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Moving through a family tragedy. Understanding and how to help.

I’ve debated sharing our story so publicly, especially at a time when all of this is still so raw. However, I know there are many families in the same situation. If you are suffering the devastation of Hurricane Irma or Harvey, floods, fires, or suffering through another tragedy, my heart goes out to you. You are not alone. 

There are not enough Thank You’s on Earth to convey the gratitude I feel. Family, friends, and perfect strangers have reached out to support us. I hope that in some small way, this post will help someone.


When you are displaced from your home, your regular life, everything takes more effort. The rhythms and routines of daily life are disrupted, shaken. I’ve found myself searching for any sense of normalcy.

I want to share some ideas that have helped me keep moving. Helped me get out of bed when I am exhausted right down to my bones. Focusing on family, learning to accept help from friends and strangers, and embracing the Pity Party – any kind of party is better than no party at all – has kept us moving forward.

With kids and jobs, insurance companies to contact and FEMA applications to review, little teeth to brush and faces to wash, we must keep moving forward.

Whatever you are going through, just remember you are going through it. Moving through a temporary time, a temporary situation. Keep moving through and you will come out on the other side.


It has helped so much to think about and do what’s best for my family. With a 2, 4, and 6 year old in tow 24 hours a day, it has taken an enormous amount of patience to take care of them, myself, and all of the seemly insurmountable tasks that need to be done.

But I’m doing it. You will too. I haven’t been perfect. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had a tremendous amount of help. But even if you don’t, just keep moving through. We are all trying to get to the other side of this – together.

Talk It Out

It’s hard to know how much to tell kids, when and how. Your children will feed off your feelings even if you don’t tell them what’s going on. If you have a sensitive kiddo you might see them acting out their emotions in a variety of ways – becoming disproportionately upset about little things, showing anger toward people they love, becoming needy, hyper, or annoying.

Keep communication open and flowing both ways. 
Explain what’s happening in simple terms and ask about their feelings and thoughts.

Recognize and name their feelings.
You can tell when a child is frustrated, afraid, upset, confused, and angry. Put a name to those feelings and let your children know it’s okay to feel this way.

Let them see your feelings, too.
Don’t hide your sadness from your kids. Feel it and explain it. “I’m sorry I lost it today. I’m having a really hard day because I feel so sad.” You might say this a lot. It’s hard to be patient all the time.


Kids feel safer and more comfortable with predictable routines. However, it’s difficult to maintain those routines when life is unpredictable.

Consistent meal times – At home we have a consistent routine: breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner at the same times every day. But when we are out of place it’s easy to lose track and let the kids snack all day or miss meals completely. Those days tend to feel extra out-of-control.

It has been helpful to keep mealtimes similar. Consistent meal times were especially helpful when we were on the road – 2 days, 27 hours, 3 kids, 1 mom, OH MY!

Getting everyone dressed – There have been days that I wanted to stay in bed and not bother dressing the kids, but I feel it’s important to power through. A change of clothes and freshening up is as good for kids as it is for mom. If nothing else, I know they have on clean underpants.

Bedtime routines – Keeping bedtimes the same has saved my sanity. I need that downtime at the end of the day – especially with energetic little kids. It’s tempting to just let them fall asleep watching tv or on the couch after playing themselves ragged, but I know I’ll pay for it the next evening (if not the entire next day). I want the kids to feel secure when they are drifting off. Even though our circumstances look different brushing teeth and bedtime songs have stayed the same.

Creating a new rhythm – We have created some new, temporary rhythms for our new, temporary life. We all sleep together in the same room (most nights in the same bed) and I ask if anyone is feeling worried or scared each night during their tuck-in time. They watch a movie in the mornings now instead of playing so they’re not waking up the whole house at 5:45 AM. These little rhythms have helped maintain a sense of order in the chaos.


I’ve never been so happy that we homeschool my son as I am right now. We are already used to being together 24/7 and some of his schooling routines have helped keep that sense of normalcy.

Learning Games – We took all our tablets and my laptop on our “Evacuation Vacation.” My son has continued to play his Reading Eggs and Mathseeds games every day. The little ones do their preschool apps, too. It’s something to occupy them that they enjoy that requires no effort from me.

Online Curriculum – I’ve never been so happy that I picked so much online curriculum. We lost a lot of books, but all of our curriculum is saved on my computer in PDF form. I can easily find science printables through our online subscription without spending a lot of time searching.

Letting Go – One of the reasons we homeschool is for the flexibility of schooling when we want. I just don’t want to right now. I’m not going to be putting together elaborate projects, spending hours reading aloud, or writing down lesson plans when I don’t even know where we will be living next week. Independent work, sure. Online games, yes please! We are letting go of the rest. That’s okay.

I’ve seen people saying we are “a family that lost everything.” Which is probably how I would describe it – if it wasn’t my family I was talking about.


This experience has been truly humbling. We’ve had to learn to accept help from family, friends, and strangers in a very short amount of time. It’s sometimes difficult and can be overwhelming, but I would encourage anyone going through a tragedy to reach out. Friends, acquaintances, and strangers want to help. Let them.

Tap into the power of social media to find what you need. If you are a person who has lost clothing, furniture, books, toys, and other personal items don’t be shy to ask friends and family for help. There’s no shame in putting it out there after suffering a big loss.

If you have a friend or family member living with no power, one way to help is to get them the information they need. With power and the internet I could help, even from 1200 miles away. Connecting with people through Facebook was key, especially in the days right after the hurricane.

Start a Go Fund Me. If you have a friend or family member suffering from a catastrophic loss, encourage them to start a Go Fund Me page or offer to start one for them. It really is the easiest way for people to help. Especially from far away.

If you are a person offering support, know that it is appreciated. Just the offer of sending love, positive thoughts, and prayers means so much. Please understand that your friend may be overwhelmed at times. It’s hard to know what to do, what to say. But all of it is appreciated. The support means so much.


The moment I realize that people felt bad for us – like really bad – I had maybe 25 Facebook notifications and a dozen or so messages. All of them said the same thing: I’m so sorry. I spent half the day replying thank you. Half the day has turned into a week and will continue for the foreseeable future.

It’s okay to embrace it.  A pity party is better than no party at all. Let your friends rally around you. Let them distract you, feed you, take care of you. 

At some point, you may even find yourself at an actual party. Totally okay. You’re allowed to have fun and laugh even when the rest of it is pretty awful. People want to entertain you. It’s something they can do that doesn’t cost a thing.


Just one chapter of our story.

Eye of Hurricane Irma
A photo of the inside of Hurricane Irma taken by my husband.

This September our family was evacuated due to Hurricane Irma. I drove our three children cross-country to my parent’s house in Ohio, and our wonderful friends took in my husband, Mark, and our dog to weather the storm in a house outside of the evacuation zones.

I was terrified as we lost touch for hours while the eye of the storm passed over, but in the end our family was safe. The relief lasted for days. Who cares about anything else as long as we have each other?

But we did lose something. I’ve seen people saying we are “a family that lost everything.” Which is probably how I would describe it – if it wasn’t my family I was talking about.

Floods in our neighborhood taken two days after Irma passed.
Floods in our neighborhood taken two days after Irma passed.

Our neighborhood was flooded and our home suffered wind damage and flooding. Everything has to go – floors, doors, all of our appliances, windows, a/c, water heater, cabinets, parts of the wall… everything that we had been building for the 12 years we’ve lived in our home.

Catostrophic Hurricane Irma destroys home through wind and floodThankfully, many of our repairs will be covered. However, our insurance deductibles total $9,300 and do not cover personal property. In addition to repairing our home, we will have to replace anything that was on or near the floor – our children’s beds and bedding, indoor and outdoor furniture, bookshelves, school materials, electronics with cords that were on the floor… I honestly have no idea how much this will cost. For years we’ve stressed about replacing one thing at a time. Now we have to replace all of it. Mind blown.

We are still in Ohio, waiting for power to be restored before we return to… well, I’m not sure where we will return. Will we stay with family? Live in a hotel? We are beginning the process of completely gutting our house, and I’m not sure how long it will take to fill it up again.

The support shown to us has been astounding. We are truly floored by the generosity shown to our little family. Thank you listening to our story.

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3 replies on “Moving Through a Family Tragedy

  1. I’m so very sorry. I follow you on FB too and was just wondering yesterday if I had missed an update about how your home had fared. I was hoping no news meant it had turned out better than you anticipated. I knew you were expecting to quite possibly lose your home as you evacuated with the kids, but damn, the reality of that is still terrible 🙁 I’m glad your husband and dog (and of course you and the kids, far away) were safe though. I can’t donate right now but I am sending you good thoughts for strength in navigating this hardship <3

    1. Thank you so much, Rachel. Your positive message means a lot to me. It has been hard and I haven’t known quite what to share. Staying positive up here for the kids has been the main thing. Thank you so much <3

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