Many New Zealanders have first-hand experience of earthquakes and through television have seen the devastation caused by hurricanes, floods, typhoons and tsunamis. The stories that come out of these disasters are similar to the stories I read during my research into parental bereavement for my PhD thesis. First, in terms of reaction, there’s the initial paralysing shock and fear of the future, then there’s struggling to survive, and finally, for most people, there’s rebuilding. In grieving any kind of major disaster it can take a long time to determine how to make life work again in a world that has irrevocably changed.
For many people who experienced the earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011, and the thousands of aftershocks, part of that determining involved talking about what happened. Others felt it was too raw to talk about. Some who didn’t experience the quakes wanted to hear all the details. Others wished people would change the subject. Some tried to educate themselves on the causes and effects of earthquakes. Words outside our normal vocabulary peppered the stories we told each other.