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Sept. 14, 2005
CONTACT: Carol Anderson
734.487.4400
Carol.Anderson@emich.edu

EMU expert says recognizing uniqueness of disaster is key response to helping children cope with loss

YPSILANTI - If anyone knows what the survivors of Hurricane Katrina are experiencing, it would be Eastern Michigan University’s Tana Bridge, assistant professor in the school of social work.

Bridge consults with organizations specific to loss and grief in children and teens, and helps individuals and families work through trauma. She recently was named Trauma and Loss Consultant of the Year by the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children

“The reality of trauma and loss is very apparent to professionals who work with individuals of national disasters including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina," said Bridge, a resident of Canton. “It is most important to recognize that Hurricane Katrina is unique. Families were not only exposed to a horrific act of nature, but also are struggling with huge loss and great uncertainty.

“Basic needs come first and they (displaced people) also need to know that not being able to sleep or being afraid is a normal response to an abnormal situation,” said Bridge, who recently spoke with local families and volunteers who have family members affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Many people feel immobilized by the degree of tragedy, she said. However, it is an unbelievable opportunity for everyone, including children, to learn how to take their concern for others and turn it into action. Bridge suggests helping the survivors by:

  • Allowing for routine and predictability, especially for young children. They need to know that they are safe and that their needs will be met. Scheduled activities, such as sleep time and meals, are critical.
  • Encouraging self care. Alcohol or drug use will negatively impact one’s ability to cope.
  • Listening. With children, asking questions and listening may alert you to fears that can be addressed. With teens, recognize that making sense and expressing thoughts and feelings are necessary, yet difficult.
  • Restricting continual exposure, especially for young children. Children need honest explanations; however, many of the stories and visuals on the television may increase their fear.
  • Helping restore energy. Assist the survivors by completing a task for them (laundry, driving them to a meeting, watching or tutoring a child). Help them identify resources needed to begin rebuilding.
  • Recognizing when extra support is needed. Nightmares, flashbacks and fears are normal,;

however, if trauma symptoms continue more than six to eight weeks, seek professional help.

Bridge teaches EMU students critical skills in supporting people during their most challenging times.

Before joining EMU in 1993, Bridge was a treatment coordinator and family therapist for Boysville of Michigan. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Eastern Michigan University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan.

The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children provides direct services to traumatized children and families, and offers trauma education, training, consultation, referral services and trauma-specific intervention programs and materials.

Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.

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Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.

Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.


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