The evening of March 8, 2014, our home looked like this.
As we hit the anniversary of our fire, I read back through my blogposts from the night of the fire and the weeks following. It was honestly so hard to read those posts, to be brought back to that night, to the shock and the fear, to the days afterward. So much I had forgotten.
On March 8, 2017, a family in our local community lost their home to a house fire. A family with 2 little boys and a dog. A family who never saw it coming. A family who is now living in a hotel and trying to find a rental home, with estimates that it will take a year to rebuild their home.
I don't know this family personally yet. But our local community is so amazing, and I have seen Facebook posts and emails and meal chains about and for this family. I have watched our local moms come alongside this family and support this family as they face the unthinkable.
I wanted to share some words with this family, and to any family going through something similar.
IT WILL GET BETTER.
Right now you are overwhelmed.
Your life has changed on an axis and will never, ever, EVER be the same.
It's ok to grieve that.
It's ok to walk through what remains of your house and think "Oh.my.gosh. My house looks like I live in a war torn country. How did I NOT realize this is what a house looks like after a fire?"
It's ok to hate the smell of burned plastic and ash that inhabits your house. It's ok to have every sad emotion in your body triggered by that smell for a very long time. It's ok to hate crossing the threshold into your home because that is all you will smell.
It's ok to suddenly realize you have lost something irreplaceable (for us, it was our entire ornament collection, both the ones my husband and I made as children, and the ones our sweet kids made for us in preschool). It's ok to suddenly feel an enormous loss and pain over that. It's ok to cry buckets over this. Actually, it's ok to cry buckets over every single facet of this experience. It sucks. There's sort of no getting around that.
It's ok to stand in what was your bedroom and cry, thinking "How on earth can I possibly try to categorize what was here and what is salvageable or not?"
It's ok to survey your house, speechless, the house where your children may have been brought home from the hospital, and learned to walk and talk and eat that first birthday cake - and to know that it will never, ever, be the same.
It is ok to be overwhelmed and to grieve.
But it will get better. I know it doesn't seem like it, but it will.
There will be a time when your house is rebuilt and it becomes your HOME again, where you will again see it as a safe sanctuary. (Just fyi, it won't be right away. I distinctly remember our first night back in our rebuilt home, turning to my husband and saying "I have this fear the house is going to burn down tonight." I expected him to say "you don't need to worry, it won't." Instead, he said "yeah, I have the same fear." That was, shall we say, super not at all helpful.) But, it WILL happen. The time will come where it's NOT the first thing on your mind when you walk in the front door - or the second or the third - or even on the list at all.
There will be a time where the burned plastic smell will be just a distant memory (seriously!)
There will be a time where your friends will come alongside you and create NEW precious family heirlooms (for us, it was when my inlaws had my kids make new Christmas ornaments for us - and when other friends sent us ornaments for our tree that first Christmas after the fire).
There will be a time when you will finally, blessedly, be DONE with inventorying all of your belongings. And you will realize that, at the end of the day, it was just STUFF. You are safe. Your children are safe. That is all that matters.
There will be a time when the days you spent in the hotel, and the rental home, will be fun memories. Right now they are stressful and you wonder if you are somehow ruining your children's childhood (because, unfortunately, no one has written a book on "How to make it fun and not traumatic for your kids when your house burns down suddenly").
But the times you're spending now and in the near future - in a hotel and a rental home - they will be a time of bonding and your kids will have such great memories. My children still talk of when we got to stay at the Embassy Suites and swim in the pool every night - and all the fun we had in the rental house.
(This was at the hotel, 3 nights after the fire.)
Right now, this seems like the most critical thing that will ever happen to you. And right now, it is. But there will come a day when it will just be a part of the fabric of your children's childhood, that makes them stronger and more resilient. I know this for a fact. I have already seen this with my kids. And we're only 3 years out.
(My kids now - resilient and happy).
It will get better. I promise.
You're in the super sucky part right now and I'm so so sorry for that. Just keep pushing through.
Lean on your friends and family. And the kindness of strangers. Even if you're not good at asking for or receiving help (preaching to the choir here), you NEED it right now. It's ok to take the help.
Finally, if you're blessed enough to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, lean deep into that relationship. It will sustain you in a way that nothing on earth can. And if you don't, get to church and get going on that one. :-)