Uprooted After the Storm - Psychological First Aid. To feel better about anything, find someone that needs love. Then give them yours. Fear prefers we stop loving outwardly. Fear can only grow inside us if we shut others out, refusing to empathize.

Uprooted After the Storm - Psychological First Aid

Uprooted After the Storm - Psychological First Aid

I am not a psychologist. I am a mom, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, and best friend. I’m a professional Floridian. Since 1999. There’s been eight major hurricanes, and another 69 wicked nasty storms without names since 2000. No names are wicked nasty. I’m also a professional Illinoisan from 1963 to 1999. Which puts the tornado experience in my pocket. I’m a rape survivor. I’m also a survivor of an abusive first marriage. Trauma and breaking through to fresh air. I’ve done it a few thousand times. Feeling uprooted after a storm is normal. Knowing a reaction is normal helps. The aftermath of emotions is justified. A truth is yours, and nobody else’s. Take ownership of all the emotions. Why? First Aid only works if you apply it to the wound. You need to inspect the wound to apply first aid properly. 

Uprooted After the Storm - Psychological First Aid is connecting.

What is Psychological First Aid?

  • A sense of safety
  • Calm
  • A sense of self and community efficacy
  • Connectedness
  • Hope

What does a hurricane remove?

  • A sense of safety
  • Calm
  • A sense of self and community efficacy
  • Connectedness
  • Hope

You don't have to be in the storm’s eye to feel these emotions. I’ve been through the eye of a storm, and I’ve been stood up by a hurricane. Ian is the second big named hurricane that stood me up. Charley stood me up in 2004, having turned away, leaving our area high and dry with little wind. Spending a week preparing for the worst, getting your mind and manor set for a disaster, is exhausting. There’s a solid week of time to think through every scenario. That’s also a week of nights to nightmare about those scenarios. You lose all five key PFA principles. The good people of the Fort Myers area didn’t think it was them. One of our neighbors evacuated to Fort Myers. The other side of the same coin. Then it was them. And just about every other Floridian due east, out to the Atlantic and back to the Carolinas. All of us have our own truth. All equally justified. Each is as unique as the mind that reels in it.

How do you apply psychological first aid to yourself, or to someone you love?

  • Look. Be honest with yourself. Be honest with someone else. Look to share a need and fear.
  • Listen. Communication only works when we listen. Listen to your own after affects. Listen to another’s words. Acknowledge them for their truth. There’s no room for judging anyone else. Ever. Storm or no storm.
  • Link. In yourself, that’s called grounding. Look, listen, touch, breath. Reboot your thoughts to the now. For someone else, exchange vulnerability and help. Seek another’s understanding while giving your empathy. Link in that effort to heal.

Psychological First Aid is for field work at disaster sites. The five principles are action items. It isn’t a far stretch to imagine them as a mental exercise for yourself or someone you love. When we were facing Ian and all the promised terror, I texted my parents a lot that week. I phoned them, too. My mother is empathy, strength, humor, and a pragmatic dry martini. She’s got a mental doctorate in empathy. She asked the questions that let me talk about my fear, and then the actions we were taking, as well as decisions we were making. She offered prayer and help if needed. My father, a gentle hug in every word. I talked to my sister, who living just a half hour north of me, was working through the same thoughts. I talked with my son. The funniest empath I know. We laughed, and I forgot doom thoughts. In between family outreach, I have a husband who is also my best friend. We worked together in action and word. He is my all.

After Hurricane Ian took it’s hard right, we waited for that “oh crap” moment inside the cone of uncertainty. Which, if someone could please change that name to the cone of we do not know where this thing is heading uncertainty doesn't even cover it, that would be great. After the storm set course across the state, I found a few hundred friends and followers reaching out via social media, messenger, texts, and emails. I reconnected and re-grounded in their concern and love.

For mental health, I shut down my computers. I blocked out everyone but my family. Be honest about your limits. Your mind is a muscle, and it can only carry so much. I have five additional personal principles I apply, along with Psychological First Aid.


Uprooted After the Storm - Psychological First Aid. Protect your energy.

Kathy’s Principles of Calm

  • We own nothing.
  • There is only now.
  • Losing everything is not the concern. Losing yourself is the concern. I’ve lost everything many times. I’ve lost myself twice. Losing myself was the worst of all of it. I will not lose myself again.
  • Unreasonable expectations grow unreasonable stress. Expect nothing but doing your best.
  • Fear isn’t weakness, it’s chemistry.

To feel better about anything, find someone that needs love. Then give them yours. Fear prefers we stop loving outwardly. Fear can only grow inside us if we shut others out, refusing to empathize. Fear is the harbinger of all things awful. As politicians argue over who gets help and how they get it, we the people should go about our business loving each other. Politicians need fear as much as any storm. I’m not a fan of hurricanes or politicians. They are the same thing, really. 

Here's a few other thoughts on hurricanes and national news - Living with, Through, and After Hurricane Ian

Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.


  • Kathy, thanks for putting all this stuff out there. Your solutions are simple enough to be useful, and the information about the life you bring to current crises helps me understand your relationship to you companion animals and is very like my own, so helps me understand my own relationship to the animals I’ve been family with and close people too.

    susan robinson on

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