Five Helpful Things You Can Do When Disaster Strikes

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell

woman leaning against brick pillar wearing ombre top and white short sleeve jacket

I know I’m not the only one who’s been glued to the television the last couple of days. The moving images and stories from the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian have transfixed our nation. We have friends who live in almost all of the states affected, and we’ve felt helpless as we watched their displacement and suffering. What can we do when disaster strikes? Whether a catastrophic weather event, the sudden death of a friend or family member, or some other devastating situation, we all want to know how best to help.

After talking with friends affected by recent natural disasters or personal crises, and those who work with relief organizations and churches, today I’m sharing five practical ways you can bless others when they’re in need.

1. Reach Out.

Everyone likes to know they are being thought of, prayed for, and loved in a time of crisis. Not reaching out because you don’t know what to say or don’t want to bother those who are suffering is rarely the right option. Send a text, Facebook message, or email and let them know you’re concerned and you care. Keep in mind that they’re probably receiving lots of messages from family and friends, so let them know they don’t need to respond to you personally.

If a personal tragedy affects someone you’re close to, being physically present may be the best thing you can do. In a post I wrote about blessing and encouraging your adult children, I shared what our family calls the “ministry of presence.” Be sensitive. In a tragic situation, you’ll know if you are the best person to come alongside your loved one in this way.

2. Stay Informed & Pray.

In our information-driven world, it’s easy to stay informed in case of a natural disaster. Understanding the nature of the situation will help you know how best to pray for, help, and respond to those who need it. Don’t let yourself slide into apathy because the situation isn’t “new” news anymore. Stay connected and stay sensitive to those who are affected.

If the situation is more personal, like an unexpected loss or catastrophic event in the life of a friend, however, it might be best to seek out only the information you need to know in order to help. In situations like this, rumors and gossip can spread, sometimes causing unintentional pain to those affected. Remember, you only need to know how best to love and serve those who are hurting.

3. Don’t Judge.

Resist the urge to pass judgment on the choices or decisions people make in a time of crisis. If you’re not the one in the situation, it’s difficult to know how you’d handle a similar situation. Understand that you may not know the whole story, and choose instead to show unrestrained compassion to those who are suffering.

4. Give.

In situations of natural disaster, it’s best to let the experts respond efficiently to the immediate needs of those affected. If you’re moved to give, financial gifts are typically more helpful than things like clothes, shoes, or other items. (The time involved in sorting and distributing donated items can hinder organizations trying to render aid quickly.) Bob and I always give to the faith-based organization Samaritan’s Purse, because we like knowing that they’re meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those in crisis. Can’t afford to give financially? Consider donating blood. The Red Cross had to cancel multiple blood drives in the hurricane-impacted areas, so there is currently an urgent need for blood donations.

If the situation is of a more personal nature and affects friends or family, sometimes donating to a site like Caring Bridge, a local church that the family attends, or a cause that is dear to their hearts can mean more than a gift like flowers. When our friends’ daughter died after a lengthy, heartbreaking illness, a group of parents established an endowed scholarship in her honor at the school she attended.

5. Lend a Helping Hand.

When a natural disaster strikes, often the needs continue for months and even years after the actual event. While the call for volunteers may not get the publicity that immediate donations do, helping with long-term recovery efforts can be an impactful way to serve. Anyone can give financially, but as empty nesters, we may have more time on our hands than others. For Hurricane Dorian relief, consider volunteering through organizations like Samaritan’s Purse or Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

If a crisis situation affects someone you care about, do something tangible to express your concern. Leave a plant on the porch, write a note, or do something else practical. When my friend’s father died suddenly, a group of good friends went over and cleaned her house. (She was embarrassed but incredibly grateful!) Think twice about doing things like a hospital or home visitation unless you’re certain it’s appropriate given your level of intimacy with those affected. Whatever you do, don’t say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

The reality is, as empty nesters we are at an age when tragedy and crisis can strike those we love at any time. Not only that, but the power of a natural or man-made disaster in our country can have a profound effect on all of us. The good news? At this point in our lives, we may have the financial means and time availability to make a real difference. Let’s do it.

If you’ve suffered from a devastating natural disaster or a personal tragedy, would you consider leaving me a comment below? I’d love to know what was helpful to you and your family. Your advice may help someone who seeks to be a blessing in a similar situation. Thank you so much.





P.S. Right after I wrote this post, I got an email from the team at Kendra Scott. From now through Sunday, 9/8, they are giving 100% off the proceeds from the sales of select jewelry styles directly to Hurricane Dorian relief. I love a brand that puts their heart behind their product, don’t you? I know what I’ll be adding to my cart this weekend! They’ve included some gorgeous pieces, like these earrings that make me think of the water in the Bahamas, and this pendant necklace that will go with absolutely anything in your closet. Think ahead for gift-giving, and do good at the same time! ???? Click HERE to check out all of the items for Hurricane relief.

P.P.S. Did you know the folks at Lilly Pulitzer designed a limited edition Etta top to benefit Hurricane Dorian relief? Are you going to be shopping the big Lilly After Party sale starting this Monday? (Be sure to read this post with my tips if you are!) Then do what I’m going to do, and add one to your cart. You can check it out HERE.



(Short sleeve white jacket is sold out. Similar linked.)

Photo by Megan Weaver.

P.S. Please consider sharing this image on Pinterest to encourage others to make a difference!

woman leaning against brick pillar wearing ombre top and white short sleeve jacket

Suzy Mighell

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