In the wake of recent wildfires, floods, and disasters I want to encourage any of you in the midst of these tragedies, or supporting families who are affected by them. You’ve found yourself suddenly thrust into the center of a stage you never wanted to be on—one filled with sadness and hurt. Reflecting on the last ten years since we lost everything in a wildfire and also went through rough medical challenges with family, I’ve gathered some thoughts about how a similar series of losses have helped us in unusual ways. Every crumb of lessons we’ve learned has been helpful in the long run.
I’m not saying it’s healthy to deny the pain of losing everything—rather, with hindsight there’s always lessons learned and I’d like to give you a sense of what’s possible as time passes through a season of difficulty.
Nothing goes to waste
Possibly the most encouraging thought I want share with you is the lessons you learn right now will obviously affect your life but, with an open heart, you may also be garnering strength for others in the future. I never wanted to be a resilience expert. I just wanted to survive. Then, as time passed, and my husband and I observed two different approaches: there were families that thrived and those who were stuck in a pit resentment, never healing. Our mission became clear. We wanted to not stay in “victim” mindset. Slowly, oh so slowly, healing came. Breathing came. Now we share that strength with others who are carving a path through tragedy, hoping to shorten their way. The kindness of so many in the past pushes us to keep reaching out and hoping to help. I’ve used every kind of lesson learned in relating to others one-on-one and even in my fantasy writing and public speaking. People want connection, and this strange experience opens so many doors to attracting those in need of hope.
Prepare to be a receiver
Certainly, we have missed sentimental items especially, but there were unexpected gifts in this process. The reality of suddenly becoming a “receiver” rather than a giver was at first terribly awkward, like stepping into a very cold lake or doing ice skating for the first time. It just felt wrong. But then, we had to admit we needed help. Others were strong when we were weak. We learned so much from this season of receiving. Churches and charities organized meetings to help thousands of people to understand the intricacies of insurance forms and claims processes. Junior League and Mothers of Preschoolers helped me recruit people to sort through our home’s ashes in one long day rather than weeks with just a couple of people. This was huge! Corporations worked with local resources to help give out chairs or home items. Relatives brought us photos and family heirlooms so our kids could touch and feel pieces of our growing up memories and remember those who came before us.
True friends, and new friends will come alongside
We were wowed by many who stood beside us in the tragedies. The strength of friends was amazing. Some were prayer warriors. Others went shopping and helped with detailing miles of insurance spreadsheets with me. Some watched our kids and made my baby giggle, not minding we were wearing borrowed clothing. I’ll be real here—others broke our heart by unexpectedly deserting us or just not being able to face the hard times. Friends of years just faded away. Over time I realized they had too much “stuff” going on in their worlds to partake of our loss. Then there was the great, unexpected kindness of strangers. Again and again! It’s hard to remain hurt and bitter when so many others who didn’t know us brought costumes so our kids could dress up and play, or hosted a kitchen essentials party so I could begin cooking and not eating out so often.
Marriages go through seasons
Our marriage has had great highs and very deep lows. Thankfully, my husband and I were best friends before anything more grew years ago. In facing trials, we learned to make many intentional steps to survive the winter of life repeatedly. You have to work to just stay connected and help one another realize we weren’t defined by the crisis at hand—US still existed outside of sleepless nights, smoky ruins, hospital corridors, and miles of paperwork. I’ve blogged for years about how important beauty is when you are healing from anything. The fresh breeze from the ocean or a field of wildflowers can bring a sprig of joy that holds out a sense of the eternal when life is overrun with darkness. Remembering this is important in keeping your marriage, and family, vital in coming days, months, and years.
There’s an economy of emotions—don’t overspend
Sometimes the “downs” seem more real than the ups and thoughts of being caught permanently in the undertow of loss are very dangerous. I decided the darkest fears were important to put to prayer and then not dwell upon—they were too expensive in the economy of life. Sometimes it was that determination to keep focusing on beauty that helped lift all of us out of doldrums and through the next wave of recovery. Don’t give up—this is a season, not who you are. There’s much more on this throughout my whole website and speaking. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll return to highlighting fun ideas of outings with your family, resilient authors and actors sharing their stories, books and outings for kids, and new resources too.
Were these thoughts helpful? Do you have other hard-earned lessons to share? I’d love your comments below or drop me a line through the Contact section too. If you or a friend is dealing with recovery, check my link HERE for more resources.
On the news front:
I’m accepted into Kathi Lipp’s LEVERAGE speaker’s program next month and am very excited to develop some additional resources for families in recovery. I’d love your good wishes and prayers while we approach the situation in Northern California for open doors to help those communities from a survivor’s perspective. If you know a hospital, corporation, charity, or group that may benefit from a survivor’s perspective, I’d appreciate your help connecting with them as well. Thanks!