I worked for years for an organisation that helps people rebuild their lives after disasters, so I’ve devoted a fair amount of time to the technical and logistical pieces of this process.
THEN I spent the last couple years rebuilding my own life after my own personal little LifeWreck disaster. That baby really taught me that the technical pieces are just short stretch of the darn long road that is Rebuilding!
I’ve been thinking about the many ways that the folks in Texas and Florida (not to mention the other countries devastated by hurricanes and other crises in the past few weeks) will have to rebuild their lives.
There are so many kinds of ‘rebuilding’. You can rebuild a house, a city, a bone that you’ve broken, a life, your health after a serious illness.
And so many things that can force us into having to rebuild: Hurricanes and earthquakes of course, but also injury, illness, the end of a relationship, selling a home, losing a home, losing a job, the death of a loved one … you likely have others you would name.
What do you have to have to rebuild successfully?
It varies by situation, and participant, of course, but regardless of the specific rebuilding to be done, I’ve found that –
You need TIME.
Houses take a long time to rebuild, and that is a stressful time. Broken relationships can take even longer. Broken bones need to set, and serious illnesses may require long periods of convalescence.
Rebuilding the physical stuff – from infrastructure to bones – is often the easy part in a crisis. It’s the sense of security, and our trust in the future – which we can usually take for granted – that can be most difficult to rebuild.
And, honestly, it takes some time just to become able to rebuild. The water has to recede, the emotional wound has to heal up a bit, your faith has to gain a little strength – before you have the energy to go forward.
Some of these might be physical, some might be emotional. An insurance settlement and a truckload of lumber are important in some types of rebuilding. A mourning process might be necessary in all of them!
Shelter, a hot meal, warm blankets, may be the start of a rebuilding process. In others, counselling, and a support group might be where the rebuilding begins.
Support and security, in my experience, are at the very top of the list of resources you need when life hits you harder than you are prepared for.
You need help.
LifeWreck, regardless of the form it takes, is not the time to go it alone!
For one thing, the much-needed brain power behind all good rebuilding efforts may be completely absent as you start the rebuilding process! Instead, a thick, cold fog invades your brain, and only about ½ the thoughts can make it through the fog at all. FOR AGES.
Whether ‘help’ looks like engineering experts, trained trauma counsellors, a freezer full of casseroles, a neighbour who cuts your lawn or takes the kids to school, or just people around you helping you get through this one hour – that depends on the crisis. But none of them can best be conquered alone.
And you really do need that spark of hope.
If you don’t happen to have that spark left, that’s actually the biggest thing to to regain.
Because if you don’t have hope, all the rest of it is Just. Too. Much. You need to have hope that the future is better and that it is worth the effort.
Rebuilding is an act of hope.
Some people will move away from where their lives have been destroyed, because they don’t have faith for that place anymore, but they do have faith that they can be safe again and that their lives can be good again.
Crisis is not something that you get over, it’s something you work through.
People who are rebuilding are ALWAYS courageous – simply moving forward after life has crashed down around you takes great effort.
They, we, deserve compassion, respect, and support through the process, because they, we, are doing heroes’ work – no matter how quickly we manage it, or how many times we stumble along the road!
Rebuilding is a time to cut people – including ourselves! – a lot of slack, grant them a lot of time, and extend a lot of grace. It’s a good time to change things that didn’t work before. It’s a GREAT time to build community.