Guest column by Frank Hutchison
Recovery is a state of mind, as well as a physical state of being. That’s because an emergency always leaves a trail of experiences that never completely is gone. Ever hear of PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
First of all, there’s a sense of violation – how could this happen to me? There’s a sense of blame or guilt for what went wrong or wasn’t good enough because you should have been prepared. If there’s loss of life or significant monetary loss, these feelings can only be intensified. Knowing that these feelings are natural and likely, can help in the recovery, but professional help should be sought if they are paralyzing or significantly impact performance in any area. These feelings must be acknowledged and dealt with for real recovery to happen.
You have to decide what recovery will look like. As a result of an emergency, you have the opportunity to evaluate what your life, your surroundings, your relationships, your anything should be in the future. For some, this will be plans made before the emergency to restore all the physical damage to the state they were in before the emergency. For others, it will be the opportunity for a new start – to build what they had before better or to build an entirely new life somewhere else. The danger is in creating expectations that can’t be met in reality. If you had full replacement insurance for your two-bedroom, one-bathroom house, you shouldn’t expect to rebuild as a 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house unless you are prepared to pay for it – the insurance won’t.
You have to be prepared for the long slough. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight. You may be having nightmares the rest of your life because of your experiences. But even if you don’t, the physical recovery will take time. I mentioned before about the wind storm that occurred in our area. While we suffered only inconvenience, others suffered massive physical damage – trees were uprooted and smashed into fences, cars and houses. Even with prompt responses from insurance companies, people are still finding it hard to find skilled workers to repair the damage. More than eight months after the storm, there are still people with tarps covering roofs, waiting for fence installers, or with massive root balls that haven’t been cut up and removed. Meanwhile they have to have alternative housing or transportation arrangements. And insurance companies aren’t necessarily going to be generous. It was said in a different context but it’s true here as well – if you’re reading the contract, you know you’re in trouble.
Create a plan. The very act of planning focuses the mind on the future – on hope of a better tomorrow. Having a plan also gives you a definite goal and a yardstick to measure progress toward that goal. A simple plan is fine to start with – you will add details as they become available. But start planning as soon as you can – hopefully, before the emergency even appears.
Make sure to stay in contact with those that will help. Hopefully, you will have saved your important papers so you can file insurance claims; claim losses on your taxes; apply for loans or any of the myriad other functions of modern life. If you lose everything, can you rebuild your life? Here’s where family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors can help. They can verify property and vouch for identity. And they can provide a shoulder when needed.
Execute your plan relentlessly. Recovery requires constant attention. Remember that others may not feel the urgency you do. The person at the insurance company headquarters have their own worries and sometimes they need a reminder about how important your needs are. I’m not saying to ignore others needs but be sure that your needs or the needs of your family or friends are considered.
Be forgiving of others faults. Emergencies bring out the worst and the best in people. Be prepared for dealing with people that are more sinner than saint. Don’t let the situation drive you to acts that you will be ashamed of later. This is especially true for family members.
Celebrate the victories. Sometimes the progress will seem slow or non-existent. That’s why it’s important to take note of and actually celebrate each victory. It reminds us that progress is being made and we are getting closer to the goal.
“Faith, Resiliency and Natural Disasters” is the topic of the Oct. 1 SpokaneFāVS Coffee Talk, which will take place at 10 a.m. in the Community Building, 35 W. Main Ave. All are invited to participate in this community discussion. Hutchison is a guest panelist.