How to recover emotionally after a disaster

January 19, 2009

By Staff

The American Red Cross continues to provide relief to those affected by recent flooding throughout the state and wants to remind people not to overlook the emotional aspect of recovery.

Disasters are upsetting experiences for everyone involved. Children, senior citizens, people with disabilities and people for whom English is not their first language are especially at risk. 

Children may become afraid and some elderly people may seem disoriented at first. People with disabilities may require additional assistance. It is important to let children and elderly people know that they are safe and that you will help them find a safe place to stay. It is important that you try to talk with them in a calm way.

Some basic steps you can take to meet physical and emotional needs include:

-Try to return to as many of your personal and family routines as possible.

-Get rest and drink plenty of water.

-Limit your exposure to the sights and sounds of disaster, especially on television and the radio, and in newspapers.

-Focus on the positive.

-Recognize your own feelings.

-Reach out and accept help from others.

-Do something you enjoy. Do something as a family that you have all enjoyed in the past.

-Stay connected with your family and/or other support systems.

-Realize that, sometimes, recovery can take time.


Helping pets

If you have pets, try to find and comfort them. A scared animal may react by biting or scratching. Handle animals carefully and calmly. Pets can become upset and react in unusual ways, such as spraying urine, defecating on floors or scratching/biting furnishings. 

Since pets will need regular care and attention to help them calm down, try to leave pets with a family member, friend, veterinarian or boarding facility while you are cleaning up your home. Animals are naturally inquisitive and could get injured if they are brought back to a damaged home.


-Use toys, a blanket or favorite human’s unsoiled clothing to comfort pets.

-Make sure pets are fed their usual diet, and have plenty of water.

-Visit your pets regularly, speak calmly and take some time out to play with them. Doing so can help you in your recovery, as well.


On the Web

Learn more about local Red Cross response, shelter information and flood recovery tips at or

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