Losing your home is one of the most stressful experiences in life. Home loss is a traumatic event experienced by all members of a family dealing with financial loss or the effects of a natural disaster. There’s almost always a significant sense of loss accompanying finding a new place to live when the move is unexpected. Even foreseen relocations tend to create a lot of grief, regret, and anxiety when moving day comes.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Tips for Dealing With the Grief of Losing Your Home
- Tips for Supporting a Loved One Who Lost Their Home
Common responses to losing your home are similar to grieving the death of a loved one. Every type of loss is felt with the same intensity as they occur. However, some losses have a more significant impact on your overall wellbeing than others. Home loss is one of those significant stressors in life capable of producing feelings of loss and mourning in every individual facing displacement.
Tips for Dealing With the Grief of Losing Your Home
Non-death loss, grief, and trauma are experienced with tangible and non-tangible losses. The loss of a home due to fire, flooding, or financial ruin can lead to a traumatic experience for all family members affected.
Adults and children all suffer through with loss but will experience different types of grief. Reactions will vary depending on the family member involved and their attachment to the home. Here are a few ways for all family members to deal with the grief of losing their home.
1. Acknowledge your loss
When no one seems to acknowledge the loss of your home, you begin to feel isolated from your family and support groups. This type of loss is challenging for many people to recognize because they haven't suffered through it and don't understand what it means to lose their home.
If you've lost your home to a natural disaster or fire, for example, you've not only lost the structure of your home, but most times, you've also lost all of your possessions along with it. These are things that are hard to replace and sometimes even irreplaceable. Allow yourself time to mourn your loss and its effects.
2. Grieving is necessary
Grieving the loss of your home is necessary to help you find closure in much the same way you suffer other significant losses. Recovery from the loss of your home may take the standard grief-processing times of 6 to 12 months. However, in some instances, your grief may take longer depending on the personal attachment to your home.
For many people, their homes are not only their sanctuaries, but they’re where they hold many of their life’s precious memories. Perhaps the home was built by a family member, or lots of love made it home. Whatever the attachment, mourning its loss is needed to move forward from your grief.
3. Learn to let go emotionally
There’s specific grief in leaving the home you love. This internal suffering will likely follow you for the rest of your life. Reminiscing about what you once had is healthy to a certain extent. However, when that yearning for your old home becomes an obsession that doesn’t allow you to move forward, it may be time to allow yourself to release the past.
Letting go doesn’t mean that you won’t often think about your house or the circumstances leading to its loss. You almost certainly will reminisce as you share your stories with others. But once you let go of the pain, you start to heal.
4. Avoid making big decisions
After losing your home, it’s natural to want to find a new place to live and recapture some of what was lost. Before rushing to decide where you’ll go next, accept that you’re going to miss your home and the space you created for you and your family.
Take the time to process your loss and see what next steps you need to make that make the most sense to everyone affected by the loss. You can hold off on making major decisions for several weeks or months as you evaluate your current financial position and weigh the options.
5. Grief comes in waves
When processing your home loss, you can expect to go through all or some of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Although you won't experience grief linearly, you can expect your suffering to ebb and flow in waves.
The replacement of your home or finding a new place to live temporarily does little to mitigate the mourning of your loss. Understand that you'll begin to feel better in time, but there'll be times when your grief resurfaces seemingly out of nowhere.
6. Understand the need to move on
The level of grief and sadness you’re experiencing is a normal and natural reaction to losing your home. There’s nothing wrong with you for feeling sad and depressed following such a significant loss. While it’s important to give yourself time to heal, it’s equally important to recognize the need to move on eventually.
Consider building new memories and adding special touches as you make your new house a home. You’ll get used to your new place to live in time, although you may still hold the house you lost securely in your heart.
7. Accept starting over
Grief following house loss is affected by many factors. Whether your house was insured and fully covered or you lost your home to foreclosure, the resulting grief shares some similarities. The grieving time is different for everyone.
It may be that the loss of your house awakens a different desire in you other than homeownership. Once you’ve allowed yourself time to process and accept your loss, it’s time to admit that you’ll need to start over. You might decide to start over in a tiny home or RV.
Tips for Supporting a Loved One Who Lost Their Home
The loss of a home is very personal to those affected. Offering your support to someone you love who's going through this type of loss may feel inadequate. However, recognize that losing a home is devastating, traumatizing, and often challenging.
There are many reasons why people lose their homes, and no one way makes it better than the next. The result is a feeling of loss and mourning that will take some time to heal. Here are some ways for you to support someone you love after they've lost their home.
8. Ask how you can help
Losing a home suddenly and unexpectedly can create havoc for the families or individuals dealing with such a traumatic event in their lives. Natural disasters such as flooding, storms, and fires often come out of nowhere, destroying everything in their paths. It's nearly impossible to prepare for this event, and there's usually no way to protect the home from utter ruin or loss.
A family who suffers through the unexpected loss of their home will need immediate assistance in getting to a safe place where they can find shelter. If you have a home to share with your loved ones, ask them if they'd like to stay until they sort out their next steps.
9. Be careful with what you say
Even the most well-intentioned words might be offensive and misconstrued to those dealing with the loss of their home. Comments such as "Well, at least now you get to shop for a new house," or "You're lucky you had homeowners insurance to cover your losses" are not only hurtful but dismissive of their loss.
Losing a home is much more than the replacement value of the physical loss. Many secondary losses attach to the trauma of being displaced from your home. Most of the time, the financial replacement of the home's value is nothing compared to the emotional loss suffered.
10. Gather financial help
Consider setting up a crowd-funding account for your loved one and asking everyone you know or are connected to online to consider donating money to help those affected by the loss. One of the most stressful things to deal with when disaster strikes is not having enough money to go somewhere else temporarily or for the necessities such as food, fuel, and lodging.
Websites like Gofundme.com make it easy to gather an online community to rally behind those in need. Some of the proceeds of funds collected will go directly to the app’s founders. However, the fees are nominal compared to the widespread reach of donors willing to help.
11. Get them in touch with community resources
Several community resources and agencies exist to help those affected by disasters who have no other recourse for recovery. Agencies such as Habitat for Humanity and The Red Cross offer emergency and temporary financial assistance to secure lodging, food, and clothing to those in need.
The Red Cross is mainly made up of volunteers responding to disasters such as home fires and provides immediate assistance to displaced families and individuals. The agency also makes available other resources to help disaster victims get back their emotional and psychological wellbeing.
12. Suggest professional counseling
Dealing with the trauma of home loss can be challenging to overcome. Sometimes, those affected will need outside support from professional grief counselors or therapists who can help bereaved individuals process their loss. However, not everyone's open to getting therapy or receiving counseling services.
Your approach to suggesting that your loved one might need professional help should be neutral and nonjudgmental. Consider having this conversation at the most reasonable time possible and not during a crisis.
13. Give them time to heal
Almost every person experiencing the loss of their home will need time to get through their pain and suffering. You can expect them to show signs of isolation and withdrawal that have nothing to do with you. Try not to be offended if this happens.
Feeling slighted and underappreciated is natural after opening up your home or lending financial support to loved ones who, in turn, step into their grief and away from you. Withdrawing from the people, places, and things that we know and love is a natural response to dealing with grief. Hang in there and give your loved ones time to process their grief and loss.
Grief Following Home Loss
The loss of a home, like any other significant loss, affects individuals in many different ways. There’s no way of truly understanding what a person who’s lost their home feels like, as everyone has a unique way of expressing their grief.
But knowing that losing a home is a devastating experience for everyone involved helps to understand that a person will mourn this loss much the same as any other significant loss in life, and they’ll need time to heal from it.