In the midst of the unthinkable. A phenomenological lifeworld approach to the experiences of suffering and relieved suffering during the tsunami catastrophe, 2004

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Roxberg, Åsa ; Dahlberg, Karin ; Stolt, Carl-Magnus ; Fridlund, Bengt (2010)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being (issn: 1748-2631)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/qhw.v4i1.4997

The aim of this study was to highlight the instantaneous experience of suffering and relieved suffering that was presented on the Swedish Television (SVT) by those who experienced the tsunami wave in Thailand, 26 December 2004. The selected TV-interviews were watched, transcribed and conducted with an empirical phenomenological analysis. A phenomenological lifeworld approach, inspired by the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, was chosen for the theoretical framework. The findings showed three main features: the motion, the stillness and the shift in perspective. The motion comprised both the motion of the wave and the motion it caused the victims in terms of external as well as internal disorder. When the tsunami waves withdrew, it was followed by stillness. The feeling of being unreal was prominent, triggered by lack of information and endless waiting. Another prominent feature was the victims' incapacity to answer "how long" they had suffered before being rescued. The tsunami catastrophe seemed to be a timeless event. Caring for other victims meant a shift in perspective in one's own devastated world to that of another person. The shift between focus and comprehension, contributed to the making of life-saving decisions, for the victims themselves and for other victims. The findings were mainly reflected on from the perspective of the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, for example the experience of time as an embedded and lived now. It was also reflected on from the perspective of the German philosopher Karl Jaspers as a limit-experience and as a fulfilment of love. A suggestion for further research is to investigate how suffering and relieved suffering is experienced and encountered when further time has passed. Key words: Tsunami, catastrophe, suffering, relieved suffering, care, phenomenology, lifeworld
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