Saturday, July 13, 2013


Suggestions from someone who lost her home to fire - and experienced the staggering generosity of community.
Message, text or email them your love and concern. Crisis can be so isolating, and hearing that others know what's going on and that they care is wonderful. But keep it simple: "I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm so glad you are alive." There really isn't much else to say.

Listen. Everyone is going to have a unique response to this terrible event. After our fire it seemed I was constantly out of step with the prescribed narrative. When people thought I should despair, I was hopeful. When others assumed things were looking up, I was tanking. Your friend, who (if in Colorado Springs) is surrounded by so many others going through this same tragedy, will need someone to simply listen to how it is for her or him.

Send a check. This is one of the most helpful things you can do. Your friends are going to be spending money every which way, and insurance can take a while to process, even if everything goes smoothly.

Send a gift certificate. Everyone in our family is a reader, so we were given many gift certificates to bookstores. Our books were one of the first things we wanted to replace. You could send a certificate to a favorite restaurant or a grocery store.

Give clothes or home items. Be really thoughtful here. If they were insured, your friends will be provided with the household basics and might not be ready to sort through a lot of stuff.

Make a meal or bring groceries. Your friends are probably exhausted and struggling on many levels. Even if they are staying with people temporarily, this could help their hosts.
If you're local, run a needed errand. When I went on my first shopping trip after the fire to buy a pair of sandals, my local mall didn't have the style I wanted, but the mall on the other side of town did. I wasn't able to take the time to drive that far, but a friend found out, bought them and delivered them right to me. It meant so much.

Focus on the children. If kids are involved, it's complicated. Losing everything is especially devastating for them; their belongings mean so much. If you can, figure out a game or toy a child is missing particularly and get that to him or her right away. You will have done a great thing for the entire family.

Consider taking the long view. The process after a fire is long. You may want to check in throughout the rebuild and do any of the above a few months down the road when they may need it most.