Healthy grieving after April's deadly tornados

DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - The images of the aftermath of the April 27th tornadoes are disturbing just to look at, so for people who've lived through it, feelings of grief and anxiety can linger for days and even weeks.

Emotional responses like shock, anger, fear and sadness are all normal, but when those feelings don't seem to go away, even months later, that's when a person may need more help than they realize.

"Then, that kind of switches over to what we call post traumatic stress disorder," said Debbie Gibson, a licensed professional counselor with Riverside Counseling and Consulting in Decatur. "That just means the symptoms have not resolved themselves and they may need someone to talk to about it."

Gibson said symptoms include mental and physical responses that many people wouldn't recognize as being aftereffects of the trauma they've experienced.

"Being confused, not being able to make decisions, being forgetful, extremely forgetful, are some of the mental symptoms, and then the physical, what you would probably expect. Not eating or sleeping. Stomachaches, headaches," she said.

Gibson said for those who haven't suffered a huge loss, like the loss of their home or a family member, they can still be dealing with serious forms of grief.

"I tell them your feelings are valid. Just because you didn't experience all of that doesn't mean you're not experiencing some second-hand trauma," she said. "And a lot of people are experiencing survivor's guilt. You know, 'Why was I spared?'"

In children, parents should look for behavioral changes like increased irritability, fear of being alone and withdrawal from others, because Gibson said kids often act out what they can't verbalize.

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