Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Facing the Fire

Shortly after getting the call from my mom telling me our house was burning down, I did was any person living in the 21st century would do: I googled "what to do when your house burns down." Yep. Thankfully, it took me to a blog called Life After The Fire written by a woman named Brooke, who began her blog after her house burned in 2008. She was able to put things into words in a way I cannot, so I'm including some excerpts from several of her blogs and will attach a link to her blog at the end if you want to read more.
Brooke- wherever you are, I hope you don't mind my quoting you! Your blog has been a tremendous help to me and I am grateful to have stumbled upon it. 

  •  First and foremost, watch what you say. But please say something. "I am SO sorry. What can I do to help?" is always a very safe bet. Avoid phrases like, "At least you're ok" (because they probably aren't) or "It's just stuff" (because it probably wasn't).  [Amy here- in addition to this, please don't say, "at least your whole family is safe." Burying 2 of our cats, without knowledge of the third, does not feel like our whole family being safe. We lost precious members of our family. I am beyond thankful my parents and brother are safe, as well as the dogs (and duck) but we are allowed to mourn our deep losses. Also, hearing "I know exactly what you're going through," ... not helpful. I promise, unless you've lost your home like this, it's impossible to relate.]
  • I have done a lot of shopping in the last few weeks. I'm not happy to have new things, even if they were things that I have wanted for a couple of years. Instead, I am just really bummed that I even have to do this. There is nothing comforting about shopping to replace the items you have lost. Many of the things I had are no longer sold. Not only can I not replace those items, but I don't have a way to determine the replacement cost for insurance.

  • Now we have a new normal, although it still doesn't feel right. It is returning to normal, but it is still not what I planned. I come home and sort through piles of donated clothes. I go to the store to buy the things I need and try not to break down over losing simple things like a spatula. It used to seem fun to be able to go out and buy all new things. That is a delusion... especially when you are buying it to replace everything you lost. 

  • In moments of tragedy, you learn to say, "I'm sorry," if you can't say anything else. [Really, sometimes less is more.]

  • We need space to grieve as well. And I hope that space is filled with the love and comfort that most of this community seems so willing to provide. As for those who can't understand, know that in your time of need, this community will still come through for you. They will stand alongside you, grieve with you, and then lift you back up. [There will be bad days for us- please be patient and realize we won't always be our old, normal selves.]

  • I do not feel like a victim. Our home was the victim of a fire. I was a homeowner who lost my past... and to some degree my sense of peace and security. I look at a candle and think, "Will I ever be able to burn a candle in my house?" My husband hears the A/C making funny noises in the hotel and turns it off because he is worried about fire. But even with those losses and the emotional toll this week has taken, I am not a victim. I believe there are things that I can control, foremost amongst them being my attitude. As long as I can do that, no act or circumstance can MAKE me suffer.

  • This week has been really hard. I am starting to see the toll this is taking on me emotionally. Like I said yesterday, I was surprised by how angry I was when I started talking about our loss. I've cried more this week than I have since the first week. The grief cycle isn't linear. There are moments of acceptance, moments of anger, moments of incredible denial.

  • I see this experience as a path that is forever unfolding. I will continue to learn and grow from it likely for the rest of my life. I cannot judge myself based on one day or one week. It's ok to have low moments. As Mandela said, "The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." I will rise from this experience. And I will be better for it. And it's ok if I don't always enjoy the ride.

  • I know that I am strong.
    I am learning it's ok to be weak.
    I know that I have (literally) a community of support.
    I am learning it's ok to ask for help.
    I know that our house will be beautiful.
    I am learning that it often takes patience and time before we can see the beauty.
    I know that I will come out at the other end of this a better person. I know. I wish that I didn't have to go through this. I wish that I could hand this burden off to someone else. But I also believe that this is not a mistake. That I was meant to walk this path. I know that I will learn the lessons I was meant to learn. I am learning.

That's enough of Brooke's wise words today... I hope this helps shed some light on our world right now. 

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