer up’ and get over catastrophic events.”  (Walsh, p. 4, 5).
 
Photos, videos, and stories of Joplin residents have shown suffering from loss, joy from reunions with missing loved ones, reaching out to help others, receiving help from others, searching for meaning and purpose, nurturing hope that they will rebuild their community and their lives, willingness to do what can be done individually and collectively to rebuild their community and their lives, and much more.  Empathy for suffering comes through as does hope for a brighter tomorrow and action to bring about a brighter tomorrow.  
 
Almost five years since Hurricane Katrina devastated much of New Orleans, the public school system in New Orleans is already much better than it was before Katrina.  It was not enough to re-make the public schools what they were before.  The shared hope and vision of a better school system led to effective strategies to create something new and improved.  That is a sign of resilience.  
 
I trust that in five years the city of Joplin will be able to point to gains and improvements created in the wake of the tornado on 5-22-11.  That does not minimize or discount the devastating losses suffered by the residents of Joplin or the very hard work it will take in the coming months and years to make the best of a tragic situation.  But it does mean that the tornado will not get to have the last say.
 
 
 
 
Posted by Sara Perry at 5/29/2011 1:33 PM |
Healing After Loss: A Matter of Resilience
“The resiliency of the people here in Missouri and across the south is one thing that’s impressed me the most.”
(Richard Serino, FEMA
The Washington Post, 5-24, Section A, page 8).
 
You have probably heard, read, or seen about the tornado that mowed down about a third of the city of Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday, May 22nd.  According to an Associated Press article on 5-27-11, the Joplin tornado was the deadliest on record since records started being kept in 1950. More than 900 people were injured and the death toll has risen to 132.
 
The stories and photos of people in Joplin whose lives were turned upside down by the tornado have been both heartbreaking and inspiring.  Heartbreaking because of how much they lost during what some described as “fifteen minutes of hell.”  Inspiring because of how much courage and resilience they have shown in the days since the tornado.
 
Early theories about resilience portrayed it as an ability that certain individuals have that enable them to endure harsh circumstances or losses and become even stronger in the process. Later theories have portrayed resilience as a combination of factors that go beyond individual qualities to include social and environmental support.  
 
In her book, Strengthening Family Resilience, Froma Walsh identifies the key processes in family resilience as Making Meaning of Adversity, Positive Outlook, Transcendence and Spirituality, Flexibility, Connectedness, Social and Economic Resources, Clarity, Open Emotional Expression, and Collaborative Problem Solving. (, p. 133).
 
“Resilience can be defined as the capacity to rebound from adversity strengthened and more resourceful… The capacity to rebound should not be misconstrued as simply ‘breezing through’ a crisis unscathed by painful experience, as if fortified with a Teflon ego, troubles bouncing off without causing pain or suffering… Our culture breeds intolerance for personal suffering:  we avert our gaze from disability, avoid contact with the bereaved, or dispense chirpy advice to ‘cheer up’ and get over catastrophic events.”  (Walsh, p. 4, 5).
 
Photos, videos, and stories of Joplin residents have shown suffering from loss, joy from reunions with missing loved ones, reaching out to help others, receiving help from others, searching for meaning and purpose, nurturing hope that they will rebuild their community and their lives, willingness to do what can be done individually and collectively to rebuild their community and their lives, and much more.  Empathy for suffering comes through as does hope for a brighter tomorrow and action to bring about a brighter tomorrow.  
 
Almost five years since Hurricane Katrina devastated much of New Orleans, the public school system in New Orleans is already much better than it was before Katrina.  It was not enough to re-make the public schools what they were before.  The shared hope and vision of a better school system led to effective strategies to create something new and improved.  That is a sign of resilience.  
 
I trust that in five years the city of Joplin will be able to point to gains and improvements created in the wake of the tornado on 5-22-11.  That does not minimize or discount the devastating losses suffered by the residents of Joplin or the very hard work it will take in the coming months and years to make the best of a tragic situation.  But it does mean that the tornado will not get to have the last say.
 
 
 ong>

Share Button

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>