Perhaps you know someone whether it be a family member, friend, acquaintance, student, or someone you don’t know that has just experienced a fire. You have just heard the news about the tragedy, want to help them, but are unsure what you should do. How can you help a fire Survivor emotionally?
Everyone’s situation is different and there are no definite answers on ways to help someone after a fire. However, there are certain suggestions you can follow and considerations to take in place.
Provide Unconditional Emotional Support
What people need the most immediately following a fire is unconditional support, which means not judging them and loving them for their faults. Think about the way your family members treat you when they are upset. They sometimes say extremely hurtful comments to you, make you want to cry, point out your own defects, and make you frustrated. Then, as time goes by you forget about it or make peace with the fact that they have their own faults too. Take into consideration that those who have experienced fires may act or talk erratically after fire. By pointing out their faults, they will only become more angry with you and want to not talk with you. This is not the time to tell them what they are doing wrong and what is wrong with them. Likewise, this is not the time to break a relationship with them or tell them exactly how you are feeling about their life. The best option is just to listen and provide unbiased support.
Follow up on Phone Calls
Sometimes fire survivors, will not want to return your phone calls because they are depressed or are busy with making arrangements for their recovery. Don’t think of it as they are avoiding you and don’t want to pick up the phone. If you are serious about getting a hold them, keep calling and stressing your point, eventually they will get the message.
Continue to stay true
The sad, unfortunate truth is that fire survivors find out who their true friends are when they experience a tragedy. Those who are loyal, will look past the fact that they are struggling and offer guidance on ways to improve. Those that are too harsh, and present judgments, will be viewed as just that, judgers. Gino Russo makes a good point in her book, Rising From the Ashes, you find out who your true friends are after the fire. Friends that you thought were your friends will sometimes abandon you and true friends will show themselves in the strangest places, like hospitals.
Remind them that it’s okay to Feel
Society has taught us that we should suppress our emotions. After all, we need to work, maintain normal lives, and carry out our days as if nothing is every bothering us. As a result, we have learned that when a tragedy happens, we are supposed to not deal with it. When we start to express our emotions, others often view us are “emotional” and “irrational.” People who are not professionally trained become scared when we start to express our true feelings or when we start to talk on a deep level.
What people need the most after a fire is someone to tell them, “it’s okay to feel, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to get angry.” Without feeling true emotions there is no chance for recovery, therefore fire survivors need others to tell them that it’s okay to feel. Maybe the feelings will be uncomfortable, you shouldn’t be angry or you shouldn’t feel ungrateful, but never the less, its okay to feel that way.
Despite the different circumstances of every fire survivor it is important to understand what you can do to provide emotional support. No matter how close or far removed you are from the situation, there is always some way that you can help another.