Images of the half-mile wide EF-5 tornado that went through portions of Oklahoma on Monday and the trail of destruction it left behind can be disturbing to watch. And, as in the case of other recent tragedies, such as hurricane Sandy, the Newtown massacre and the Boston Marathon bombing, our hearts yearn for everyone involved to find comfort and peace, along with any needed provisions.
Perhaps we recognize familiar sentiments from these words of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah when he wrote in the book of Lamentations¹ about devastation:
- “Oh, oh, oh…”
- “How empty the city, once teeming with people.”
- “…I weep, weep buckets of tears…”
As the news unfolds on our televisions, the internet and everywhere we look, it’s worth noting that viewing large quantities of graphic images of a traumatic event increases fear and stress. And, these emotions have been found to have a negative impact on health. They may also make it harder to recover in cases like this.
For example, research² has found that:
- Adults who lost family or friends in the 1980 Mount St. Helens tragedy reported that watching news coverage of the tragedy made it harder to recover;
- Watching more bomb-related news from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing resulted in more Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms for children;
- Watching 12 or more hours of anniversary news coverage of the 9/11 attack in 2001 was “associated with a 3.4-fold increased risk of new-onset probable PTSD”.
From news reports, it seems apparent that the people affected in Oklahoma have gained a stronger connection with one another, as well as with people who have gone through similar experiences. Churches in nearby Oklahoma City opened their doors to residents of Moore, OK needing shelter.
Spirituality includes feeling connected, either with a higher power or with one another. Feeling a connection with a higher power – the divine – has been found beneficial for health outcomes. Feeling connection, caring and love also brings comfort.
President Barack Obama told the Oklahoma people, “You will not travel that path [to recovery] alone. Your country will travel it with you, fueled by our faith in the Almighty and our faith in one another.”
It appears that Jeremiah, too, eventually felt a comforting connection with the divine, as seen in these later writings³ of his:
- “I called out your name, O God… You said, ‘It’s going to be all right’.”
- “I’ll turn things around… I’ll compassionately come in and rebuild homes…”
- “Things will get better…”
- “I’ve never quit loving you and never will.”
According to an LA Times report, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said, “We will rebuild and we will regain our strength.” And they’ll have help. For example, KSHB-TV in Kansas City, Missouri reported that the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas expects to send at least 1,000 volunteers to help with reconstruction.
Things will get better!