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Hurricane Harvey and Survivor Syndrome

Hurricane Harvey and Survivors Syndrome
Written by Patti Greene

Hurricane Harvey and Survivor Syndrome: Today, I am being completely vulnerable in hopes that my words will encourage someone who has encountered “survivor syndrome” symptoms.

You may have kept hearing, “WE ARE HOUSTON STRONG!” while you sit there thinking, “Maybe Houston is, but I’m not.”

If you have encountered emotional numbness and anxiety during Hurricane Harvey like I have, this newsletter is for you.

Survivor syndrome is defined as, “a characteristic group of symptoms, including recurrent images of death, depression, persistent anxiety, and emotional numbness, occurring in survivors of disaster”—not to be confused with survivor’s guilt which is defined as, “feelings of guilt for having survived a catastrophe in which others died.” ¹

Both these syndromes come in varying degrees. Some dissipate when the disaster is over while other symptoms linger.

What I Have Learned Through Hurricane Harvey

1. I’m not as strong as I thought I was;
2. I stress out easily;
3. I can live for a while on other peoples’ prayers, but it’s not recommended;
4. Too much TV and social media during a crisis are not good for me;
5. Sitting too long hurts my back;
6. Being cooped up in a house for days on days is not cool;
7. Don’t expect me to make rational decisions when I am stressed, and please don’t add to my stress by requiring me to make decisions;
8. I tire more easily in traumatic situations; [More than usual that is.] 9. I should expect palpitations; and
10. I need to become a stronger Christian.

This doesn’t sound like the kind of believer I hoped I would be during this crisis. I’m a little ashamed at my own demeanor during Harvey.

You see, my home did not flood; my roof did not leak; my cars did not get flooded out; I did not walk through waist-high waters; I did not get helicoptered out of my home; I did not have to take my important papers out on a boat; I did not have pets to care for; and I didn’t have to deal with my insurance company or FEMA.

Yes, I did evacuate for a few days due to street flooding and possible higher waters. However, my family could move back home a few days later unscathed.

The news was filled with dramatic rescues in and around Houston—tempered by dramatic losses of all kinds.

Instead of hearing the usual local Houston colloquialisms like . . .

• It’s still under construction;
• It’s close—only 30 minutes away;
• Inside the loop;
• It’s the humidity, not the heat; or
• On the feeder.

I was hearing . . .

• My house is underwater;
• I’ve lost everything;
• I don’t know where to go;
• I don’t have flood insurance;
• Houston combating Harvey looters;
• The bayou has overflowed;
• Harvey continues to bring catastrophic floods;
• The rain is rising; and
• Evacuations are mandatory.

So, What Would I Do Differently or More Intentionally Next Time?

1. Be more prayer-prepared for crisis situations—any kind of crisis! [I need to start today praying for “NEXT TIME.”] 2. Have a preplanned idea of how I can help both others, myself, and our family when the next emergency occurs;
3. Pray and read the Bible more than watching the news and participating in social media;
4. Move around more even if it means walking up and down the stairs;
5. Understand that every person is in a different situation. [I wish I would have recognized early on that my calling during Hurricane Harvey was to care for my 92-year-old mother.] 6. Encourage others to participate in God’s work and validate their calling during times of trauma;
7. Be prepared to share Jesus and His love at every opportunity possible;
8. Recognize that we are all growing in the Lord at different rates and through different circumstances;
9. Give more hope to those facing catastrophic situations;
10. Pray for my church and for other churches to be the hands and feet of Jesus; and
11. Listen to Christian music.

I hope this newsletter touches those who need to hear it. My prayer is that we will all work through this tragedy in a manner that is pleasing to Him. And, that we might grow to become more like Jesus through it all. God uses our circumstances to grow and mature us. Let’s recognize this and be pre-prayed up for the next time.

For my Houstonian friends, we are Houston STRONG! But God is STRONGER! He is great and abundant in strength. His understanding is infinite. He gives us sound wisdom.

And, don’t worry about me. I’m on the road to recovery—Yes, I really am!

Bible Verses:

So, teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

. . . But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)

For this reason, I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” (James 4:13)


Lord Jesus, I love you. Forgive me for areas I have not been as faithful and strong as I should have been. Help me and prepare me for the next time I encounter devastation. You are my rock. I need You always. Thank You for always being by my side. Be with my friends who have lost their homes, possessions, and livelihood. Send Your ministering angels to them. For it is in in the name of Your son Jesus I pray. Amen.

God bless you.

If you would like to receive email notifications of new posts or to receive monthly newsletters, please go to www.GreenePastures.org. If you found this post helpful, please like/share it so others can get the benefit. And, if you’ve experienced similar emotions, I’d love a comment! Thanks.

Books by Patti Greene: Click here.

¹ Dictionary.com. Accessed 5 Sept 2017.

About the author

Patti Greene

Patti Greene is the author of three outstanding devotional prayer journals, Answer Me, Anchor Me, and Awaken Me and a book titled "Christian Caregiving: Practical Advice for a Happy Ending." Patti earned a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University and pursued graduate studies in religious education and library science spending two years as a second-grade teacher. After spending 12 years as a stay-at-home mom, Greene spent 18 more years as a school librarian in St. Louis, Missouri and Houston, Texas. When not writing books or blogs, Greene spends her time caregiving, reading, researching, and hanging out with her family and friends. Patti and her husband have three adult children and five grandchildren. Visit her blog at GreenePastures.org.

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