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How To Cope With Severe Home Damage From Natural Disasters

Posted: August 20, 2014

There are many circumstances in life that your family simply cannot prepare for. It’s an inconvenient reality, but catastrophic events, including natural disasters, can disrupt the day-to-day routine of our lives in profound ways. But damage to your home doesn’t have to be the end of your life, nor is it a trail you tread alone. Here’s how to help recover from an unfortunate demonstration of nature’s inexorable power, and build an even stronger life going forward.

Seek Assistance

It’s not uncommon to feel hopeless while assessing the damage done to your home. Even those who experience nothing more than severe basement flooding are forced to confront the reality of an arduous clean up and repair effort. Fortunately, there is help. Federal assistance programs are established in the case of natural disasters effecting wide numbers of people. In cases of catastrophe, the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) is dispatched to the scene with aid in various forms, including water, food, and shelter. Additional programs recognize the ongoing challenge of rebuilding one’s home with tax breaks for those affected, and even financial aid for students in affected areas.

Be Wary of Fraud

But while many agencies are willing to assist in the case of catastrophic loss, opportunists are equally enthusiastic about “helping” your family. With many residents in affected areas rendered grief-stricken by the events, fraudulent insurance agencies and “assistance” efforts seize the opportunity to capitalize on the weakness of others. In order to help avoid becoming a victim of the deception, verify the reputation of any agency willing to cut you a deal that’s “too good to be true”. In addition, monitor local news stations and police bulletins for alerts regarding unscrupulous characters and companies. Additional information regarding protection from fraud can be found at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Assess the Damage

With basic financial support in place, rebuilding is the next step. While damage done to your home is a difficult reality to confront, doing so coolly and with a level head will help ensure that your family comes through the crisis unscathed. Begin by assessing your basic needs. Does the water run? Do we have food left over? Is our structure sufficiently secure as to deter looters and criminals? If necessary, consider staying at a hotel or a federally sponsored shelter; whatever it takes to help keep your family safe and fed. Once a temporary living situation is established, evaluate the true extent of the damage. Is the insulation soaked in addition to the dry wall? Did the force of the hurricane damage the foundation? If your financial situation permits, consider hiring an estimator or contractor that can help determine the extent of necessary repairs and then begin the rebuilding process. It may take days, it may take months, but do whatever you can to put your family back on a solid foundation, and don’t skimp on the essentials.

Lean on Your Support Structure

While all of this sounds simple, the emotional and psychological toll of dealing with these decisions can wear down your already fragile psyche. In times like this, family, friends, and community members become a valuable resource. Avoid any temptation to “go it alone” and ask for support and an open ear from your loved ones. Your support structure is an integral part of coping, and you would do the same for them.

Seek Professional Counseling

Depending on the scope of the damage suffered, the psychological burden of rebuilding can become much more than a momentary inconvenience. For some, the trauma involved can lead to severe depression, anxiety, and, commonly, mass cases of post-traumatic stress disorder. These are not problems that can be solved through a simple phone call. Legitimate psychological damage requires professional attention. If you find that you’re having an inordinately difficult time coping in the aftermath of a natural disaster, get in contact with a mental health professional and request counseling. Your family can provide a great deal of moral support, but only a psychiatrist understands how to remedy more severe cases of trauma.

Repair and Rebuild

From temporary living arrangements to dealing with the emotional burden, you’ve addressed the aspects of the situation vital to reconstructing your life. The only thing left to do is press on. As mentioned, repair efforts can take anywhere from a few days, to several months, to over a year, and that’s only the structure of your home; fully recovering psychologically and financially can take even more time. The important thing to remember is that your life does not end because of a natural disaster. The challenges you face will be many, and the burden will be great, but by addressing the aspects of your structure and psyche that comprise the foundation of your family, you can rebound from severe trauma and rebuild your life stronger than ever. Leverage your resources, confront your reality, and lean on the help of your family and physicians, and your comfort and peace of mind can potentially return, more profound and appreciated for the experience.