How some Houstonians are coping with “survivor’s guilt” after Harvey

Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey flow in the Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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While many Houstonians are coping with serious losses after Hurricane Harvey, thousands escaped the storm with little to no damage and may feel more than a twinge of “survivor’s guilt” at their good fortune.

Psychologist Dr. Robert D’Angelo, who specializes in counseling trauma patients, told a local newspaper he does not label the feelings of guilt and shame felt by those who went through the storm with little to no damage as “survivor’s guilt.” However, he does recognize living through such a traumatic event, even from a safe distance through television or social media, can bring up such feelings.

RELATED: Hurricane Harvey shelters face new challenge: evacuee health issues

Dr. D’Angelo also says the act of helping those in need, from volunteering at a shelter to helping a neighbor with their chores, can help those who are looking for ways of coping with their feelings.

“Offering help can be as therapeutic as receiving it,” D’Angelo said.

Some heroic efforts helping others are garnering more media attention than others. The scope of such activities can make those who are unable to accomplish such feats feel like they are contributing less than they can or should. After all, not everyone can pilot a rescue boat or raise $37 million for flood relief.

Travis Miller, a volunteer with Montgomery County Search and Rescue, was one of those who took part in dangerous search-and-rescue missions. He says his actions should not be held in a higher regard than anyone else who tried to help their neighbors through the storm.

RELATED: Professor warns children survivors of Harvey may suffer trauma

“Every effort helps. Recognizing that, and then making an inventory of those efforts has helped me,” he says.

“Draw[ing] attention to the plight of those who might not have a voice instead of trying to invalidate the voices of others. That seems like a much better use of time and energy than shaming.”

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