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Mental Health Tips for Flood Victims

While the experience of being flooded is indeed traumatic, there are many things you can do to help yourself and others regain a positive outlook. Acknowledge that you may go through all the stages of a grieving/loss process –denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These universal stages of any extreme loss are quite normal, and you can find much help by just allowing yourself the time to go through each stage.

Initially, you probably did not have much time to think, but rushed around in survival mode, grabbing things to put in a safe place, or evacuated your home. If you have time to read this, you have made it through the worst. Now, it is time to pace yourself. If you have not found a shelter, or made at least some part of your home livable, this is your first step back to mental health. Make contact with your insurance agent, if you have Flood Insurance. If not, check with the local Red Cross, or community offices to find the nearest help center. If it was a major event, your area will no doubt be covered by FEMA operations, and those people are very professional and helpful. They will see that you have a place to stay, or funds to live elsewhere if you cannot stay at home.

Get cleaned up, get some sleep, and re-group. When you are ready to deal with the mess, brace yourself and get some help. Family and friends, and often volunteers are out there to give support. You will need people who can just clean up, pick up, or make meals for you and take care of young children so that you are free. Indulge in carry-out or delivery pizza. Try to get some time off of work – personal leave or emergency time.

Floodwaters are toxic, and there is often a real threat from displaced animals or reptiles, so children should be kept away, if possible, until their home is restored, and their parents are calm again. This is also true of pets. Worry about the important things first – safety and shelter. Then, deal with the Stuff, ie: material things.

Meanwhile, a bit of philosophy goes a long way. This is not anyone’s fault, and our climate is changing. If you live in a flood zone, this is definitely a learning opportunity. You are not alone! There is much you can do to mitigate future damages. Again, FEMA has excellent resources and advice for your individual situation. We also have many tendencies to clutter our lives with material items. This is Spring Cleaning taken to the limit, ironically speaking. Find all the humor in this soggy situation that you can.

Do not be discouraged. Do one room at a time. Things of quality are usually able to be salvaged, as in good solid-wood furniture, many tools, simple-motor appliances, and hardware as well as household goods. Paper and cloth are more vulnerable, as are many electronics, but you can freeze valuable books or papers, for restoration later. It is important to sort through things and do Triage, or put the worst-damaged or unsalvageable items into one area. Get all the water-soaked rugs, clothes, or upholstered items outside for washing, steam-cleaning or disposal. You may need professionals to do this. Pressure-wash walls and floors, then clean and mop again. Wet-dry shop-vacs are wonderful.

Make a cleaning-center, near a source of fresh water, with several big buckets or tubs to wash smaller things in. Rinse off all the mud, which may take a few dips or scrubbing, then wash off with disinfectant. It is psychologically a good thing to see this happen – mud to clean! White vinegar can be used where bleach may damage things, and the Pinesol-type cleaners or tea-tree oil-based cleaners are excellent to disinfect, and prevent mildew.

Meanwhile, you will need to keep air circulating through your home, with fans, air conditioners or dehumidifiers. It takes time to dry out a home, maybe a week or more. Even your car, lawnmowers, etc. can be salvaged if the water did not go over the dashboard and electronics. Open everything up and dry it out.

Keep a central spot for paperwork, making lists of things you have lost. Then, when you have more time, you can work on the insurance amounts, find receipts for large items, or get estimates for replacement. Insurance policies have various methods of accounting, forms to fill, etc. There is always hope for coverage, or, at least a tax-deduction for major losses.

Above all, keep your spirits up. If no lives were lost, you are ahead of many. If you have lost family, friends, or pets, you need to gather with others and mourn. Then, as an honor to them, you need to get on with your own life and make it better. Look for rainbows and sunny days as healing omens. Nature heals itself. Life will get back to normal, in time, and you will be better prepared for the future. It is a good thing to stop and consider where you live, and possibly make changes. Many cultures live and thrive in flood zones, world-wide. You always have a choice. Your real home is in your heart.

Source of information: Survivor of three floods, maxed-out flood insurance each time.