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Emotional support available for those affected by Cedar Rapids flood

Residents struggling with 2008 flashbacks

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CEDAR RAPIDS — More than eight years after the Cedar Rapids flood of 2008 destroyed their home and many of their belongings, Gary and Lynn Stansbery continue to cope with the loss.

This past week hasn’t been easy, as the flood of 2016 has renewed their feelings of stress and anxiety.

“At our age, you don’t want that kind of stress,” said Gary, 71, noting the most recent flood event brought back the feeling of a lack of control as the couple waited to find out if they would lose everything again. “I can see where somebody with PTSD would struggle. That’s kind of what we’ve got.

“I think we both have (symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder) when they talk about flooding or high water.”

Luckily, the Stansbery’s home in the 1500 block of Eighth Street NW in the Time Check neighborhood, was untouched by floodwaters this time, a stark contrast to eight years ago when water nearly reached the second floor.

“They let us back in after about five days” in 2008, Gary said. “It was a mess. ... There were a lot of tears for a while.”

Over the next six months, the couple rebuilt their home of 21 years. The process was especially hard on Lynn, 67, whose parents previously owned the home.

As the waters of the Cedar River rose this past week, the couple said there were plenty more tears.

‘Give Yourself a Break’

That’s not surprising to Peter Teahen, an American Red Cross spokesman and one those who spoke almost every day at the city’s morning news conferences from the Ice Arena during this year’s flooding.

Residents and city crews have been working long hours on adrenaline, with little sleep and upended schedules, Teahen said Thursday. Cleanup is only beginning, which means stress levels could remain high for a while.

“We end up thinking sometimes we’re the only one who can do (a task),” he said. “Give yourself a break.”

Teahen worked for the Red Cross in Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks, in Haiti after its 2014 earthquake and along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, among other disasters.

Feelings of anxiety as the city recovers from the second-worst flood in history, are normal, Teahen said. He’s heard many people say they feel as if they’re reliving the 2008 flood and they’re having physical responses to that stress, such as headaches and nausea.

“All these feelings are normal responses to an abnormal event. They just have to embrace these feelings and say, ‘I’m not going crazy,’” he said. “When (people) don’t feel safe, the emotional stress climbs dramatically.”

He noted it’s important to accept help, eat healthy food, rest sore muscles and get plenty of sleep. And seeking help should not be embarrassing, Teahen said.

“It’s just that you spent your energy, and it’s time to regenerate and get strong again so you can help even more,” he said.

WHERE TO SEEK HELP

Area organizations are providing counseling for those in need.

Mount Mercy University’s Olson Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic, 1650 Matterhorn Dr. NE, is offering free counseling services for victims of the flood from noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Appointments can be made by calling (319) 368-6493.

Although the clinic has not received many calls yet, Dr. Jacob Christenson, the clinic’s director, said this past Thursday, they do expect more as cleanup continues.

Foundation 2, a crisis intervention organization in Cedar Rapids, provides a crisis hotline at (319) 362-2174. It also provides counseling services and can travel to disaster areas to provide therapy.

Elisabeth Kissling, development and marketing director for Foundation 2, said it’s important to get help whenever those whom still might be displaced by the flood may need it.

“People are really stressed about going through this again,” Kissling said. “They might just be focusing on what it takes right now. No matter what point you need help, that’s OK.

“There’s no normal response for people.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8516; makayla.tendall@thegazette.com

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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