A Therapist/Survivor Perspective on:What do I say to a displaced evacuee?

Picking Up the Pieces

Picking Up the Pieces

A Therapist/Survivor Perspective on:  What do I say to a displaced evacuee?

I have as a therapist read a lot in the last weeks around the topic of post traumatic stress.  This is what I have come up with as a survivor.

Many people have asked me what do I say, to an evacuee or displaced person.   There is no reference for such an experience in our lives.

I have come to know that “each person is Unique”, that is what makes life so colorful.  There is no formula but guidelines.

Life is a series of “fortunate” or” unfortunate” events: experiences.  Pending where you are in life, this event or disaster may have put you over the top or you may be able to cope and participate in the clean-up, efforts to re-build is easier for you.

Be mindful that, the “How are you?” question maybe confusing.  In asking, what you are trying to convey is that you are thinking of them, that you care and you will be there for them.

1)      I am thinking of you….I want you to know I am here for you…because they may feel alone…I am checking in with you because I care and if there is anything you need.  Know that I am here for you.

2)      This is not your fault….Punishment or I am being punished is a thought we all have…It is not personal….

3)      Validate their feelings… I see you are sad, give them permission to tell their story.  If you are afraid please do not ask… The event has created a visceral fear response. i.e. losing home, threat of life.

4)      We never consented to this happening. There may be feelings of violation or anger. Thoughts of what have I done to deserve this.  Re affirm you are worthy… of self care: be it counselling, a yoga class, food, love, if that is where you are with that person.


In a nutshell

I am thinking of you.

I am sorry this has happened to you. It is not your fault.  It is not personal.

I am here to help

What do you need?

I love you.


The human condition is a frail one.  It challenges us to be in our hearts and respond in a way that may stretch us.  Embrace the new learning curve for it is new one for evacuees and displaced persons as well.

Remember each personal life is unique and it may not make sense to you but it is re.  Practice non judgement.

Acceptance without understanding is a key.

I accept what has happened to me but do not understand it.  I accept you as you are and I will be there unconditionally in my heart for you.  Do not try to fix it or dismiss it or compare it to others devastation or plight.  I have learned we are all unique.

Life is a dance and an improvisation that challenges us to be present and in the moment in the most beautiful sense of the word.

In Reflection: I thought it was a linear journey but in the intrinsic action of waves we emotionally undulate.

Radio Interview 106.5 Mountain FM July 4, 2013


Permanent link to this article: https://karenbarker.ca/a-therapistsurvivor-perspective-onwhat-do-i-say-to-a-displaced-evacuee/

1 comment

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    • Cathy Robinson on July 3, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    So helpful, provoking and heart rending!
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and courage!

  1. […] our interview Karen shared a letter she received from a Hurricane Katrina survivor.  On her blog, she also shared some tips on what to say to a displaced evacuee.  Read the rest of the entry for […]

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