How Hurricane Ian Survivors Can Find Joy in the Holidays This Year

Surviving such a destructive natural disaster such as Hurricane Ian can leave lasting traumatic effects. It takes hard, emotional work to reconcile the fact that you can still find joy in the holidays after so many people lost so much. 

Throughout the holiday season, feelings of guilt may spike. Remember that you deserve to experience joy despite the destruction of a natural disaster. However, if you are still working to lessen your feelings of survivor’s guilt or grief from surviving Hurricane Ian, please keep reading. 

What is survivor’s guilt? 

Survivor’s guilt is a specific guilt response that occurs when someone else loses something and you do not. This can be especially true when you go through the same event as the people who lost something. For example, your neighbors may have lost their house during Hurricane Ian while yours remained intact. 

You may even feel guilt after experiencing moments of joy. You may feel that it makes you callous or inconsiderate to feel joy after so much destruction and suffering. However, our emotions exist on a spectrum and we can feel joy while still recognizing the weight of a natural disaster.

Survivor’s guilt is generally a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, displaying survivor’s guilt is not a set diagnosis of PTSD, so it is important to let your doctor know if you are experiencing it. This way, you are able to receive effective and necessary treatment. 

How to Find Holiday Joy (and Not Feel Bad About It)

Redefine joy.

Take a moment to redefine what holiday joy looks like to you. Although images of December usually display shiny new toys and the latest tech gadgets all wrapped up with bows, that is not what the holidays are truly about. 

Spending time with family, friends, and other loved ones is bound to create more joy and special holiday memories than any gift may. So, be gentle with yourself if not every gift you would like to give is wrapped up this winter due to the financial consequences of surviving a stage four hurricane. Having your health and good company is what the holidays are truly about.

Practice gratitude.

Feeling grateful for the things you have is much harder when you realize all the things that others do not. There are a few ways you can incorporate gratitude into your everyday routine. At the end of the day, try making a mental list of all the positive things you experienced throughout the day. Additionally, think about telling other people in your life what they mean to you and how special they are. This is a great way to spread good feelings and joy.

Give back to your community.

There is no better time to give back to your community than during the holiday season. Volunteering to help victims of Hurricane Ian will not only help those in need but also your feelings of guilt. Consider reaching out to local soup kitchens or shelters and asking what items they are in need of this season. 

Take care of yourself.

Being overwhelmed with stress from the holidays and managing your feelings of guilt is a recipe for neglecting your needs. You cannot take care of your community and your other loved ones if you are not taking care of yourself. 

Practicing small acts of self-care each day will help your mood and give you the strength to give back. These self-care exercises do not have to be grand, like a spa day, but even a few moments of meditation or exercise will do the trick.

Feeling survivor’s guilt is very real, and taking care of yourself and your loved ones in times like this is so important. If you are experiencing adverse effects, consider reaching out to me for online therapy for grief.