Village Voice - October, 2005


Working with the victims of Hurricane Katrina has been very rewarding for me. The victims of Hurricane Katrina will experience many of the same battles that I had to face as a victim violent crime. As I listen to many of their stories, I am reminded of many of the feelings I had to struggle with.  Every aspect of a person’s existence is threatened when they are victimized. Receiving appropriate spiritual support is very important during the recovery process. Constant prayer inspired me to discover a path through this maze to healing and transformation. Personal battles with faith, forgiveness and grace gave rise to deep spiritual growth: growth that inspired the development of an effective method to help victims achieve healing through the pursuit of True Justice.  A support group for victims of disaster has been started to help them on their journey to recovery. Mental health counselors have agreed to work with those who might need it.  Some of the steps along the journey to healing are listed below.

Listening with Caring

In a time of pain and crisis, we hope for words that will bring us comfort, and we cry for understanding. There is a need to have our feelings validated. We need to feel accepted, heard and understood in a caring way. Listening with caring means being silent and not interrupting as they express their pain, anger, confusion or frustration. It is critical to listen for clues to this person’s strengths and important life experiences so that you will be able to come back to these in the future.   Look for evidence of other times when their use of faith was meaningful.  Look for the strengths (personal, family, or social strengths) that sustained them through other traumatic events.  Look for times when God was significant in their life.  These are vital tools that they will need once they choose to work toward healing.

Awaiting an Invitation

If we want to help the victim to regain a clear perspective of their spiritual life, we must wait to be invited into the discussion. While they share their story with us, we look for moments when they shift to speaking in the present or future tense. Often the question, “Why did this happen?” is an invitation to join in the discussion. Or they may ask, “What do you suggest?” Sometimes they will simply shake their heads and ask if there is any hope, and this is your invitation to enter into the discussion.

Shifting Focus to the Solution

Once there is an invitation to participate in the discussion, someone with faith, courage and a vision of hope to share can be the inspiration for renewed hope, healing and transformation. Grieving is a process of repairing and reconstructing one’s life. It takes time, effort, preparation, patience and persistence; it takes deliberate steps of courage to do.

Spiritual development begins at first contact.  The problem with helping victims to experience spiritual growth isn’t when to start, but how to start. People experiencing loss can be expected to express feelings of anger or frustration. Expressing these feelings and emotions is essential to the process of healing. People who are grieving have a deep need to feel they are being heard. And although their initial concentration is primarily on the problem, this does not change the fact that the solution, too, is within them.

Attentive listening, looking for clues to where this person’s greatest strengths lie, patience, and the ability to recognize the invitation to offer help when it comes - these are all skills that can help us aid the victim in their spiritual development and, ultimately, in their development of renewed healing with the painful realities of loss. 

Victims of Hurricane Katrina have a long, painful journey ahead.  There must be healing in all areas of their lives.  As ministers and victim service providers, we use this foundation of spiritual development as the basis for a holistic approach that nurtures and supports healing in all areas of a person’s life: physical, mental, social, spiritual and financial.  Helping as well as healing takes time, effort, preparation, patience and persistence; it takes deliberate steps of courage to do.

                                                                                                -- Rev. Wayne Price

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