Hurricane Katrina and Resolved Grief Thesis

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Grief and Katrina

Grief and Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina stands as one of the most memorable natural disasters of recent times. Hurricane Katrina changed many lives forever. Many lost their homes, some lost their belongings, and many lost their loved ones. All of them lost the way things used to be before Katrina. The grief that they felt was on a community level and had a dramatic effect on the ability to recover and rebound from the disaster. They following will outline the steps that were taken to recover from the disaster and will provide a proactive plan for community action in the event of another such disaster in the future.

Grief is an individual thing and everyone experiences grief in his or her own manner. In an event such as Katrina, social workers must develop community resources so that those that need them can easily have access to the services that they need. Community practice centers on interventions that are designed to bring about change on a community level (Hardcastle & Powers, 2004). In the case of Katrina, community level intervention meant finding ways for the community to deal with their grief.

Resolving Katrina Grief

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Grief is a natural part of loss. Of course, the first actions that were taken on a community level have to do with preservation of life and the provision of necessities. However, once, the "crisis" is over and basic needs have been met, it is time to focus on the emotional needs of the community. In a natural disaster like Katrina, grief is a shared experience. Providing grief support is an essential part of the community plan. Although, most will recover without any intervention and be able to return to normal in a few weeks, approximately 4-5% will develop more serious symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (National Center for PTSD, 2005).

Thesis on Hurricane Katrina and Resolved Grief Assignment

In addition, about 9% of the victims will develop more serious chronic grief symptoms (National Center for PTSD, 2005). This is why community response to grief is so important. The goal of community action is to reduce the incidence of long-term grief symptoms.

After Katrina, New Orleans was virtually paralyzed, with their best-made plans floating away with the rising water. Once the immediate danger was over, the grief for those that had lost loved ones and their homes set in. Shock puts emotions in hold so that the body can deal with the immediate crisis (Frantz, 2005). A priority is placed on basic needs, but once the crisis is over and the initial shock begins to fade, the first emotion that many experience is anger (Frantz, 2005). For Katrina victims, this meant community-wide anger and a community-wide grief reaction. The anger eventually leads to the sadness that represents the next stage of grief (Frantz, 2005).

The process of emotional recovery was hindered by a loss of services. In the aftermath of the hurricane, suicide rates tripled (Slayton, 2006). The grieving process could not begin for many until they could return to where they once lived to see for themselves what had happened to the lives that they once knew. For many, this meant waiting for months before they could begin the grieving process. Some never got to return. This is the most difficult situation in terms of grief resolution and can lead to lingering symptoms due to unresolved grief.

Community efforts were eventually begun to help people recognize and deal with their grief as a community. However, the first organized event was not held until nearly six months after the tragedy. On February 15, 2006, a memorial to those that had perished in the tragedy was dedicated in Biloxi Mississippi (Slayton, 2006). This small symbol was a big step in helping the community to deal with the grief that they felt. Grieving people need a focus to serve as a symbol for their loss. For many, particularly those whose loved one's bodies were never recovered, this memorial served as a point of focus for their grief. They could express their loss through laying flowers and other mementos on the monument, much as they would a grave. This memorial was a very important step in community-wide grief recovery process.

One of the most important affects of Katrina in regards to grief was that many mental health workers were displaced themselves. Offices were destroyed and the workers themselves faced loss and relocation. Katrina victims were scattered to the winds, being absorbed by many communities across the United States. In Nashville, Tennessee, displaced Katrina victims were offered free grief counseling and hospice services (Gennaro, 2006).

Mental Health hotlines were made available to Katrina victims, many of which made use of already established national hotlines and agencies (ibiblio.org, 2006). Many of these services were not accessible for months due to loss of basic services, such as phone and electric. In addition, it is not known if these services are as effective as face-to-face individualized counseling sessions.

Katrina was different from many other natural disasters due to the massive, long-term relocation. Many disasters are more localized and a more effective response can be planned by the community. The scattered nature of Katrina victims made providing grief services for victims more difficult than in many smaller disasters, such as localized floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes. However, the failure of the system to provide for mental health services teachers the lesson that these services need to receive community-wide attention in the disaster plan. The following will address a disaster plan

Community Action Perspective

Katrina taught us that communities need to go beyond focusing on the provision of basic needs during disasters. The community needs to include attention to grief and mental health issues in the community plan. For the most part, FEMA only addresses provision of basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. However, suicides that result from grief and loss are also casualties of the disaster, although they are not traditionally counted in the losses that are directly attributed to the disaster. Provision for mental health needs should be an official part of the community response to the disaster.

The community plan needs to establish mental health services as soon after the disaster as possible. The establishment of mental health services is typically a lower priority in the emergency response, but it needs to be given a higher priority in order to prevent long-term and tragic results. Specific funds need to be set aside for hospice and grief counseling in the event of a disaster. Rather than relying on private insurance or social services to foot the bill, a special fund should be devoted to the provision of services. Funding for this provision can come through grants, local budgets, and other normal funding routes. The most important issue is that funding is provided for mental health services as a part of the official disaster response.

Just as FEMA coordinates with other local agencies, they also need to assess the capacity of local agencies that are already in existence. They need to coordinate and develop a specific plan with these agencies that will be appropriate for the specific needs of the community. When local resources are inadequate to handle the expected capacity for services, plans need to be devised to coordinate with other communities to provide services. This can be done either by pulling in mental health workers to the area, or by allowing these other communities to handle the overflow.

Partnerships will play an important role in the ability to provide adequate services for community citizens. A net needs to be provided to serve displaced citizens in some manner. When people have to evacuate, they need to be able to access services where ever they end up, be it for a temporary or permanent arrangement. Partnerships with local agencies in surrounding communities are the key to assuring that people can get the treatment that they need whether they evacuate or not. Mutual aid agreements similar to those established by police and fire agencies are an excellent role model for the development of such a plan.

Memorials and rituals are a necessary part of the grief process. However, they are often haphazardly thrown together by the family members of victims. Sometimes, a church or pastor will be involved in planning and coordination, but sometimes it is the victims themselves that find a way to remember their loved ones. It is difficult to predict disasters and the devastation that they leave behind. Therefore, it is impractical to have a plan devised for the memorial. It will need to be devised to meet the specific needs of the family and be according to the scale and scope of the disaster.

Churches and religious organizations in the community are typically the ones that organize events such as memorials and community gatherings. They are the natural choice for the job. However, separation of church and state may be contradictory to inclusion of specific religious entities in the plan. It is possible to include them in the plan simply by listing them as… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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