“You’re an angel.” The woman nodded, her certainty smiling back at me. “I know you are. I can see it in your eyes.”
It wasn’t the first time I’d received such a whimsical compliment after an interlude with a disaster survivor. Not that I ever fell into believing I’d donned some form of celestial avatar. I’m your usual mortal, bludgeoning my way through common inadequacies and annoying life foibles, the same as everyone else.
My new friend’s star-struck observation did strike at a chord of truth, one that resonates throughout the realm of addressing disaster needs. Contributions to recovery go beyond the feeding, sheltering, and other concrete resources typically thought of following disaster. Just as important is the intangible.
Bits of healing occur when two individuals touch one another’s souls – priceless moments of human connectedness, such as when a survivor feels completely heard and understood. Perhaps a simple act, or personal mannerism we aren’t even aware of, becomes the rock to which a struggling person clings. Maybe it’s knowing there’s someone to turn to, a listening ear to be had, in the midst of confusion or chaos. What could be a better balm for the pain of trauma and loss?
Coming up with comforting words or actions to help those recovering from the unimaginable does not come easily for most. Resources provide useful suggestions, such as the link listed below. The actual words or deeds themselves may be less important than the messages of kindness, caring, and compassion that accompany them.
Empathic involvement heals on its own, even if you can’t provide the specific resource a survivor currently seeks.
For More Information
To learn more about providing support to others following disaster, see “Listen, Protect and Connect: Family to Family, Neighbor to Neighbor“, offered by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health.