By Dr. Judy Kuriansky
A leading American clinical psychologist and post-disaster comfort care expert shares insights from her “emotional first aid” mission in Haiti. See her full story on Beliefnet.
Being able to mourn loved ones is crucial for healing, but in crises like this (as in the tsunami and holocaust), people do not have bodies they can bury or faces they could kiss “goodbye.” Literally thousands of corpses had been scooped up and dumped into piles. One important communal way to honor the dead and bring some semblance of closure are collective mass memorials. One such memorial was held on the site where bodies were piled outside Port-au-Prince on February 1 in Haiti.
When I returned to New York I attended another mass memorial for missing loved ones, at St. Francis of Assisi Church, led by the most dignified and revered Retired Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Francois Wolf Ligonde. He had presided over the iconic Roman Catholic Notre Dame Cathedral in Port-au-Princefor 41 years until the new Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot took over; in the quake, Miot’s body was tragically hurled from a balcony and retrieved from ruins at the cathedral grounds. Archbishop Ligonde reassured the assembled mourners that the quake was an act of nature and that belief in God will salve the wounded souls of the living and the dead. After the service, he told me that he himself had lost everything in the quake, and suffered deep sadness, but he was bolstered by his faith in God.
The retired archbishop echoed the strength of the Haitian priests with whom I stayed in Haiti, such as Father Quesnel Alphonse who prayed day and night with the parishioners. They, and so many of the people I met in Haiti, lived from a determined sense of faith in God as the basis of their hope.
Above: Photo of Dr. Judy Kurianksy observing the damages and emotional needs in Haiti. See more of Dr. Judy’s photos from Haiti.