Loss, Chaos, Survival, and Despair: The Storm after the Storms
The US Gulf Coast experienced catastrophic damage when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita made landfall in August and September of 2005. This chapter is based on narrative data obtained from directly affected coastal residents of south Louisiana in a mixed method study on post-disaster recovery conducted between 2010 and 2012. We focus here on the challenges participants faced in the aftermath of the storms, highlighting experiences they recounted after having lost property, homes, and communities in the 2005 hurricanes. Three themes emerged from qualitative analysis of the interview narratives, which present a somber and miserable experience in the aftermath of disaster. The themes include: (1) “I Don’t Want to Lose another Friend”: A Loss of More than Material Possessions, (2) “No Coping, Just Surviving”: Chaos and the Crushing Burden of Survival, and (3) “[Katrina] made me a Weaker Person”: Anguish and Despair after the Storms. These themes are presented with supportive excerpts and reflections from participants’ first-hand accounts. Implications for adjustment after disaster and future research on grief related to post-disaster losses are considered.
KeywordsHurricanes Katrina and Rita Natural disaster Disaster mental health Posttraumatic stress Complicated grief Long-term recovery Qualitative research
We are grateful to Sr. Mary Keefe and Fr. John Arnone of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Violet, LA, and Gayle Buckley, Judy Chiappetta, and Catherine Serpas for their assistance with recruitment. We thank Susan McNeil of the St. Bernard Council on Aging and Sean Warner of the Gulf Coast Trust Bank in St. Bernard for providing space for interviews. We thank Kelli Broome, Susan Brigman, Ashley Cacamo, Pamela Nezat, and Mary Beth Tamor for their help with data collection and Robert Pressley, Penni Fontenot, Sarah Finney, Lauren Edwards, Allison Kennedy, Amy Goff, and Graham Belou for their assistance with transcriptions. We also thank Bethany Pinkston, Sarah Hebert, Savannah Ballard, Trevor Johnson, and Brandon Cohen for assistance with qualitative analyses.
This research was supported by grants from the Louisiana Board of Regents and the BP Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, Office of Research and Economic Development, Louisiana State University. This support is gratefully acknowledged.
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