We All Have Our Storms: Handling Death, Loss & Stress

October 18, 2013

we-all-have-our-stormsI have a really great memory for some things. Whole evenings escape me but the shattering insecurity of not being allowed to shave my legs in the sixth grade sits alongside First Heartbreak and High School Graduation in the file of important moments in my head. We are on the bus to school, sweating in our uniforms in a Mississippi August, and Morgan and Mary are talking about how much better it feels to have hairless legs and oh my gosh feel how smooth this is. I am not quite twelve years old and I am hopelessly behind on the Judy Blume scale of middle school maturity.

Three months prior, I am not quite twelve and I am on the phone to my grandmother. She is in Poland, sick and small from chemotherapy, and through her old red rotary phone she hears me tell her that I love her for the last time. She dies some hours later and I feel it when she goes; it’s a still silence while I wait in line for carpool at the end of the school day. I have a really great memory for some things, and it’s a timeline of my inability to say goodbye.

But we’re back to August: I am not quite twelve years old and someone’s mother, faceless from what I remember, has stopped me outside our town’s doughnut shop to tell me and my mother that this will be the big one. Earlier in the week, a local weatherman said that we were downgrading to a tropical storm. He wouldn’t have a job to return to on Monday morning. Vonnegut would say, “so it goes.” So it went.

They say that Katrina made landfall in the early morning of August 29th, 2005. For me, it started on August 28th, the Sunday that saw my parents shove what they could into our car and drive our three piece family to Pensacola Beach, Florida. My memory fails me until we get to the bridge to Santa Rosa Island. Only residents are allowed on (we have a condo), the island is being evacuated (we’re running too), anyone who enters is doing so at their own risk (we’ve already left behind what we could afford to lose).

Out of a complex of five buildings with some couple hundred irregular inhabitants and the staff hired on to cater to them, we are alone. A spoken alarm  – something about evacuating immediately – starts late into the night and is loud enough that I am awake to watch the rain start. Our power goes out soon after and we spend our time staring across the bay back to the mainland. Their lights stay on. I am not quite twelve and from the 15th floor I am watching the National Seashore half of Santa Rosa slowly sink into the Gulf. This is a hurricane: hours of becoming an island.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said, “I can’t talk about Hurricane Katrina.” I’ve gotten close a few times in conversations, closer once in a largely unrelated spoken word piece. I tried explaining to my roommate why a documentary we watched for a Natural Hazards class in my second year of college brought me to tears. I talk a lot about not talking about it and it follows that I am asked what makes the simple act of telling so tough.

Before the hurricane, I was a little Catholic school girl. After, I was living away from my parents in suburban Georgia, cursing for the first time and telling lies about who I had been. Katrina literally washed away most evidence that I had ever been small – pictures, videos, toys – and I found myself, finally twelve, picking a new person to be. The past eight years have been my becoming. My childhood is another life, well-lived by a little girl with whom I’ve only recently rediscovered common ground.

I’m studying abroad in London, sitting in a course on Shakespeare, and we are talking about The Tempest. A girl says, “I am really, really confused about that part.” I am too. We all have our storms.

I’m not quite twenty and I’ll be damned if I can’t talk about Katrina.

This post was written by my daughter, who really captured the essence of a person’s emotions in their many varieties ranging from mood (heightened) states to free flowing states.

What is your storm story?

 Photo courtesy of http://www.wkozak.com

25 Comments. Leave new

Elizabeth Scala
October 19, 2013 1:23 pm

Great post, it is so interesting how some memories are so clear. I can remember similar things mentioned here- asking to shave my legs and getting a ‘no’; being rejected in high school on more than one occasion; having my ‘best friends’ in the world betray me (not once, twice, but over three times); etc.

I thank you for sharing how strong emotions can be, but also reminding that it is OK to flow from one space to the next. No emotion will last forever. So when the pain strikes, we can know that it won’t last forever.

I enjoyed your blog and am happy to have found it! I look forward to coming back.


Elizabeth, I like that you evoke “flow” in your comments. I believe that the flow is fundamental to well-lived life. Thanks!

Lily-Ann MacDonald
November 5, 2013 11:31 am

Your daughter has a very bright future as a writer, if she should go that route. This is so well-written and engaging … she’s a natural! Please point me to anything else she’s written.


Thanks. I will contact you privately about/with her writings.

Dawn Howard Weaver
November 5, 2013 1:36 pm

I agree with Lily-Ann, your daughter is a beautiful writer. This shows how memories can evoke such emotion in us even though they are just that – memories. They are no longer happening except as a replay. This can both serve us and stop us. By allowing the feelings and emotions to flow through us I believe it is a service to our well-being. It is an honoring of who we have been and who we are to become. Thank you for sharing.

Dawn Weaver


How wonderful of you to evoke”the flow”of emotions. Once named, identified, understood and honored, they have the supreme ability to inform us about US. That is what I sensed in this post. You got it!

Lyndah Malloy-Glover
November 5, 2013 10:24 pm

Ohmigracious ~
I did not experience Katrina up close and personal. However, after reading your daughter’s beautifully written piece I am there, experiencing it all through her expressive words, the hurricane, her mean time after, and the calm after her personal storm.



Thank you! I am grateful to you for your recognition of the power of her writing and to her for her recognition of the choice to embrace all emotions.

Lyndah Malloy-Glover
November 7, 2013 2:01 pm

I am grateful for having had the experience of her words and I applaud her decision to embrace all of who she is … to feel fully all of her emotions … because they represent the total being and my so doing she remains intact as a being instead fragments of the self … self love/nurturing … yay!


Thanks. Please send me the link to your blog.

Lyndah Malloy-Glover
November 7, 2013 7:24 pm

You are welcome. My blog site is at this address: http://nbalance.net

Renata that was a “WOW” post!

By Lyndah Malloy-Glover (Linkedin)

Carrie Arnold
November 7, 2013 3:08 pm

Thanks for allowing us in to experience this memory from your daughter’s perspective. She weaves a very engaging story and it was an honor to read.


Thank you Carrie.

Milan Dobrota
November 9, 2013 4:00 pm

Wow. I’m sorry to hear how Katrina affected you and your daughter, but the way she depicted her experience was beautiful.


Thanks Milan. Her writing is very poetic. Thanks for taking the time to read it.


Thank you Renata and your daughter for sharing this story. My storm story was more of an earthquake story, “The Northridge Earthquake.” Briefly, my cousin who was like my brother growing up was killed the night before the big earthquake. He was hit a by a drunk driver. Before I got the call that he had passed, I woke up and new he had transitioned. The earthquake the next day reflected what I felt inside, “I needed to release.” The earthquake affected many of my friends who were living in Northridge. In this time of distress, we all came together and supported each other through these disasters.


Thanks for sharing what you could about your storm. I am working on a series of posts about the very issue of emotional releases. I will keep you posted. Please do not hesitate to contact me whenever you wish to.


Most help articles on the web are inaccurate or inecrohent. Not this!

Angela Goodeve
December 2, 2013 2:22 pm

It is these moments, the ones seared into our memory that have the most impact on our life path…thanks to your Daughter for sharing her heart with us Renata! Love Ang 🙂


And we, hopefully, have the freedom to channel these emotions in a way she did rather than anesthesizing them with other things.

Choice of Moving Forward or Being Stuck in Life - Life Moods Coaching
February 22, 2014 8:25 pm

[…] daughter’s apartment was robbed yesterday. She lost all of her electronics, which to a 19-year-old in college, […]

Affection Do's and Don'ts - Life Moods Coaching
May 28, 2014 6:50 pm

[…] is indifference, where a person is ignored or shunned. We seek affection particularly from our family and friends. We also constantly monitor the affection we are receiving as a measure of the status […]

Betsy Kourkounis
June 29, 2015 6:13 am

Renata, great piece! It includes most of what you describe and in such a beautiful way! Kudos to your daughter!

Renata Kulpa
June 29, 2015 10:14 am

Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *