Friday, January 11, 2008

What is the Best Way to Help a Family Impacted by Disaster?

My wife and I have some friends who have been left without a home because of the resent tornados in southwest Missouri. Their home was insured but they are still stressed and face lots of uncertainly.

Members of our Sunday School class jumped in and helped them salvage items from the home. In fact, fellow church members are helping them in a number of ways. But still, my wife and I have wondered, what is the best way to help a family impacted by disaster?

My wife talked to a co-worker who lost her home about years ago and she said, based on her own experience, that the most helpful things after a disaster are: 1) gift cards to stores like Wal-Mart and/or places to eat; and 2) gift baskets cleaning supplies and personal items.

The other keys are giving the family time to grieve and then doing things that help to reduce the stress they are feeling after a storm or disaster.

For example, focus on what is important to the family, delegating some responsibilities to others and keeping a sense of humor.

It is also important for the impacted family to invest in their health by establishing a daily routine, eating well, and sleeping enough hours.

According to research, stress can be reduced if a person first accept disappointments and grieve their losses before moving forward. It is also stress reducing to accept outside help.

"Reduce tension with organization by doing one thing at a time, breaking a demanding project into manageable steps and keeping track of your commitments. It is also important to live in the present and to not dwell on the past or worry about the future," said Jinny Hopp, a human development specialist with MU Extension.

Other stress reducing ideas include letting go of anger in healthy ways (such as physical motion) and celebrating accomplishments as you get back to normal.

For more information on reducing stress, see guide sheet 6651, "Challenges and Choices: Stress Management" online at


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