About three and a half years ago I wrote the article: ‘Up In Flames’ that can be found at Psychealth.com. It was written shortly after my apartment burned down and shares my experience navigating through that challenging life event. This article is the follow-up.
It took over three years to rebuild my home. I recall the first few weeks as the most difficult, as I was coming to terms with the scope of the loss. As time went on, I discovered lots of silver linings: I got to experience a new community to live in, I got to live in a place with a superb view, and I got to enhance various relationships/connections that led to many memorable experiences. Not having content insurance posed some challenges but slowly but surely i rebuilt my collection of clothes and unique items, with the help and generosity of my family, friends and colleagues. I often say that my place burning down was the best thing to ever happen to me since it sent my life on a new and fruitful trajectory.
The day before I got the keys to my apartment the anticipation and excitement was stifled: I got word that our family cabin outside of Pemberton had burned down. It was likely an electrical fire; the flames destroyed the house, the surrounding outbuildings on our property, and about an acre of forest next door to our property. I experienced a juxtapostion of feelings; there was gratitude and relief that no one was hurt and the flames didn’t spread to our neighbours’ cabins but the shock and uncertainty was dilapidating as i along with each family member tried to grapple with the situation. We had owned the cabin for just under a year but the connection we had to the place was strong and the sense of loss was significant.
As the days went on, I realized that my experience three years ago helped prepare me for this situation as I began to pivot my mind and explore the positives, shifting my focus to the future. I quickly realized though that my family wasn’t on the same page with me and required more time to process the experience. It once again emphasized how critical it is to talk about challenging situations or write or express the feelings in some creative way. Doing so helps settle the emotions down. It enabled me to be there for them, the way they were there for me three years ago. There was nothing specific or special I said while connecting with my family; I just focused and listened. I provided some feedback, based on my prior experience, when the situation warranted it or when input was invited. As the weeks have passed, the sadness has slowly subsided as I have observed each family member slowly making a shift in their minds towards the future.
A few ideas to assist with challenging moments such as this:
- Take the time to process it. Allocate 20 to 30 minutes a day to chat or write. Look at photos; share stories and memories; focus on the way you are feeling.
- make self-care a priority. Get out for a walk, have a good meal, spend time with friends, watch a movie, do some mindfulness, etc.
- Focus on the next steps. what needs to be done to rebuild or get your life back on track?
- Start to explore and highlight the silvers linings. There are always positives! Focus on the moments you are grateful for, no matter how small they may seem.
- If the intense thoughts and feelings persist, seek professional support. How someone reacts to a situation is impacted by his/her perception or beliefs which are developed from biology, genetics, temperament and experiential factors.
I look forward to a year or so down the road when my family feels he excitement I feel right now moving back into my apartment. It’s brand new, feels more sturdy, has better sound proofing, and everything has been upgraded to today’s codes and standards. I have realized first hand that challenges can enhance resiliency. As Viktor Frankl suggested, it’s through those challenges we can find meaning and purpose