Green Cross Newsletter January 2012
2011… Whew, what a year… floods, hurricanes, earthquakes in areas that NEVER have earthquakes, tornados that destroy entire communities, snowstorms that shut down cities, unprecedented triple digit heat and fires ravaging almost an entire state. Damages reported at an estimated $35 billion dollars in the US and still counting.
I have a colleague, a seasoned Emergency Manager, who was in Emmitsburg Maryland when the “they never happen here” earthquake hit the Eastern Seaboard. He was with a group of at least 20 other city, county and state Emergency Managers from around the US taking a class from the best Emergency Management instructors in the country.
Boy , these guys will know what to do in an emergency, right??? Wrong. The way my friend tells the story, when the building started to shake, they all looked at each other, went to the windows to look out (didn’t Drop, Cover and Hold as recommended or stay away from the windows), and eventually went outside. They pulled out their cell phones…. And were THEY surprised when they didn’t have any service! This only happens to other people, not them! They struggled to know how to communicate with their families or their coworkers in other parts of the country to let them know they were alright.
We can take a lesson from them… no matter who we are… Mental Health Professionals, trained Traumatologists, Social Service providers … when a disaster or emergency happens; we need to have prepared for it BEFORE it happens. Our families will be our priority, our home will be a concern, our friends and co- workers will then be next on our list.
WE are not immune to disasters. We may see ourselves as someone who works with those who are impacted but we also are vulnerable in our own homes, families and communities. Being prepared means we will have fewer things to worry about when the wind blows, the water rises, the earth shakes or the temperature rises to dangerous levels. Being prepared, at least, will make the event less chaotic and may actually save the life of someone we care about.
Simple steps can make a big difference. Talk to your family about your own Family Communication Plan. How will you reach everyone to let them know you are OK or to find out how they are? The experts recommend that each family designate an Out of Area Contact person and that every family member have a card with that trusted person’s phone number on it so they can call that central “hub” to give and get information. During a disaster we can more easily call outside an area than we can within it. Text messages will sometimes get through when nothing else will. And think about how you are going to charge that cell phone if the power is out for an extended period of time!
Stock up on water and food to last at least 3 days in case you can’t get to the grocery store. If you have young children at home, or elderly, or pets, have extra supplies they might need on hand.
Your family sees you as invincible, always there; always ready to step up to help. They depend on you. Make sure you are prepared so that you can take care of them first and then take care of others … your clients, your coworkers, your customers.
Who knows what 2012 will bring, but if we are each prepared for disasters in our own families and communities, we will better be able to serve others.
International Board President
Dr. Dan Casey, CT, Exec. Director, GCAT: Report of Happenings for 2011 01-12-12
We started the year with – 190 members, we ended the year 2011 with 366, and monetarily end the year with a credit in the Balance sheet! The membership increase has to do with more training offered, people interested in deploying, and membership renewals.
We had many happenings this year that proved propitious to GCAT, among them we have been asked to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding with World vision, and started the paperwork trail for an agreement with the National EDS office of the Salvation Army. The World Vision requests us to be the agency that responds to any crisis incident with and for them in the Central U.S. The MOU, based on our present active MOUs with the Humane Society of the U. S, and the Salvation Army Northern Division, has been drafted and offered. We await the return of the MOU from Michael Hageneur of World Vision.
We have been in contact with all active and inactive GCAT training sites, to assure them we are working with and for them, and to see what we can do to assist them in their endeavors.
We have had two of the sites ask to be removed from our data base, and one that is transferring their training site to another entity in their state. The last entity that has asked to be considered as a certified training site is in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia .
We were in full deployment status for Japan after the Earthquake etc, but did not deploy.
We deployed into Minot ND, under contract, with the Salvation Army during the summer, for a number of weeks, supplying Compassion Fatigue and Psychological First Aid services. Our deploying teams were small, due to the shortage of housing available, but very well received, and we received honorable mention by the FEMA overhead personnel that our people worked with.
Over the past year, we (2 long term training sites, GCAT Board Members, and GCAT officials) have been discussing the possible implementation of the CERTIFIED MASTER TRAUMATOLOGIST (CMT) Certification.
This certification was first identified and outlined in the official minutes of Green Cross meetings, and in the by-laws, in 2001, but we find no evidence that it was activated.
We are working with data from 1999 and on, so are updating titles and acronyms to meet present certification and ratings.
We will be opening this certification application early in 2012. In a Nutshell, anyone wishing to apply for certification at this level, must be an active member of GCAT, be currently certified as a Certified Traumatologist (CT), and meet a number of other professional criteria, including:
1. Recognition as an outstanding leader in the field of Traumatology; i.e., identifying deployment activities over the years in various incidents and capacities,
2. Certification, Experience, and hands on use of at least three of the GCAT approved trauma treatments, (EMDR, TIR, CBT, Hypnosis/VKD, EFT, TFT)
3. Proof of 40 hours in high level crisis intervention techniques from recognized institutions.,
4. Documentation of 60 hours of Continuing Professional Education training in trauma related topic areas from approved providers.
5. Licensure in a mental health Field, (SW, Counselor, etc,)
This Certification will have an initial cost for consideration of certification, and will be re-certified every 3 years, with proof of a number of hours of ongoing trainings, and active GCAT membership.
Featured Site: ROCKY MOUNTAIN TRAUMATOLOGY INSTITUTE
Dr. Jay Martin, LMFT, CT, CFS, CEAP, Director
RMTI began in 1999 as the Crisis Intervention Institute and later became the Oklahoma Traumatology Institute. It was founded by FBI Chaplin Joe B. Williams who coordinated the chaplaincy services onsite after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, for which he won the FBI Director’s Award. As a result of his work onsite and for years afterward, many people received various kinds of assistance including mental health services. Having been a referral source of his for several years already, I had the privilege of providing outpatient counseling services to some forty of those impacted.
I became a member of Green Cross in 1998, having met Charles Figley at the AAMFT conference in Dallas. I had just returned from a deployment to Nairobi, Kenya following the bombing of the American Embassy there. I, along with Joe and others, completed the certification process provided by Green Cross and became a Certified Traumatologist, Compassion Fatigue Specialist and Certified Instructor over the next eighteen months. I was asked by Joe to be the primary trainer for OTI and began leading field traumatology & compassion fatigue workshops in Oklahoma City.
I was deployed to Manhattan as a team leader with Green Cross the last week of September, 2001. That experience, coupled with Joe’s two-year deployment to New York, resulted in my becoming co-director and leading crisis intervention workshops and numerous training events in New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina and Washington, D.C in 2002 & 2003. I was also instrumental in facilitating the Green Cross deployment to Miami to work with the Haitian community impacted by and responding to the disaster in Haiti and spent ten days working with our incident commanders, Dan & Mary, in January, 2010.
Over the past twelve years I’ve had the privilege of leading workshops with and doing presentations to most of the professional disciplines providing services to those who are traumatized. These include the entire spectrum of mental health professionals plus physicians, nurses, school administrators/counselor/ nurses, ministers, missionaries, hospital/hospice/military chaplains, university faculty and staff, emergency medical service personnel, law enforcement, graduate students, child welfare workers, funeral directors, oncology specialists and employee assistance professionals among others.
I’ve been especially gratified to lead workshops in seven U.S. cities for Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, Inc. which adopted our field traumatology course as required training for their volunteers to participate in the Nazarene Disaster Response program. I’ve also had the privilege of leading field traumatology workshops for Marine, Navy and Air Force chaplains at Camp Lejeune and near Shaw Air Force Base, plus several workshops with a wide range of professionals in two provinces of Canada.
I have vacationed in the Rocky Mountains for over twenty years and have longed to live here since I was a young adult. With profound gratitude I am now living my dream, having moved from Oklahoma City to the Colorado Springs area last summer. With the support of my long-time friend, Joe Williams, and the approval of Green Cross, the Institute was relocated here and renamed in 2010.
The past year has been both thrilling and challenging as we’ve invested our energies in the tasks of completing our relocation and becoming established in Colorado Springs. I am serving as an affiliate faculty member in the graduate programs of counseling at Regis University while maintaining a part-time private practice, mostly with returning veterans from Fort Carson and personnel from the other four military bases in the area.
RMTI has just been activated with the intent of providing field traumatology and compassion fatigue educator workshops this fall. The decision about other educational offerings is on hold until further assessment of the area’s needs has been completed.
The website rmtico.com has a list of presentations that have been done, with others to be developed and added in the near future. Some of the more unique ones include Ethical Issues in Post- Disaster Deployment, Trauma & Spirituality, Coping with Personal Disasters While Caring for Others and PTSD: A Factor in Cancer Treatment. Our standard educational offerings include the courses leading to all of the certifications available through GCAT.
My affiliation with Green Cross and the Traumatology Institute has been a series of incredibly rewarding experiences. I am especially grateful for the wealth of skills and commitment that Dan & Mary bring to GCAT and count it a privilege to work with them.
Delivering a Death Message
By: Donna Evans
SupportLink is an organization that works with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Queensland and Victoria Police Services. Their primary work with police is to provide a central referral gateway to external agencies. SupportLink also delivers Critical Incident Support on a 24/7 basis with police and Ambulance Services within the Australian Capitol Territory (ACT). Staff consist of experienced social workers, case workers and counsellors who possess a comprehensive understanding of the environments police and ambulance officers work within.
Providing critical incident support commonly involves sharing the responsibility with police when tasked with delivering a death message. SupportLink will also assist families with identification of the deceased and other support needs.
The following article is designed to provide some general ideas and useful strategies to assist police when faced with the task of delivering a death message. This information will highlight what an important part of the job it is and when done with compassion, care and consideration there will be positive long lasting effects on bereaved people.
When you sign up to become a NSW Police Force (NSWPF) officer you might expect a roller coaster of deferent experiences. Paper-work, variety, more than likely some action, and every day will be deferent. The range of jobs you are assigned will be broad, and there will be many challenges. It is an integral part of policing that you will be required to deal with the unexpected on a regular basis. This includes the responsibility of police to deliver death messages. On an ordinary day it may be you knocking on the door of an ordinary house in an ordinary street to tell the people inside that someone they know, someone they love, has died. Could anything in a classroom, lecture-theatre or textbook truly prepare you for this?
Some questions that might come to your mind as you prepare for this task are as follows:
– Who will be at home?
– How are they going to react?
– What questions will they ask?
– Should we tell them and just go, or stay a while?
– Will they want us to stay?
– Will they have support or people they can call?
– What if they cause harm to themselves or others?
– Are there language, cultural or spiritual challenges?
– How will this affect me?
This list could go on… there are many things to consider.
Certainly, receiving a death notification is a poignant moment in someone’s life. Bereaved people often refer to this as a turning point – life before this moment and life after receiving the news. (Lord and Stewart 2008)
It is important – family and friends will always remember receiving a death notification. They may not recall all the details but most will always remember the way in which they were told. (Lord and Stewart 2008)
When delivering a death message there are a number of issues to consider:
– introducing yourself
– preparation statements
– the details
– after the death message
Introduce yourself in an informal way, try to communicate in an empathetic manner. Inform the person/s of your name and where you are from prior to asking permission to enter the house. It is important at that point to identify the adult next-of-kin by asking “Are you the parents of [use name]?” Never use past tense such as “Were you the parents…”
If children are present, it is important to talk with adults first in a private part of the house or even outside. Ideally, someone else should stay with the child or children. Reactions following unexpected news can vary, so be prepared. You do not know how the person is going to react. At anytime the bereaved may become highly emotional, or have an intense verbal or physical reaction. This could be additionally traumatic, particularly for young children.
Before delivering a death message, it can be useful to develop a preparation statement. (McEwen 2008). This should include a brief account of why you are there, without great detail because the family may be highly anxious and not able to process everything that is said. A short lead in can give the family a moment to prepare for the information ahead.
An example of information included in a preparation statement is as follows.
‘This afternoon at 4pm we received a call to attend a car accident in Brown St, it was a really bad accident and when we arrived David was unconscious, the paramedics did everything they could to revive him.’
The details of the death should be simple, direct and delivered with warmth and compassion (Lord 1997; Stewart 1999). It’s important to take your time and link the preparation statement to the details. For example: “I’m really sorry to tell you that the news I have is not good”, a few seconds prepares the family for the information ahead “although every attempt was made to save David, it was unsuccessful and he has died”.
If the death is the result of suicide use the words “has died as a result of suicide” or “taken his/her own life”.
Never use “has completed suicide” or “successful suicide”.
The words “has died” should be used instead of “passed away” or “passed on”, “is no longer with us” or “we lost him”. The shock of the situation can make it difficult for family members to understand what is being said. They may still be hoping that everything is all right. Being clear, yet caring and supportive is extremely important.
You may tell the family you “are sorry” about what has happened (Lord and Stewart 2008). It lets them know that you genuinely care. It is beneficial for the person delivering the message to say these words.
After the death message?
After delivering the death message, sitting in silence is incredibly important. This may be for a few moments or a long period of time. An individual or family may need time to process what they have just been told. Filling this silence with information or words is unnecessary and invasive during such a traumatic time. It is possibly one of the most valuable skills you can acquire, the ability to sit comfortably in silence with a grieving individual or family.
More information is often required by the individual or family as they begin to ask questions, to try to put the pieces together and make sense out of what they have just been told. Your role is to provide honest and clear responses, although you may not have all the answers. Simply inform the person/s, “I don’t have that information right now, but I will do my best to find out for you”.
You may be expected to tell children or other family members what has happened. Talk with the adult first about the child or children’s experiences and understanding of death and ask their thoughts about what they want the children to be told. In some cases adults will want to tell children what has happened. It might be that the bereaved may be unable to find the words to explain to the child or children what has happened. If you do need to deliver the news to a child or children it is preferable that an adult is present.
Regardless of who tells them, it is always preferable that children are told the truth (Lord and Stewart, 2008) This should be done in a simple and straightforward way and questions answered as clearly as possible. Parents may appreciate your guidance in this area.
Younger children may be confused by some of the everyday expressions that people use when someone dies, so it’s best to keep language simple and direct. Saying that someone has “died” or is “dead” gives a child a comprehensible explanation which should help them to understand what has happened.
Language we may use with the best intentions could confuse a child. Consider that you are a young child and you are told that: “We’ve lost your mother” or “Your mother has gone”. Wouldn’t you wonder why no one was out looking for your mother? Wouldn’t you be afraid that no one would be looking for you if you got lost?
Suppose you were told that “Grandma has gone to sleep” or “passed away in her sleep”. Wouldn’t you be afraid to fall asleep? “God has taken her” or “she’s gone to a better place” are difficult expressions for a child to really understand what has occurred.
It may be that you sit with the child and their parent/guardian to let them know that you have come to tell their mother (father etc) some very sad news, and simply that [using the persons name] has died today.
Children do not need to be told information they have not specifically asked about. However if they feel they don’t have answers to their questions they may fill in the gaps from what they overhear, what their friends tell them or their own assumptions, which may be incorrect. Parent/ guardians should always be encouraged to be honest with children and seek advice and support from others when they find this difficult.
Based from the findings of a survey conducted with bereaved people (Lord 1997) the following are communication tips for delivering death messages.
Communication Tips What you should say:
– I’m really sorry (simple, direct, validating).
– This is harder than most people think (validates reactions and may encourage people to seek support).
– People can experience many different feelings all at the same time (validates the flood of sometimes conflicting reactions and emotions).
– This is one of the most difficult times in your life.
– Is there anything you would like to ask me?
– Is there anything you would like me to do for you?
– Can I contact someone for you before I leave?
What you should not say:
- I know how you feel (you don’t).
– Time heals all wounds (it doesn’t).
– You need to be strong (they don’t, not right now).
– He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time (trite).
– You must go on with your life (they will, the best way they can, but they don’t need to be told this right now).
– You don’t need to know that (yes they do, or they wouldn’t have asked).
– You don’t want to see him (people are very good judges of what they can and cannot handle when given time to consider all options).
– I can’t tell you that (If you can’t answer a question, explain why and tell the family when they can expect an answer).
– It must have been her time (you don’t know that).
– You’ve got to take control of yourself (no reason).
Suicide or long suffering – phrases to avoid:
– He/she is better o”.
– She/he has gone to a better place.
– Maybe it was for the best.
Most importantly never use the word ‘closure’. The death of a loved one will always have a long lasting effect on a family. It is both unrealistic and can be disrespectful to imply otherwise. People never ‘get over’ the death of a love one. In time they learn to integrate the loss into their lives, but the future will never be as they had planned and this adjustment takes time.
After the death message is delivered and the family has had time to ask questions and gather their thoughts, there is an opportunity to help the family decide what next (Lord and Stewart 2008). Useful questions at this stage include asking the family if there is someone who could come over and be with them. Ask the family, “is there anyone you would like me to notify?”. Leave a contact number with the family and invite them to call if they have any questions.
Delivering a death message may be particularly difficult for you if you relate to the family, maybe one of them reminds you of someone you know. The deceased might be the same age as one of your children. Maybe a grief reaction was unexpected etc. All these things can add an additional level of complexity and should be acknowledged. Know what support is available for you, both within your job and in your personal life and access it when needed. Similarly, it’s important not to measure your reactions against anyone else. We are all different with distinctive life stories and journeys, and as such we are all affected by different things in different ways. That’s what makes us unique individuals.
Many studies and conversations with bereaved families have highlighted the importance of the way and manner in which a death message is delivered. Consider the following:
‘If death notifications are delivered with care and compassion, the process can actually help the surviving family members to begin to grieve and make sense of the death. When death notifications are awkwardly delivered or poorly timed, when they convey wrong or contradictory information, or are made in a manner that survivors find cold or unsupportive, they add to the pain and trauma the family must endure.’ (Stewart and Lord, 2008)
Delivering a death message is an opportunity to help individuals and family members at possibly the most difficult time of their lives. The way in which you undertake this task has the potential to have long lasting effects on families and their unique experiences of grief. There may even be a level of job satisfaction, as you walk away knowing you did the best you possibly could in a traumatic situation.
If you have any questions about this article or the subject please contact:
Phone: 02 6243 3663
Donna Evans Quality Assurance Manager
About the Author
Donna Evans is a founding member of SupportLink. Since it’s inception in 1997, Donna has played an integral part in the development and national expansion of the service. Donna has been instrumental in the area of critical incident support surrounding suicides and motor vehicle fatalities.
Research & Development
“I’ll never forget those words” A Practical Guide to Death Notification Janice Lord & Alan Stewart Compassion Books Inc. 2008
“Bereavement after Suicide” Survivors share their experiences Edited by Margaret Appleby OAM & George McLean PhD Rose education 2002
GCAT Joining BVOAD
Dear Site Directors,
We have a wonderful opportunity to take Green Cross to another level … but we need your help to make it happen.
We have been working to position Green Cross as a member of National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD). When we become a member it will open many doors including giving us access into resources and deployments through FEMA and other agencies. And it will give YOU increased visibility and connections into your own community to help highlight your trainings and other services.
There are several criteria to join NVOAD and we meet them all except one… we have to be members of at least 5 state VOADS. As far as we know, we are currently active members in 2 state level groups… Washington State and Minnesota VOADs.
For some time we have been considering making VOAD membership a condition of remaining an Accredited Site with Green Cross but have not finalized a decision yet. There are so many benefits to you being a member and it certainly is a benefit to the larger Green Cross organization.
We are asking you to voluntarily join your State VOAD and represent Green Cross and your own Accredited Site. Each state has their own membership process so we ask that you go to www.nvoad.org and look up your state, contact the state representative to get the details. Many states charge a nominal membership fee, and we are asking that you pay that from your own Accredited Site funds. If this presents a great difficulty, please contact me personally and we will see what might be done. The membership fee for Green Cross into the National VOAD is $1500 and on our shoestring, that will be tough in itself but we feel it will be well worth it. Our Administrative office will help fill out the state application if you need it.
The benefits far outweigh the costs. We will fill you in on the deployment and other aspects of membership once we get more involved.
Please let me know if we can count on you! Email me at my personal email… firstname.lastname@example.org and let Dan at the Executive office in MN know when and that you have joined, please.
Thanks for all you do!
International Board President,
Green Cross Academy of Traumatology
Capella University Focus Group Invitation
Green Cross Members,
My name is Brian Jackson, a doctoral student at Capella University and a member of GCAT. This letter has been published on my behalf, with the permission of Dan Casey, the Executive Director of GCAT. I am preparing research into the field of pastoral counseling and the perception of the professional counselor and the pastor. I would like to invite you to participate in the focus group study that will assess five research questions to be used in the study. Your participation will not expose you to any harm, nor any subsequent calls, but will allow you to share in the insights revealed by the focus group.
This focus group, which will consist of ten individuals of varying backgrounds and skills sets to be determined, is being conducted online on January 26th. It will take approximately 1 hour and will examine the research questions that I am proposing to use in my study. Your responses will be handled carefully and confidentially and the results from this focus group will not be sold.
In recognition of your time, I will provide the first ten individuals who actively participate in the focus group with a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate, which will be delivered via email and will provide you a copy of the results of the focus group. If you are interested in participation in this focus group, please send an email to email@example.com. You will receive an email with instructions as to how to join the focus group that will take place online, on January 26th. You may also receive another email to remind you about the event as the time approaches.
If you have any questions, please email us at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or call
Thank you for your participation,
Brian Jackson, Doctoral Student Capella University – The Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Coping With Loss
By: Maureen Chilko
It’s been a month since we lost you, a horrible month.
I guess I’m one of the lucky ones – I’m sneaking up on the half century mark and I’ve not lost a parent nor a close friend in all that time. This has been a new and terrible experience for me. I lost you…… we all lost you. Lost is such an odd word to use here, it implies that I simply misplaced you and need only find you to rectify the situation…… if only it was that easy to set this right. I don’t dare compare my loss to that of your mother, Kevin, the children ….. but it still hurt me to the core of my being.
I am not religious, all the power to those who are and please, no offense meant at all. Having laid the ground work for this piece of it, I am not a believer. I have no God from whom to seek comfort nor at whose feet to lay blame. I have had people tell me that you’ve gone onto a better place, he had plans for you…… hey buddy, know what……the “better place” for Sue was right here with her family and friends. Growing old with Kevin and watching the kids grow up.
Strangely enough, I have managed being angry at someone whose existence I do not acknowledge. Neat trick? The only way I can rationalize it is this: on the off chance he actually does exist, I want him to know that I’m mad; he did a very bad thing. No getting off the hook for lack of my own personal belief. I’ve been wrong about a thing or two in this lifetime and if this is one of them, I’m just covering all the bases here. If there was some misguided deity at work here, I’m registering an official complaint. As I stated earlier, no disrespect intended to those who believe.
I have always trusted in a sort of karmic universal justice…… do good and good things happen (eventually), do bad and bad things happen. That’s clearly not the case. There is no system of inherent reward or consequence, deeds do not equal outcome. I’m told that the lesson to take away from this will free me up in a way I could never have expected…… to tackle life with abandon without worrying so much about the results. When you realize that what you do or fail to do does not affect the outcome significantly, that life as we know it is all but completely out of our control, there is a degree of freedom to be gained. Bitch of a way to learn a lesson.
I didn’t tell you goodbye, I staunchly refused to utter those words. What I did tell you was that I would meet you in “the dark and twisty place”. You had a legendarily outrageous, wicked sense of humor and we shared that…… honed to a fine, sharp edge. There were too many times when we were at meeting or training session and something ridiculous would happen, we couldn’t even look at each other. We both knew what was going on in each others’ heads and making eye contact would have quickly dissolved the situation into tearful laughter. Not to say it didn’t happen more than a few times, but we occasionally tried to maintain some level of decorum. That being said, I think we failed more often than we succeeded; there was always some potential mayhem just under the surface. So, I told you that I loved you and that I would meet you in “the dark and twisty place”. And, I told you it was okay to go. We all told you that in the end, no one fought a more courageous battle but when the loss was conceded and only suffering left in its’ place, none of us wanted you to suffer a second more. You were given 18 months and we lost you in a brutal 9 week blur, the universe owes you roughly 16 months by my math…… so where do we apply for that refund?? That being said, those of us who spent some of your final hours with you would not ask you back to endure a moment’s worth of pain.
The truth is good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. Scratch that…… horrible, tragic things happen to amazing people……they get taken out by stray bullets, drunk drivers, natural disasters…… and ripped out of our lives by brutal diseases. I quit asking why early on, I knew that no explanation could justify this. Couldn’t imagine one single reason that would make sense of your death…… there simply isn’t one and nothing will ever change that….. so I quit banging my head against that particular wall of injustice early on.
The first few weeks have come and gone and it still sucks. I spent the first couple of weeks walking around with an aching brick in my chest where my heart once resided. I was sad, tired, angry and at least 4 other dwarves. Sleep was evasive and shallow and offered no substantial escape. It was like functioning in a fog. Friends told me it would lift but since it had occurred to me that it would lift and reveal your absence, I wasn’t all that interested in that happening. It was suffocating but protective. In all of that I knew that my pain paled in comparison to that of your mother, Kevin and the kids. I feel cheated; I wanted more…… more shared laughter, more sarcastic comebacks, more Sue.
Silly, random things happen and I immediately want to share them with you……takes a couple of moments to remember you’re not there. And then something amazing happened…… something terribly funny happened, something that you would have found hysterical…… and I could hear your laughter bouncing around in my head. I can’t go into details here – it would implicate someone who ought best remain nameless. You were with me and my head was full of your laughter and I knew that somehow, as horrible as this had all been, you were still with me. I can only hope that I will never lose that.
I’m going to stop in and see Kevin this week. I was planning on going over sooner but found myself putting it off. Some piece of my heart secretly imagines you tucked safely in Erin, that you are still there and this has all been a horrible mistake. Like waking from a nightmare, the door will open and it will be you standing there. Ah, self-delusion is a wonderful gift. I hold fast to that particular delusion – I haven’t heard from you in a while, you’ve been busy with work and Christmas, just like the rest of the world. Reality dictates that I steel myself for the fact that you are not going to answer that door, you are not going to be curled up on the loveseat and I will have to accept the final truth – you are simply not there.
So, life goes on…… because it must…… and we all find a way to move forward with this new reality. We pick up the pieces, rearrange them and rebuild…… because there simply is no other option.
Once upon a time, I had an amazing friend named Sue…… all that remains is the laughter in my head…… maybe that’s not the worst legacy in the world……
All my love
PS – meet you in the dark and twisty place
Non-Traditional First Responders and Volunteers: Protecting a Valuable Resource
By Mary Hedges, IAEM Conference Staff
Emergency managers and behavioral health practitioners are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of disasters on non-traditional first responders and volunteers. The Hurricane Katrina experience was quite revealing in this regard, where people responded and then faded back into their communities, often bringing the impact of the trauma with them.
Who Is a Bon-Traditional First Responder?
Mary Schoenfeldt, Public Education Coordinator for the Everett Office of Emergency Management, provided a good overview of the issue and how to help prevent long-term consequences for these volunteers. She opened her presentation by posing the question to audience members, “Who is a non-traditional first responder?” Answers ranged from “someone who shows up without training” to “survivors of an incident.” All were correct – a nontraditional first responder is a person who just happens to be at the scene following an incident. One of the central messages communicated during this interactive session was that the nontraditional responders must not be forgotten afterward. They are subject to the possibility of posttraumatic stress issues similar to their better prepared and trained counterparts.
Proactive Volunteers and Reactive Volunteers
There are proactive volunteers who have researched, planned and undergone training. There are also reactive volunteers, who are spontaneous, and generally without any preparation or training. Many of the reactive volunteers bring emotional baggage with them and can be there for a variety of reasons. They include helpers, returners (to the scene), the anxious (looking for family/ friends), the curious, fans/ supporters and, unfortunately, exploiters. Regardless of the type of volunteer, they need to be cared for afterward, as they will be candidates for “compassion fatigue.”
Practical Advice on Supporting First Responders/ Volunteers
The session provided good insight and practical advice on how to support non-traditional first responders and volunteers. A few tips for caring for proactive volunteers include:
– instructing them not to self deploy;
– assuring they are trained beforehand;
– insisting they do not try to do something beyond their skills; and
– ensuring their team leader sets the tone for taking breaks.
For reactive volunteers, it is important to have a volunteer reception center, particularly in a large event of some duration. This will assist helpers in connecting with others immediately, as well as enable pre-screening and registration on scene. It also facilitates a procedure for demobilization and linking folks with resources after the event.
Post Action Staff Support (PASS), a mechanism for connecting the volunteers with a broader organization when they return home, should be built into every disaster plan. One important reason people volunteer in disaster situations is because it can help individuals move from the victim mode to a feeling of empowerment. We need to ensure that their feelings of empowerment do not become despair once the event has ended.
Bews From Trauma Resolution Center, Inc.
By: Teresa Descilo
Traumatic Incident Reduction has passed a rigorous review and so will be included in the National Registry for Evidence-based Practices and Programs!! Trauma-Informed, Trauma-Specific Care &Trauma-Informed Avoidance In Miami, there is a great push toward ensuring that all human service delivery systems become trauma-informed. Here are the definitions for trauma-informed care and trauma-specific interventions taken from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Website:
What is Trauma-Informed Care?
Most individuals seeking public behavioral health services and many other public services, such as homeless and domestic violence services, have histories of physical and sexual abuse and other types of traumainducing experiences. These experiences often lead to mental health and co-occurring disorders such as chronic health conditions, substance abuse, eating disorders, and HIV/ AIDS, as well as contact with the criminal justice system.
When a human service program takes the step to become traumainformed, every part of its organization, management, and service delivery system is assessed and potentially modified to include a basic understanding of how trauma affects the life of an individual seeking services. Trauma-informed organizations, programs, and services are based on an understanding of the vulnerabilities or triggers of trauma survivors that traditional service delivery approaches may exacerbate, so that these services and programs can be more supportive and avoid re-traumatization.
What are Trauma-Specific Interventions?
Trauma-specific interventions are designed specifically to address the consequences of trauma in the individual and to facilitate healing. Treatment programs generally recognize the following:
• The survivor’s need to be respected, informed, connected, and hopeful regarding their own recovery
• The interrelation between trauma and symptoms of trauma (e.g., substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety) The need to work in a collaborative way with survivors, family and friends of the survivor, and other human services agencies in a manner that will empower survivors and consumers.
Ultimately, someone who has completely healed from their trauma will be able to tell her story without any mental or physiological trigger occurring. While most people will be able to experience this level of resolution and healing, there are some people who will not be able to tell or remember their trauma stories. However, for the vast majority, it is very important to learn an approach that truly resolves the impact of trauma. It is also important that we avoid becoming experts at ‘trauma-informed’ avoidance! Common ‘wisdom’ has held that therapists should not allow clients to recount their trauma stories for fear of retraumatizing them. It is true that a skill-set is required to resolve trauma, but the human spirit is resilient and capable of healing itself.
This work is very fulfilling to deliver… the clinicians at the Trauma Resolution Center all glow with ‘compassion satisfaction’!