Last week’s Ghost Ship fire in Oakland has still left the community reeling and looking to pick up the pieces together. A lot of folks are asking how to help, but have no clue what to do in a time of crisis.
Here are five helpful things that you can do when a community is recovering from a tragedy:
1. Open Your Wallet
First and foremost, if you are in a position to financially support folks who have been displaced or those who are looking to secure food, shelter, lost belongings, trauma care — you name it — financial support is the number one way for a stranger can help. Be it cash, PayPal, or check, people in crisis need M-O-N-E-Y. Give it to them if you can.
If you don’t have money but you do have a skill that you can monetize, give a bit of your time performing that skill or service, and donate the cash. Your thanks will be in the form of strengthening a great community that truly needs you.
2. Open Your Mind
Depending on the circumstances, there’s a lot of judgement — and amateur crime-scene investigators — that seem to come out of the woodwork when tragedy strikes. No one wants to cop to the fact that bad shit happens to good people.
It’s time for you to shut your mouth and open your heart. Folks in these situations do not need judgement; they need love and support. If you cannot do that, don’t say a word, because you are not doing a lick of good.
3. Open Your Kitchen
If you have cooking skills and someone has the foresight to start a MealTrain, cook for folks who either have lost access to their kitchens or are not in an emotional space to take care of themselves. Bonus points if you are consider enough to remember that other folks may be bombarding them with similar things, so you put them in freezeable containers.
4. Open Your Arms
If you personally know someone who has been affected by a tragedy, sometimes they need to be held. Similarly, others want absolutely nothing to do with human touch when they are grieving, so make sure to ask for consent before you put your hands on loved ones, even in the toughest of times. Check in to see what their personal needs are before you assume anything.
Don’t be offended if the needs of your loved one seemingly change out of the blue. It’s hard to be aware of triggers when the seemingly most random things will creep up to remind you of your loss.
5. Open Your Schedule
Traumatic responses and the needs that accompany them look different for everyone. Sometimes just sitting in the same room with someone who’s grieving, and being able to anticipate their needs, is enough. Have you ever been too tired to get up for a glass of water after bawling your eyes out — or too tired too cook, but you haven’t eaten for the entire day, so you just go to sleep?
Dedicate a day (or a weekend) to just being on-call for your loved one so that if they need company, they have it. Or, in case they just need someone to stop by and make sure they’ve got a big bottle of water and some easy-to-digest snacks beside the bed.
Remember, healing isn’t linear, which means that sometimes the sadness and seclusion creep back up after periods of feeling OK. As a friend, it’s your job to keep checking in.
Help as much as you can when you can. We’re all in this together.