Thursday, 5 May 2016

What not to say

I said some of these things a few years ago. It's too late to take them back. But not too late for others who might be dealing with those who have just been evacuated from Fort McMurray.

Don't say...
  • Did you lose your house? People lost more than a house. They lost the place where they could close the door and just be themselves. They lost the life they used to live and their dreams of the future they planned on living  But everyone loses something in a disaster like this. Your community is never the same. You lose neighbours and friends. You lose a sense of security for yourself and your family.
  • They're only things. The only people allowed to say that are those who experienced the loss. Our possessions are more than things. All the furniture and nicknacks and mementos and artwork and journals and books and photos. The things that were passed down from the previous generations. They are history. They are memories. People are allowed to grieve for them.
  • At least no one died Okay, it's true. It's a miracle. We all know it. We all celebrate it. But by saying it we minimize the trauma people experienced. We may make people feel bad about feeling sorry for themselves even though they are entitled to do so.
  • Insurance will pay for it Insurance comes with its own set of headaches. Imagine sitting in a room with someone you don't know for hours and possibly days listing every single possession you owned. Remembering everything you lost. Then fighting to get compensation.And forgetting to list things that you now won't be compensated for. All while still in a state of shock.
  • You'll get a brand new house! These people mostly did not build the houses they lost. They did not choose to rebuild again. Now they are faced with a million decisions from finding a contractor who won't gouge them or go bankrupt mid-build or leave them with more problems than the old house, to choosing floor plans and appliances and paint colours and door pulls and furniture. All the while thinking of everything they no longer have to put in this new house.
So what should you say?  

"I'm so sorry."

"How can I help?"

Or just listen.

That is enough.