It’s Hurricane Season, Let’s Talk about ‘Staying’

I ran across an article last week when Hurricane Florence was bearing down on the Carolinas about hurricanes and ‘evacuations.’ The title was somewhat provocative, which is probably what caught my eye:

Why Some People Never Evacuate During a Hurricane,

According to a Psychologist

 

It led with a quote by a Rutgers psychology professor, Cara Cuite, “There’s a certain population that’s never going to leave.” That hooked me, and I kept reading because it wasn’t at all what I expected.

It discussed the four main reasons people don’t evacuate before a storm hits, as found in a comprehensive study of people before and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005:

They won’t leave due to disabilities. Physical, mental, financial, these are things that keep people ‘stuck’ with no ready way to leave.

They don’t hear the warnings. In this age of iPhone, texts, social media, and the works that’s hard to believe but very true: a lot of people really don’t get the word in enough time to even consider evacuating. Add that many people are so caught up in personal/work dramas that can include everything from illness to being laid off to being overworked to dealing with kid and school issues and every combination thereof, they miss what’s going on around them until it’s too late.

They have pets. They won’t leave because it would mean abandoning their pets.

The house. They have – emotionally and financially – invested in their house, they simply cannot bear to leave it to its fate alone.

I read this and took a deep breath. Add children to pets and you have a solid list of the reasons people stay in marriages even while warnings are going off all over the place. We all know people who were (or are) in similar positions right now.

Here, though, is where the article really got me. Right under the four reasons people stay was this admonishment, in large, heavy black print: “Don’t be so quick to shame the people who stay.”

It is one thing to observe a situation and quite another to live it. Or, as the head of the study put it, “there’s this mismatch between the way that the event was seen from the outside and the way that the people themselves actually experienced it.”

The article adds that just because someone chose to stay doesn’t mean they weren’t proactive. It didn’t mean they just hoped for the best, it meant they did what they could to cope and get through it.

I find that this is true with clients who have delayed – and delayed – before calling us. Sometimes, like the people who suddenly realize that the storm may be too much and decide to act, they eventually call us to help them figure out the best route out.

Sometimes they call because their spouse acted first, filed for divorce, blindsided them as they coped and had planned on continuing to cope. They discovered they were caught in the storm and looked to us to help get them through it.

Either way, we do so with empathy and experience, and without judgment.

Written by Meghan Freed