Monday, October 26, 2009

What We Do With Grief

I believe that whenever we are confronted by a sudden death and the grief that follows, we re-live all the other deaths we have encountered. It works that way for me--in the middle of the disbelief, I take out memories of all the other losses that have happened before.

And then, of course, we take a good hard look at our own mortality.

Hopefully, the next step is to find something constructive to do with our sadness; some way to turn great loss into something positive.


When my friends' house caught on fire, so many things went wrong:

First of all, there were no smoke detectors in the home. If there had been, the story might have had a different ending.

The fire may have started by a small kitchen appliance, left on or plugged in right below the bedrooms.

The bedrooms were upstairs, as is often the case in a two-story home. But Bill was elderly, ill with Alzheimer's, and easily confused. It would have been very hard to get him out quickly.

The emergency dispatcher received a 911 "hang up" call. Not knowing the nature of the emergency, the police went to the house, discovered the fire, and called for the fire department to respond.

The policeman tried to get inside to the occupants but, once inside the house, found his way blocked by too much furniture that was in the way.

Although the house was located less than 50 feet from the fire department, the town has an all volunteer department. Those volunteers were at the fire in an amazing seven minutes. Bear in mind, they had to get the call at home on a Sunday night, get dressed, get down to the station, get into their gear, and get the equipment across the street. A seven minute response time is even more amazing when you consider the logistics.


Ironically, October is Fire Safety Month.

Here are some things you can do right now to keep your family safe. Do them in memory of Jane and Bill and Copper:

Check your smoke detectors. Make sure they have fresh batteries and are fully functional. Buy a smoke detector for someone you know who doesn't have one, and install it for them if they are unable to do so themselves.

Have an evacuation plan and a place for family members to meet outside the home. Practice by having drills.

Make sure that you always have two ways out in case of an emergency, and make sure that those passage ways are clear of any clutter.

Consider moving elderly or frail family members to a bedroom on the ground floor.

Unplug kitchen appliances when they are not in use.


Of course, there is a lot more information available about fire safety in your home. Here are some resources that will get you started:

Please pass this message on to everyone you know.


Sylvia K said...

I've had company and didn't read your blog until today and my heart aches for you and for the tragic loss of your friends and their dog. That is one of the worst nightmares ever! And thank you for the good advice -- another thing we can/should all pay more attention to.

Much love to you, Clariz.


JC said...

I am so so sorry. I can't imagine. This is one thing that has not happened to anyone I know.

The house across the street totally burned down ... when it was being built. Was done and something went wrong ... the people had lived in it one week. No one was home at the time.

We were having our house built and were really shocked to see what had happened.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oh no.....I'm so sorry. I do understand a littel bit of what you're going through, though. Five years ago on my husband's birthday we were awakened at 3am by a loud explosion and our walls bathed in flickering red. We didn't smell smoke, but when we looked out our bedrooms windows, across the street, we saw our neighbors home engulfed in flames.
We only lived 200 feet across the street and as we called 911, we watched in horror and relief as our neighbors (a single Mom and her two sons) escape through the front door. Sadly their two dogs died in the fire. One was a brand new puppy :(
We sat and watched the fire rage until the early dawn rays of light. The fire department had a difficult time controlling the blaze, as the family had lots of fuel to fee it up in their attic. The fire also damaged the one neighbor's house on the leftside, too, melting their siding, and burning their trees and scorching their roof. I bet they were terrified that their house was going to go up in flames, too.

They never did figure out what caused the fire, possibly their hot water heater exploded. But the family had just completed and add-on with an outside shed in the backyard and probably overloaded the circuits with the freezer and other appliances they piggybacked onto it.

We were in the process of trying to sell our house during this time, though, and I had no idea how difficult it would be to sell a house directly across from a charred skeleton of a home. All of our windows in our home looked out at it, and every person that looked at our house was turned off by that scary, ugly view, not to mention all the ash, trash, and the stench of rotting food that blew over onto our front yard, too.

So it took us almost a year, and until the insurance allowed the homeowner of that fire destroyed home to begin rebuilding, to finally sell our home.

I'm grateful that the human family survived that fire, though. Watching the power and voracity of that fire was terrifying enough and then having to see the decimation outside our windows all day and night, if they had died I would have been haunted and unable to even sleep at night.



nonizamboni said...

The unthinkable! I'm so sorry this has happened and that you are left to sort out the messy grief and loneliness.