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How to Recover from Tragedy when you have Lost Everything: an Essay.

Let’s face it, total destruction can feel pretty painful. Depending on the type of person you are it can (to some) feel like the complete end of the world. But let us consider first what the “Good Book” says: “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth”.

Since the beginning of time thousands of folks have gone through the same thing. Sometimes tens of thousands in one fell swoop through massive natural or man-made destructions that leave no one unscathed; earthquakes, war, tsunamis wiping out entire cities, volcanoes, floods like Katrina, etc.

First comes the shock of devastation and this can take days or weeks to get over, but no doubt the loss of all things can leave one feeling empty.

I too have had total loss. Loss of a child at a young age, loss of pets, family, friends, loved ones. I’ve lost 5 houses in one fell swoop in the housing crash a dozen years ago. The funny thing about this all is that each time some tragedy and loss comes, I personally find it makes me stronger and I look on the bright side if I can… it could have been worse! Many have it far worse than me.

I guess I have been fortunate in one aspect; that I have bought, fixed and sold a lot of homes in my life. Over 25… I just really cannot count them. I did learn to not fall in love with a house, it’s just a house. I have purchased a few thousand dollars or so worth of used goods for each house; art, furniture at consignment stores, etc. It really does not take a lot of money to furnish a house nicely these days. If I really needed to I think I could do it for $1,000-$1,500 being selective and doing all these homes, living in them for a few months at a time till sold off… I realized it’s just a house. Stuff comes and stuff goes.

Nothing is stable in this life. Change comes often and often does so furiously.

We cannot see too clearly because we are so carnal and stuck in this space/time continuum, but God sees and I can attest that there have been times that things have hit me hard and later… sometimes years later… I see myself in a new situation and then all of a sudden it hits me. If such-and-such did not happen to me, I would have never done X or moved to X. I would never have had this fresh new blessing or experience. This has happened to me many times.

So, if you have been hit by destruction realize that it’s not the end of your life. Life does not consist of some abundance of things that we possess. Things can seriously weigh us down at times.

If Ralph Potts can write his book “Vagabonding”, taking the minimalist approach to life to the extreme, but also with extreme satisfaction and joy in it, and thousands of others can follow in these steps (consider the “tiny house” freedom movement), we can deal with less too!

But let’s say that you just have to have a place to live; a new place. Being on the street is not an option. How is the following then?

#1 Go to family and friends and community and share your story and ask for help. Asking is hard, it can be humbling but people have an amazing way of “stepping up” to help others in times of trouble. You might be surprised at what can come.

#2 There is also an online way of starting a “Go Fund Me” account and asking friends, family, church or online acquaintances to help out by either making a small donation (many hands make light help) or passing the link along through social media.

#3 How about placing a series of ads on Craigslist under beds, couches, art, furniture etc… and say family in trouble in need of some free things. Do you have some things you are considering getting rid of? Our home was just destroyed by X last night, last week… (whatever, you get the idea) and we have nothing. We could really use some help; please call (insert your number here). You might just find a ton of people calling you up and offering tons of free stuff because they are sympathetic to your cause. We live in an age of wealth and very great abundance and I can tell you that in the town I just moved out of down south a few months ago, the Goodwill store received 120+ donations every day! If that many people are giving away lots of free stuff? …you can try and tap into this when in need.

#4 How about walking into the Goodwill and asking to speak to the manager? Tell him what happened to you. Ask and say: “Look, I know you guys get thousands of things a day dropped off. Before you go and price them and pop them all on the floor for sale… we are broke, we just lost everything. Can you allow me and my family to rummage through your lots first and look for a few items that will fit into our new apartment? You never know. Asked the right way with a moving enough story and chances are you are going to get carte blanche access to everything available in the entire place!

Put your mind to this. Think. Ask others: “What should I do?” The Good Book also says: “There is wisdom in a multitude of counsellors”, meaning that if you get the advice of a dozen folks you are probably going to find some good answers and ideas.

Some of you can guess why I am writing this. I have spoken with my online friend who I have never met, but care for. His wife and he are devastated of course, but going forward and trusting God. They informed me that 2 churches have stepped up and taken up collections and love offerings for them. I am fairly sure that they will obtain a few thousand bucks out of this. A love… an aid to help them obtain a new apartment. I am sure they will get “things” from various sources in the weeks and months ahead. I am sure all will be well in time. For now they have been put up in a hotel for a few days until they can find another place to live. It’s all going to work out eventually and years from now they will probably say: “Wow, if that did not happen we would have never moved here or met so and so or… got this new job or whatever. Good comes out of tragedy. God has a way of strengthening you and making things a lot better.

Look at Job. Job lost everything; children, homes, his entire fortunes and was sitting on a pile of ashes scraping the boils off of him… and God gave him 200 % back in return for what happened to him.

It’s all just life. Keeping our very lives in tragedy is a great blessing. Rebuilding is actually easy though perhaps a bit time consuming. Keep the faith and press forward. You will be stronger for this in the end my friend.

(UPDATE: It’s been many months since the incident and my online buddy and his wife are happily in their new apartment and have recovered everything.)

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