Just like when the planes hit the twin towers on 9/11, I have been watching the footage from Japan with a sense of disbelief. I can see what happened, but I just can’t believe what I’m seeing.
The scenes of devastation are apocalyptic and the death toll too big to comprehend.
Hard though it might be to watch events unfold in the media, for the people affected, the reality of the disaster will be almost impossible to come to terms with.
When people we love die, it can seem like the end of the world, often for the bereaved, there is an emotional numbness, an inability to take in the news. When realisation does hit, it is often followed by a yearning for that person, which is so strong it is not unusual for it to find a physical expression, such as the widow who reports “seeing” her husband in the street, or a very strong sense that they are physically with them, perhaps just in the other room.
It’s a painful process to work through, and I wonder how a nation, which seems almost literally to have been turned upside down, can come to terms with what they have lost when everything is so different.
As they carry on living, in fear of aftershocks and nuclear explosions, whilst trying to come to terms with the loss of homes, livelihoods and families, it must be like waking up in another world, (or, not waking up from a recurring and vivid nightmare). Nastuko Komura was filmed by the BBC, looking for the horse she lost trying to outrun the tsunami. The landscape was so completely altered that she could not work out where she was “there is nothing here, the things that are supposed to be here, everything is gone” she said, succinctly describing Japan itself.
We are effectively looking at what Emmy Van Deurzen describes as an existential crisis, on a national scale. “When people are shocked out of their ordinary routine into a sudden awareness of their inability to face the realities of living, the clouds start to gather” (2002). Doubtless she was talking about the sort of emotional crisis that brings a client to counselling, but there can be no doubt that the people caught up in this disaster will feel that their ways of making sense of the world, no longer apply. The frailty and boundaries of human life have been starkly highlighted, and the rituals, faiths or beliefs that have sustained the individual through hard times, are suddenly found wanting.
Japan is a developed and stereotypically, an efficient nation; rebuilding the infrastructure, the roads, schools, houses and hospitals will I am sure, be planned and managed. It is the cost to the peoples emotional lives that that will be harder to mend.