Hard truths: Moving on from a disaster (and a pandemic)

By Amy C. Cosper

Some things you just can’t control – a pandemic is one of those things. What you can control is how you react and behave to things you cannot control. One year later and it still doesn’t seem real. But there is hope and that’s a mighty powerful thing.

Will we emerge as new and better versions of ourselves? Or will we let the pandemic define who we are and what we stand for?  It’s up to us.

A few years ago, I lost my house and everything in it to a wildfire. It was a defining moment for me. Nothing can prepare you for losing your sense of place. After the Red Cross left and the fire fell out of the headlines, I had a choice to make. I could either root around the remains of my house forever, digging for things or, at least, torched remnants of things. Or, I could dust the ash off and move forward. The temptation is always to dig for what’s left. Try to find something – some memento of the past. But that’s not the most productive or forward-looking strategy.

We weren’t able to get to the remains of our house for three weeks after the fire — too many hot spots. When we were finally allowed into the smoldering hole where our house once stood, there was nothing left except the post-apocalyptic fireplace we’ve all seen in disaster photos. And bedsprings. Apparently, bedsprings have a weird tolerance for high heat.

I made my way through the detritus to where the library once held my books. I mostly had Italian art history books and the high holy chalice -- an Oxford English Dictionary. The books were gone and the library was covered by the collapsed upstairs floor, but there was something under the ashes — something with shape and form that wasn’t a bedspring. I dug around a bit, and there it was: the stone Buddha from Jakarta, fully intact, standing there. It was exactly what I needed: Hope.

Eventually the trauma of the fire set in and Buddha’s head fell off, as did his arms. But he still sits in all of his remarkable brokenness, in the garden of our rebuilt home and rebuilt life, back on top of the mountain.

We decided that digging around looking for pieces of the past was a waste of time and, frankly, not productive. We were looking to the past instead of focusing on the future. So, we rebuilt and never looked back. That’s what we all need to focus on in this soon-to-be post-pandemic business landscape. Rebuild, re-imagine and re-emerge as better versions of ourselves. Learn from the past, but don’t make it your home.



Amy C. Cosper

Twitter me @AmyCCosper


What is your approach to the post-pandemic world? What are your stories of rebuilding? Let me know. We’d love to hear from you. Amy.Cosper@familybusinessmagazine.com

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