My house burned down- now what?
Dear Mama Jen,
My house burned down….now what do I do?
Step 1- breath in. Step 2- breath out. Step 3- repeat. I am not trying to make light of your loss, but this is a very common coping mechanism for dealing with things that are way over your head. And trying to get a handle on all that you lost is way over your head. It would be way over anyone’s head. There is no shame in feeling helpless or overwhelmed- losing every material posession you own in a the span of a few hours is world altering, and it’s going to take a while for you to adjust and feel like you can cope.
Make sure your immediate needs are being taken care of. Do you have a place to sleep? Do you have clothes on your back and food in your belly? Toiletries and hygene products? If you have friends and/or family offering you a place to crash or some clothes to borrow, now is not the time to decline their hospitality. If you have no one you can turn to, there are many shelters and outreach programs to help- check a phone book for places you can talk to. You may need to swallow some pride and accept help for a while.
After your immediate needs are taken care of, look into the long term needs. Finding a new place to live and replacing home necessities that were lost can be taxing. You may find yourself thinking “but I had all this! It’s like I have to begin at the begining again.” I have no easy way to say this except yes, you do need to start over again. Look at what resources you do have to help you rebuild (friends, family, government/charitable assistance). If you had home-owner’s/renter’s insurance, stay on their case about getting your claim processed so you can get to replacing those basic items you never thought about needing until they were gone.
While you’re working on taking care of your physical needs, your emotions are going to be all over the place. There are 5 stages in dealing with loss and grief- Denial, Anger, Barganing, Depression, and Acceptance. You will pass through all of them at one point or another, and passing through these stages will not necessarily be a smooth transition from one to the next. You may find yourself bouncing from one stage to another, for varrying amounts of time, and sometimes seemingly going backwards. You also might not feel safe or capable. These feeling are all natural, and although it may not seem like it at the time, these feelings will pass. Acknowledge what ever emotion you are feeling, accept it as a valid feeling, and know that you will not feel that way forever.
There is no right or immediate way to heal from losing all your belongings, but healing will happen. Spend time with friends, talk to people who make you feel safe and supported. Take care of yourself as best you can, and when it all seems to be too much to handle, remember: step 1, step 2, step 3.
This letter originally posted to the previous MamaJenAdvice blog.