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I was rudely awakened in the middle of the night.
Behind the blinds, I could see lights flashing. I had no idea what the cause was.
Beneath me, the earth was shaking out of control. I clung to my futon, but soon realized the futility of this act.
When the shaking finally stopped, my first thought was to confirm the state of my sister and my parents.
This is Life Transitions. Welcome to day 11.
Life Transitions Series
Life Transitions, Day 1 (Introduction)
Life Transitions, Day 2: Resistance
Life Transitions, Day 3: Jobs & Careers
Life Transitions, Day 4: Location
Life Transitions, Day 5: Relationships
Life Transitions, Day 6: When the Sandcastle Crumbles
Life Transitions, Day 7: Recovery
Life Transitions, Day 8: Pivots
Life Transitions, Day 9: Injury
Life Transitions, Day 10: Illness
Disaster-Related Life Transitions
Disasters vary in severity, but life transitions generally only occur where a major disaster has occurred.
Major natural disasters don’t strike all the time, nor do they strike everywhere.
That being the case, many of us will never have to go through a transition involving a disaster. Some parts of the world are quite peaceful and serene, while some regions are more prone to certain disasters.
I suppose I should qualify that. Though many of us will witness or learn about a disaster second hand, many of us won’t ever be in the eye of the storm.
That said, disasters can occur suddenly, out of nowhere, with no warning whatsoever. That makes them difficult if not impossible to prepare for. And the aftermath is usually no laughing matter either.
Disasters can wreak all kinds of physical havoc. Sometimes more. Sometimes less.
And they come in many shapes and sizes – typhoons, tornados, floods, earthquakes, mudslides, avalanches, and more.
A disaster may not be the life transition in and of itself. But the aftermath usually is.
After a disaster, you may need to rebuild your home, move, find a new job, recover from injury, and more. In some cases, your entire life may change in a moment.
A disaster-related life transition is like one involving terrorism or even a pandemic in that it usually brings about similar life transitions – sometimes temporary, sometimes more permanent.
As alluded to in the introduction, I survived the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 (in Japan). My parents and my sister did as well (though my sister’s TV nearly fell on her head, so she was lucky there).
It was a seven on the magnitude scale, and it had a widespread impact in the Hanshin area. Google it for yourself and you will see pictures.
Although my family and I were not in the “eye of the storm”, as it were, we were certainly close enough that its influence was felt.
From Kobe (where the earthquake hit), to Takarazuka (where we lived), was only 20km apart.
Either way, the ensuing weeks were rather strange.
First, our phone wouldn’t connect. But eventually we were able to call our family in Canada to let them know we were safe.
Then, our electricity didn’t work. But it eventually came on.
And, when the TV started working, we learned what had happened. The TV reported on the earthquake 24/7 for about a week.
The water had also been shut off, however, so for a week or two, we ended up taking buckets to a local spring to fill them with water (we lived in the mountains).
I didn’t go to school for a week or so either.
And aftershocks continued for a about a month.
But overall, it didn’t take too long for things to go back to normal. Rebuilding, restoration, and construction efforts continued for a long time afterward, mind you.
This did not represent a major life transition for me, my sister, or my dad (at least not immediately). But it probably did for my mom, who feared additional earthquakes.
To be fair, it’s entirely possible the earthquake had something to do with my encounters with anxiety as well.
How to Handle Disaster-Related Transitions
How to handle a disaster depends entirely on what happened and how it affected you.
If you got injured, then you may need to spend time in healing and rehabilitation. And disaster related trauma may require extensive counseling and therapy besides.
If you feel that where you’re living is no longer safe, then you may choose to move.
And you may also end up changing careers, especially if you move.
Basically, many major life transitions can stem from a single disaster. So, this can be an incredibly stressful time. As human beings, we basically aren’t wired to handle that many major transitions at once.
The only way to handle this type of life transition is one step at a time.
If your home was affected, you may need to find a place to stay, even if temporarily. In that moment, it’s not even worth thinking about whether you’ll have a job tomorrow, because your life and safety is more important.
So, finding a place to stay would be your first step.
Step two might be getting necessary supplies like food and toiletries.
Step three might be assisting with disaster relief.
Step four could be seeking out a therapist to deal with the trauma you experienced.
And so on.
As I’ve shared many times before, meditation can be beneficial during this entire process. It can calm your mind, help you dissolve pain, and in some cases, even speed your personal recovery.
But most of all, you must make choices that are congruent for you and your family. After a disaster, it’s not uncommon to reconsider your living situation, which could mean moving.
Be mindful of the changes you’re making. As noted, a little can be a lot, especially after a disaster.
Disaster, Final Thoughts
Every disaster is different. And we all experience it differently, too.
Some end up being heavily impacted. Others in the same city might not be impacted at all.
Disasters aren’t necessarily fair. And oftentimes the only thing you can do about it after the fact is take the lemons and make lemonade.
But that isn’t to marginalize anyone’s experience. Disasters can be frightening.
Have you survived a disaster? How did you handle it?
I look forward to sharing more on life transitions, and if there’s anything you’d like me to share on the topic, let me know.
Leave a comment below.
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