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My house burned down- now what?

October 11, 2009

Dear Mama Jen,

My house burned down….now what do I do?

-A

Dear A,

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.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. nkieyack angelina mbunya permalink
    April 4, 2010 1:38 pm

    Hi there i agree with what you say but right now i am at the verge of loosing my degree. I am a student and because of that i cant go on. No money to pay my rents to feed and take care of other expenses. What do i do please i need help.

    • April 4, 2010 1:44 pm

      Talk to you school’s financial advisor. This type of situation is exactly what they’re there for. They will be able to tell you if there is any student scholarships, loans, etc out there to assist you with this sudden change in finances. They should also be able to give you leads on people/organizations that have emergency funding outside of student assistance.

      Good luck.

  2. Jayne permalink
    April 6, 2011 10:01 am

    Lost home last October 13th 2011, the fire spread so fast very old home. No insurance, though I tried to buy and jumped through hoops to get insurance. Up dating ele. Heating, each time making improvements something else came up. Lost three great friends. Hannibal, Helena and Payton. All young German Shepherds. I was able to get three out of the house Lady, Ranger an Misha. My small business of breeding european bloodline has come to an end. No home no barn no money. I tried to get organizations to help with building supply anything. To no avail. Lost everything including hope.

  3. Apocalypse permalink
    June 21, 2012 5:05 pm

    MamaJen your correct on some points but not all, people are asking for specific things they can do being vague about programs is no help, firs of all what you need to do is contact the salvation army they will give you some gift cards to buy close at your local stores, second thing to do is contact local churches they can gather donation money, food, and other needs quickly, third contact goodwill they are there for this kind of thing and can get you used furniture, TV’s, close and also have access to other programs they know of, but the main problem right away is housing I hope you have friends and or family willing to take you in, but in the off chance you don’t homeless shelters and or churches could find you housing for an allotted period of time

  4. jackoff permalink
    September 5, 2012 5:51 pm

    haha suckers!! ^^

  5. Kaila permalink
    April 26, 2013 7:51 pm

    @jackoff – Well, your name is actually quite suiting. This is not a funny situation for anyone. I have just lost my home because some stupid JACKOFF decided to run from the police and crashed right into my house. Just knowing that there are people out there like you that think its funny to say such a thing really urks me. As for everyone else, I am deeply sorry and I hope that from the time of your loss to now, you were able to rebuild your homes as well as your happiness. God Bless.

  6. RealityCheck permalink
    July 3, 2013 11:16 pm

    Nicely done jackoff. You managed to stir up Kaila into thinking you’re something other than av14 year old punk that has no clue.

  7. January 27, 2014 6:28 pm

    mama jen , my rental property burned down and i was wondering if i should hire a licensed property assessor? or just go straight to the general contractor?

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