With special thoughts for the Gatlinburg, Tennessee wildfire victims by Elizabeth Van Tassel
I want to extend a special Loretta’s Loft welcome to Elizabeth Van Tassel, a survivor of wildfires that destroyed all her personal possessions several years ago in California. She can relate to the devastation of those who fell victim to the recent Gatlinburg, TN fires. Here’s Elizabeth. . .
Hopefully, this holiday will be packed with lovely memories for you and your family. But what if you find yourself at a party or with a friend who’s suffered a deep loss this year? What do you say? Perhaps divorce or death has rocked their life, or even a natural disaster like a wildfire, flood, or hurricane. It can be hard to know what to do when you see them. Your heart flutters, mouth goes dry, and then either nothing or exactly the wrong thing may come out
I’ve had crazy, painful things muttered to me and, in the best moments, super helpful things said to me after a loss. All of these items on the list below actually were stated to us (and some worse things) after we lost our home and all our possessions in a wildfire years ago. Many of the good things were shared too. I want to arm you for those tricky family interactions so you’ll leave with warm connectedness rather than tension filling the air.
The Naughty List
Oh, how those clipped comments can sting. I know you may rely on them, but put yourself in the other person’s place for a moment. They’re already tender from life’s challenges and need generosity of heart, not trite sayings. Reflect a bit more and you can do oh so much better. Even the people who seem strong after a loss are secretly still rattled and shaken. Take nothing at face value.
The Nice List
What a balm it was to have two friends who asked me NOT to write thank you notes yet sent gifts to our kids or shared books with us. I loved being able to rely on my type-A strong friends to go shopping with me or help me find rental furniture. There were suddenly so many important decisions happening at the same time as deep pain, so knowing friends would be there no matter what, or even the offer of a simple meal at their home was very comforting. For example, years ago when one of my sons was in the hospital close to death, a family we considered the closest of friends said they would give us space and kind of disappeared, without calls or notes or anything. Another friend went above and beyond to help. She jumped in and put us on a national prayer list with chaplains. Suddenly our son was being prayed for by hundreds of dedicated people! She brought us food and prayed with us too. Our youngest son survived and I’ve never forgotten those sweet prayers offered for him, and for us all too.
If you want to do more…
What if you don’t just want to send “positive thoughts” or use kind words, but are struggling with ideas of how to help? Most families have a hard time accepting charity at first. But when they’re bombarded with so many moments of despair, even the offer to help or babysit the kids so they can go out is such a grace. I’ve listed some creative giving ideas HERE in 10 Ways To Help A Family This Holiday (http://elizabethvantassel.com/10-ways-help-family-holiday/).
When in doubt, go with the heart
The people and conversations I remember touching me the most were unexpected kindness and offers to be strong when I could not. The people who dug through our home’s ashes to uncover baby footprints still intact. Those who drove me around in their cars to get furniture and clothing and housing lined up. A hug from someone with tears in their eyes and a knowing look. Definitely not those who said, “What does it feel like to lose everything? That must be hard.” like they were watching reality TV.
Elizabeth Van Tassel Public Speaker, Resilience Expert, and Writer
As a gemologist and wildfire survivor, Elizabeth Van Tassel really has lived with diamonds, losing everything, and persevering through seasons of miracles and great loss. When she lost her home and possessions in the 2007 Witch Creek Fire in San Diego, she was determined to thrive, rather than just get by. Her creative eye and stories of survival help others rise above circumstances with practical, time-saving, fun-infusing lifestyle tips for families, single parents, kids, and adults. She speaks to women’s groups, corporate clients, and teens, and is working on two great book ideas: one packed with resilience insights for adults, and also a series of fantasy books for middle graders with a heart for adventure.
You can connect with Elizabeth at WEBSITE AND OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA HERE. She also posts fun inspiring gems, book ideas, and more on her Instagram, and does VLOGs for teens and tweens and adults with on resilience topics and family-friendly creativity at YOUTUBE.
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabethvantassel/
Thorn & Vine YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbfGSIRoGjwywnyAto0IQKA
Feel free to connect with Elizabeth at any of the links listed above.