Below was my journey to emotional healing following what I experienced during the rescue mission of the Cyclone IDAI tragedy. The cyclone that hit the Eastern Highlands in general and in particular Chimanimani and Chipinge in Zimbabwe. I was there soon after it happened and at one moment thought I was never going to be able to visit the place again as I almost had a nervous breakdown.
I saw first hand the direct effects of the cyclone. Realized how helpless and vulnerable those who where directly affected. I remember even writing to one of my closest friends two days into the rescue mission that the effects were tearing me apart. And was almost regretting why I had even volunteered to be part of the rescue team.
Ngangu village in Chimanimani town one of the places mostly affected a view from above.
Those who have studied trauma of any sort, and healing thereafter did come up correctly describing the process by which healing takes place. Mine was first hand when I was able to heal myself from emotional trauma following the steps below. I have never been able to fully describe and provide a satisfying answer until I travelled back to Chimanimani almost a month after I had left shattered by what I experienced.
While there are as many paths to healing this one pattern of travelling back in time, or just travelling in general is what I discovered in me as something that has helped. It helped me a great deal
during my own healing, and am going to share with you In case it could be of help to someone.
Firstly I was consciously aware that I had been traumatized by the tragedy. This awareness gave me the resolve and strength during the Easter holidays to go back to Chimanimani, and face the space, the people, the sight and recalling all the stories that I had heard from the victims.
Healing is a mystical, undefinable experience that is part of a human being. And my sharing is just an attempt to identify a process that can aid and support any one of you reading this to realize your own path to healing, whatever it may be.
When I went through the trauma during the rescue mission and and got back to work all I wanted was to avoid the news about the tragedy, watching the stories broadcasted on the various channels on TV, to even refusing to go for the arranged psychosocial support which was offered to rescuers by various organizations. Just before embarking on this journey, I became fully “aware” that I was “avoiding” the information about the tragedy because it was indeed an emotionally traumatic experience. This avoidance period became some sort of conditioning preparing me for the next stage.
I realized I needed to confront the situation that had caused me the trauma. That meant only going back to Chimanimani. It was indeed a great relief, when I recognized that I was ready to face and confront the emotional issue. I had a heart to heart with myself as I drove to Manicaland. And even now writing about it, looking at the photos I had managed to take aboard the helicopter flown by my best friend.
Staying with the Emotions
The third stage was staying with my emotions as I flew around the affected areas, participating in the distribution of food and medical supplies to the affected areas and people. Engaging with them once again and realizing how grateful they were to be alive and that we had come to assist them.
It became very overwhelming, and almost forced me to revert back to avoidance, therefore failed to take the real pictures of my encounter. It allowed me to work back towards the strong emotions with a level of caution.
Clarity and Action
As I toured the areas, I discovered a great sense of clarity on what had happened, what I needed to do, and moving forward. I managed to talk about it for the first time with the flight crews, and was absolutely clear about my next course of action. I had indeed arrived at my destination and appreciated the purpose of my travel.
Rusitu river one of the big rivers that swept lives away.
The tea plantations that miraculously survived the cyclone.
The conflux of Nyahode and Rusitu river- Known as Kopa where the worst devastation happened.
The final stage where I derived the name of this post, is the Epiphany- or “aha moment”. Which set everything for me in place. My way of reacting to the tragedy was over. I released all the bottled pain, thoughts, that had lingered on for almost a month. I was no longer worried about going back to the part where I was stuck and asking difficult questions. This stage allowed me to willingly be open and do more emotional healing.
I want to mention however, that this was my own experience and is no way a definition of anyone else’s healing path or experience after the devastating effects of Cyclone IDAI. I hope that my experience will help someone think and deal with their own process.