How To Cope and Rebuild Your Life After a Disaster

Updated: November 18, 2020

I was having coffee with some friends the other day when an interesting question came up during the night.

“If you were one of those whose home got destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda, how would you rebuild your life?”

There were about 20 seconds of silence, all of us were in deep thought, and then one by one, we spoke.

Below is a summary of the things that were said that evening.

Cover the needs first

There are three things that you need to immediately prioritize: food, shelter, and health. Don’t be afraid to ask and take any help that’s given, but don’t allow yourself to be complacent. Be proactive and don’t just wait for relief.

Make a list.

Write a list of things that needs to be done and systematically go through that list. Ruthlessly prioritize what’s important – cleaning up what’s left of your home is not as important as making sure your basic needs are covered for the next few days.

Connect with others

Reach out to the community, especially to those who were also affected. Together, you can accomplish more tasks and can provide moral support for each other.

Know what’s left.

Assess what’s left of your belongings. But more than the things in your home that survived, or those that you were able to salvage – you should account for the money you have in your bank, investments you own, and possibly, the list of people who owe you money.

Secure your documents.

Take inventory of your legal documents – which one survived, and which ones were destroyed. These include your birth certificates, marriage licenses, real estate titles, insurance policies, and many more.

Ensure your cashflow.

Get back to work as soon as you’re capable. Don’t linger in self-pity and get busy. Be entrepreneurial, be observant, and discover opportunities around you.

Minimize media exposure.

The news will be mostly negative, not to mention depressing. Stay away from it and focus on rebuilding your life. Ask a friend not affected by the disaster to monitor the news for you and ask him or her to relay only relevant and vital information.

Accept your losses.

When all is done, and life is starting to get back to normal. The final step is to give yourself time to mourn and accept the losses you’ve experienced. Talk to someone you trust about your emotions, especially your feelings of remorse, guilt, and anger.

It’s your turn… leave your own advice in the comment section below.

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  1. In addition to building up a stock of storable food supplies, plenty of extra water, candles or other emergency lights, a means to cook without electricity, and communications gear that will function in an extended power outage, may I suggest the following:

    1. Have a pre-planned meeting location for your household in case folks returning can not get to home base.

    2. Ideally, have a safe location that you may retreat to in advance of need.

    3. Create a binder for each family member with their financial information, ie, bank accounts, insurance, investments and pertaniant contact information. The binders we created also include recent photos of each family member with name and contact info that is laminated and waterproof. Health conditions are listed, laminated and posted inside the binders front cover. We also included a waterproof map of our area marked with alternate locations where the family could meet up.

    4. For our family, each person except our one year old has a personal “bug out bag.” The bag contains the binder mentioned above, basic short term survival supplies such as bottled water, easy to cook foods, vitamins, shelter, water filter, camp stove and firemaking supplies. Consider some emergency “get home cash” for those old enough to be traveling alone.

    5. All family members have been made to understand that you exit first and ask questions later. Grab your bag and get outside should an earthquake hit. During the November 2020 storms with internet and power out, I told the kids, “This is NOT a drill.” No one had a panic attack and our young troops actually got a chance to use the skills we practice regularly.

    When you are all safe and away from any certain danger, you may then begin the rebuilding process. That is the key, survive first and work on the rebuild when the emergency has passed.

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