When You Lose Everything

The devastating fires in California that destroyed the entire town of Paradise, and destroyed thousands of homes, businesses and neighborhoods in multiple other locations throughout the state, brings up the question, what do you do when you lose everything–your home, your livelihood, your community, all of your possessions, everything you worked so hard over the years to create, your way of life, and, in some cases, even the lives of your loved ones?

Whether because of storms, natural disasters or war, illness, collapse of the economy or infrastructure, many throughout the world have faced this question. The shock and the grief can be so overwhelming that it can be immobilizing precisely when swift action is required. Such shock severely impedes the clarity of mind to know how to move forward now and the will to do so. And it can set up more problems including illness later on.

So what do you do?

The  immediate issues are clear:

  • find and remove yourself and loved ones from immediate danger
  • secure the basic necessities of food, water and shelter
  • gather your family, friends and neighbors around you to hold and support one another
  • find out about community resources
  • organize with others to deal with the immediate emergency
  • salvage what is left and assess what is gone
  • cleanup the debris

But then what?

An important component to moving beyond the devastation is your interpretation of the events. If you accept it as a force of nature that you could have done nothing to prevent, you will much more easily be able to move on from the loss. But if you blame yourself, that guilt or self-condemnation will drain your energy making responding effectively harder and calling for self-punishment. If you blame someone else, your resulting anger, rage and possible hatred, while mobilizing you to take action, will have a punishing effect upon your health and relationships. And if you wallow in grief, it also will consume you. And then, you may vacillate among all of the above in soup of emotions that is hard to process.

Accepting what cannot be changed helps

Acceptance does not mean that you like the situation. It does instead recognize that you cannot afford to squander your time, energy or momentum by hoping that it is all a bad dream and you will open your eyes and everything is back the way it was. All the tears and wishing it were not so will not change anything. You must conserve your energy and stay focused.

“Since this has happened, what do I want to do now?

What is my next step?”

You do not need to know the answer. You have only to hold the question in mind and then do something, anything. 

Something helpful is to affirm that you have inner resources and wisdom, creativity and problem solving ability beyond your conscious awareness. You have an internal guidance system, your personal GPS, that gives you hunches, and sets up synchronicities. I believe you have a spiritual guidance system as well. You can relieve stress by turning your predicament over to your internal and spiritual guidance with affirmative statements such as:

“There is a part of me that knows how to ____ and is doing so now.

There is a part of me that knows the next, right step to take and how to proceed. And that part is guiding me now with grace and ease.”

You can as did the character Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind shake your fist at heaven and make a vow that somehow you will never experience anything like this problem again. I prefer to yell at the beneficial heavenly forces:

“Turn this into a blessing!”

The glass may be half empty, but the glass is also half full!

You may think that you have lost everything. But if you are alive, that is not true. Assess what you have left – friends or family, your health or important parts of it, intelligence, skills, creativity, problem solving ability, network of who to call for help, and most important – your very life itself.

Maybe you can find a scrap of humor – what we call black or dark humor that which comes out of the depths of despair. For example, before this happened, did you want to de-clutter? Well, now you have done it! If you were thinking of moving, now you are going to! If you wanted to remodel, well now is the time!

Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, phonograph, and many other things lost over half of the buildings in his West Orange, New Jersey laboratory after an explosion and resultant fire. Damages in 1914 reached seven million dollars, with only two million covered by insurance.

edisoninchem1

Edison vowed, “Although I am over 67 years old, I‘ll start all over again tomorrow.”   

When a reporter asked him how he felt, he responded that there was value in a fire in that it lets you start again. Not only that, but in watching the fire, Edison was inspired to create a new invention.

within two days, Edison had also finalized design of a portable searchlight whose three million candlepower beam would be visible for miles. In the midst of the catastrophe, Edison had noticed how the firefighters were hampered by the loss of power and light.  He puzzled over the problem and came up  with the battery driven light source idea and design. At age 67, Edison’s pace of work and inventions had slowed, but they could hardly be described as declining years. Within six months, Edison was demonstrating his latest invention in a nearby park,  attracting curious onlookers who wondered where the bright light was coming from!  The old adage that “every cloud has a silver lining” certainly applies here.”

Many times our lives, job or relationships run the full distance and we reach a place where no more growth can be made. It is time to change course, but we resist. Sometimes we are lazy, don’t want to do the work, or just stubbornly cling to what is safe known although even if we recognize that it is a rut. Then a cataclysmic event can come along to catapult us out of the rut and into unknown territory where we have no recourse but to reinvent ourselves and begin again. Hidden in the ruins is an opportunity to ask “where does my soul want to take me?”

In an earlier blog entitled “Blessings in Disguise”, I provided examples of how a major loss can turn out to be a blessing. They can set us on another path – one that is more fulfilling or allows or demands that we grow.

I am not making light of tragedy, or claiming that growth is the reason behind the loss or the justification for it. Nor am I advocating that you ‘buck up’, adopt a ‘stiff upper lip’ or deny your grief. What I am saying is that the only long-term constructive response to loss is to deliberately look for some good to come out of it, and to work to make it so both for yourself and others.

Focus on where you are going, on solution, to making your life or world better in some way. If you focus on what you had and lost, you will like Lot’s wife in the ancient Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, be consumed.

At every moment, you are creating your life story. What do you want your epitaph to read? 

“Here lies John Doe. He had everything and lost it all. Unable to move on, he became morose, angry and bitter, turning to drink for comfort. He died alone having alienated his remaining friends and family “.

Or ….

Every challenge calls us to rise up and dig down deep inside to find the strength and courage to take action having no guarantees of success, no assurance that the ground will rise up to greet us as we take those first steps.

Courage is facing the fear and doing what is needed anyway. It is being knocked down and standing up again. We are called to trust that small voice within, and follow its subtle lead. If others have suffered as well, we are also called to help them. Together we are stronger. As we work together, we are healed.

Find a reason

Heroes are born on the front lines where it is hard. Many never rise to the occasion, or they stumble and fall never to get back up. Overcoming devastating loss is a daily choice to action and attention to attitude. It is assisted by a faith that life can be better and that you can do something to make it so and that it is worth the effort.

It is the Mama Bear that finds her strength to rescue her cubs, or the fireman that rushes into danger to save others. Such actions are born from love, from a belief that life is worth saving, that life is worth living, and that despite the pain, cruelty and evil, that there is much good and beauty in the world. A vision of that better world or a big enough reason mobilizes the will to start again.

Find your reason to rise and then rise again, and gather others around you to support your resolve.

Copyright 11/2018 by Roxanne Louise. However, this article may be shared in other free online sources only if this copyright notice and links to http://www.roxannelouise.com and http://unlimitedpotentialhealingcenter.com are included with the content.

 

 

 

 

 

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