Saturday, June 27, 2015
What Do You Do When You Lose Everything?
I've been asking myself this question each and every day for the last 19 days. Whether my family thinks about it, this is the question in the back of their minds too. Loss is a devastating thing and no matter how many times you go through loss it's just never the same. So I guess you can just sit back, be a fly on the wall, as I curl up and ask this question out loud. I may sometimes talk to you, sometimes to myself and sometimes to God as I find my answers.
On June 8th, 19 days ago, my family lost our home to a fire. It totally destroyed what I have always called the "boys room" even though two of the three "boys" in that room are grown men. (23 and 25) All of their possessions, clothes, books, trinkets, valuables... all gone.... turned into ash. The girls room blackened severely with soot. Things close to the ceiling were burned, things on shelves were melted and everything else permeated with soot and the stench of smoke. Their dance clothes destroyed. The smell of burnt wood, plastic and vinyl permeates everything. In the living room old VHS tapes are warped and/or melted from the heat as are DVDs. The TV is destroyed. It's frame is warped and the front is torn and melted. In my bedroom the heat actually evaporated water out of the water bed and damaged (hopefully didn't destroy) the dresser that used to belong to my husband's grandmother. Everything is blackened throughout as if you walked into utter darkness. The only light coming in is what you bring with you or the light coming in through opened or broken windows.
It is a devastating thing to lose everything, to lose your home and belongings. I have to remember, it happens to people other than us probably just about everyday... so what do you do when you lose everything???
First off, I need to take a breath. It'll be alright. God has never left us. He's never abandoned us and he won't abandon us now. It's time to remind myself of all that God has done, of his faithfulness. It's time to encourage myself in the Lord.
I need to give myself and others grace. Losing everything is like having a death in the family. We all deal with it, we all grieve that death differently and not on anyone else's timetable. Even as God, through people, bless us with better than we lost, it doesn't stop the grieving. It doesn't change the fact that what we had was suddenly and irrevocably taken from us. I need to remember that others don't know how we are feeling at any given time and they are only trying to help even if they say the "wrong" thing at the "wrong time." I need to give them grace.
I need to take things slow. Don't make any sudden decisions. Sudden decisions are usually the ones you regret because they're made in the midst of all the pressure and uncertainty. Don't let emotions make decisions as emotions change from moment to moment especially in these situations. We have time to sort these things out.
Don't let others pressure me into getting rid of the damaged stuff without looking through it. If I let others pressure me to just throw everything away, I may decide later that something was worth trying to salvage after the fact and the emotions of feeling pushed to get rid of everything now will haunt me. That would set me up with the temptation to be angry with them and they only intend to help.
Be humble. Being used to doing for others and not asking others for help can set up a prideful arrogance of self-sufficiency. That is not helpful in this situation. With humble thanksgiving ask for what is needed and show your thankfulness for all that others do for you. Remember that the good that you have done for others over the years is like a plant and this may be your harvest time.
Remember that our safety, security and comfort comes not in a home but in the Lord. Don't let the situation, the loss, the emotions undermine your relationship with God. While a home can give you comfort and a sense of safety and security, lean on the fact that it truly is God and God alone who is those things for us and to us.
Give myself permission to have good days and enjoy myself. Sometimes you can feel guilty because of thoughts you've had or conversations you've had that almost make it sound like you're glad bad things happened. You're allowed to enjoy yourself, to be thankful, to have fun. Losing everything doesn't take away your right to be happy. You need to get away from those who think you are supposed to be sad all the time.
Make sure not to over-do it and don't skip meals. Rest is necessary to deal with the emotional, mental and physical stress of losing everything. You will be no good for your family, who is also dealing with the loss nor yourself. Stress has a bad way of messing with your health and rest is your secret weapon. Just as rest is necessary to deal with the stress of the situation so is eating well-balanced meals. Your body needs proper nourishment now more than ever.
Find a balance between taking time for yourself and being with others. You need some time alone to think but don't isolate yourself. Find the right balance. Time alone with your own thoughts is good and necessary but too much time alone can be very detrimental.
Support each other. Remember in the midst of all you are feeling, good, bad and otherwise, that you are not the only one who needs support. Sometimes, the best thing to do is help someone else. Your spouse, your children, your family --- they all need support. This time, more than any other, you need to become a tighter knit family. While you need to think of yourself, you do not need to center totally on yourself to the exclusion of everyone else. This helps no one but does start building walls between everyone as each person feels that no one cares about them. As you support others you will find you are getting the support you need.