LOUISIANA — Three years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, most notably in Louisiana and Mississippi. The storm left more than 1,800 people dead, thousands more homeless, more than $80 billion in damage, and four-fifths of New Orleans flooded after the city’s levees broke. But the damage didn’t stop there. As Katrina uprooted the lives of many families, the stress of dealing with each other in such circumstances has caused relationships between some couples and their children to unravel — even come apart.
According to a CNN report from August 29, local residents claim that the hurricane’s aftermath has included increased conflict within families, even to the point of domestic violence. The suicide rate is also up in the area. Although Louisiana has not kept specific statistics on Katrina-related divorces, the consensus is that the storm severely affected couples’ relationships.
Pastor Ray Cannata, a Presbyterian minister who took a job at a New Orleans church only a week before the hurricane hit, is now using up more time providing couples counseling than he ever did before. He explained to CNN that the stress of dealing with such a radically changed life causes couples to recognize problems in their marriages that they would otherwise deny. Unfortunately, a lot of people choose to take the easy way out and break up, instead of finding ways to work through it.
“Pre-existing problems that people are able to sort of ignore and work around,” Pastor Cannata told the network, “come to the surface and have to be dealt with.”
In Slidell, Louisiana, one man has had a lot of personal bad luck in the past couple of years — and feels that all of it stems indirectly from Hurricane Katrina. After flooding left their house uninhabitable, Ricky Murray and his family moved to a FEMA trailer. Since then, Murray has had a heart attack (partly because of high stress), lost his job, and lived through strained finances while trying to repair and renovate the home. To top it off, his wife Iris is seriously thinking of divorcing him.
“Everything is unstable,” Iris Murray was quoted as saying by CNN. “The kids aren’t being raised right, because they don’t have the proper space.” The couple has three children.
Her husband told CNN: “I have busted my butt over the past few months just to get this side of the house functioning. I have done everything I can to try to keep my family together, then I had a heart attack… inside the FEMA trailer.” He added, regarding problems with his wife, “Her and I [sic] never argued, never fought, never nothing until this hurricane, until we got cramped in that FEMA trailer.” He compared living in the trailer to being in a “sardine can”.
The Murrays have attempted marital counseling as well as turning to their church. Ricky Murray, who has a Roman Catholic background and doesn’t believe in divorce, says his ultimate goal is to get his family back in their original house and then work through the marital issues with Iris. He told the network that he knows that the Katrina aftermath “has been very hard on her. I am trying to accommodate in every way possible.
“My whole life is my wife and my kids,” he said.
Saving a troubled marriage is always difficult, especially when the relationship has been upset by major external factors. Let’s hope the Murrays can resolve their differences as they pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
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