You Lost Your Home, but You’re Still Standing
When you move, you feel a loss with leaving your home. You take a walk around every room and remember family dinners, new babies, waking up on Saturday morning in your PJ’s and curled up on your favorite chair. None of us can imagine the horror of leaving our home unexpectedly to save our life. But that’s what happened to thousands in the recent storms that hit the Houston, Texas area.
It didn’t happen without warning. Most Houstonians heard the forecast, and most prepared because it’s part of the weather you deal with every day in Houston. However, no one could imagine a storm with the strength and pattern Hurricane Harvey thrust upon us. As a longtime resident of Houston, I can assure you, I have never seen anything like it and it continues to feel surreal.
If you’re one of the people living in Houston, you may feel a sense of relief that you weren’t hit. But you also may feel what thousands feel who survived - a need to help those who lost their homes and risked their life leaving. If you’re trying to help someone as they grieve, it’s important to remember that they will heal faster if you listen and let them talk about it. They won’t get over it, and they won’t ever return to their “normal” self. However, they can return to a more insightful, understanding, and grateful self if you’re willing to be present, listen, and show love instead of talking at them.
A monumental loss, such as a flooded home, is experienced in stages. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages that are most commonly experienced after a catastrophic loss. In each stage listed below, I mention what the person may feel like and what you can do to help:
Denial. Initially, most people told themselves they’d be okay. They had family and plenty of food. Upon rescue, people are grateful to simply have their lives and may be in denial about the amount of loss they suffered.
HELPER’S ROLE: Reassure them that no one could have predicted the severity of the storm. Reassure them that hindsight is easier, and it’s about what they do with the situation now that will mean the most in their recovery.
Anger. This stage comes and goes and is completely normal as the recovery continues. Why isn’t more being done to help us? How will we make it through? You begin blaming others because of your fear. You want to have some sense of control when you feel out of control.
HELPER’S ROLE: Allow them to talk about their anger. Do not judge them as being ungrateful.
Bargaining. As you begin dealing with your anger, you begin making more bargains. This stage is commonly expressed by praying for God to help you, but if God doesn’t work fast enough it fuels your anger again.
HELPER’S ROLE: Reassure them that you’re praying with them. Then turn your focus to what the two of you can do together that will help.
Depression. This stage is the most difficult when you’re experiencing it. It goes on and on, and the stress you feel is overwhelming. If extended long enough, you may feel like you don’t even care.
HELPERS ROLE: Remind them that you are there, and be present. Become a routine in their life so they can count on you to be there for them. Keep your word and be as consistent as possible. They need to know you are the real thing.
Acceptance. Eventually your feelings of sadness, grief, and overwhelming stress will be accepted. From here, you may begin to see a light. It may not last long, and it may change to anger again, but that’s okay. In this case, it’s normal to feel sad, mad, and accepting all in the same day.
HELPER’S ROLE: Take small steps with them. When they get overwhelmed, remind them how far they’ve come and what a good job they’re doing. This is the stage to encourage and remind them of their strength.
There is a catastrophic loss in Texas right now, and that means an incredible opportunity for everyone to reach out, connect, and be part of the healing.