When a landslide destroyed our home several years ago, I had no idea how to pick up the pieces.  I learned.  The biggest lesson I took away from it is that we are not alone.  Everyone has significant setbacks in their lives.  How we handle them is what matters.  The good news is that we can turn things around.

Our journey began when I discovered that a landslide had torn through our home.  At first, I was in full blown emergency, reactive mode.  This is where you think on your feet, checking to make sure everyone is okay, dealing with true emergencies, calling for help and getting to safety.

I wasn’t functioning very well at that point.  I was running around trying to figure out what had happened and who to call for help.   In our case, friends from church helped me that first night.  One of the women took me to her house.  Church members gathered to sit with me.  We shared some snacks, had a cup of coffee, talked about what had happened, and finally put me on a sofa to get some sleep.  It’s important to get that time to decompress and take in what has happened.

In the morning, my husband returned from out of town and we met at the house.  The fire department had been there and told him that the house was condemned – red tagged.  It was a staggering moment.  Nature provides a defense mechanism – shock.  It cushions you from the blow, but also blocks your ability to think clearly for a bit.

During this period of uncertainly, you’ll need to summon your inner strength.  A mentor of mine, Susan Crum, calls it G.R.I.T.  It helps to tap into your faith, resilience, inner direction and tenacity.  After Susan shared that with me, I added the word TRUE – the reason underlying everything.  To me, that meant drawing upon our sense of purpose in the moment.   That along with a strong faith in something larger than ourselves gave us the resilience, motivation and persistence to deal with what lay ahead.  It also helped us look ahead rather than be drawn back into the disaster.

Your natural instinct is to re-establish routines as soon as possible, especially with kids.  Something about the structure and normalcy of daily habits helps you believe you can get through anything.  And the actions involved also help prevent depression and fear.  A psychologist at church gave me my first list of suggested daily actions:  sleep 7-9 hours daily, eat well, exercise and breathe deeply, laugh, learn, talk, help others, say thank you and surround yourself in beauty, prayer and meditation.

With a structure to your day, you can begin the process of moving forward.

  1. Focus on what you most want next. This is not about your most forward looking goal or life purpose.  It’s about what you need right now.  So in our case, we knew we wanted to get our own home again.  Our animals were all over the San Fernando Valley and we wanted to be together again.  That gave us focus.  We had research to do to find out how we could do this, and we came up with a plan.  It helps to begin thinking forward, away from any negative experiences.
  2. Take an inventory – what do you have with you, what you have left where you were, what skills do you have, who can you call, that sort of thing. Even if you have lost all of your physical belongings, you have talents, abilities and resources.
  3. Grab a pen and start to journal. Allow your mind to yield up its treasures, ideas.
  4. Find all the resources that are available to you in your area. Reach out for help.

Once you have even the beginning of a plan, you can pick an action and take it.  Look for at least one thing you can do today to move closer to your goal – to feel the way you want to feel when you achieve it.  You want to feel that way NOW, not in the distant future.  Take action.  Do something that helps you feel that way right now.  These actions will continue evolving.

I found it helped to start with what lifted my spirit.  Seeing our family back together again came first.

In addition to knowing how you want to feel when you get what you want, imt’s also important to know WHY you want what you want.  These feelings are the energy of your blueprint to bounce back.

Write down your plan.  Draw a mind map of what you will be doing and then work that plan every day.  Keep at it.  Keep sowing the seeds.  Persist.

For us, these were small steps in the beginning.  It was important to stay focused and keep track of our progress.  It helped to surround ourselves with other supportive people.  As we got back on our feet, we took on bigger projects.

Be kind to yourself.  This doesn’t happen in a moment. And it doesn’t necessarily happen smoothly.  Humans are messy creatures.  We carry a lot of baggage with us.  If you get stuck – which I did – you need to take a look at what’s stopping you.  Use meditation, centered prayer, walks in nature, art and music to connect with your Highest Self.   Then ask for clarity in your purpose and guidance.  Look at your belief systems.  What you are telling yourself can throw a monkey wrench in your plans.  It helps to have people to talk with – a community group, a coach or counsellor, a master mind group – people who love you unconditionally and believe in you before you can believe in yourself.   You may have to do this on your own, but you do not have to do it alone.

The sooner you can get in touch with your purpose and create a plan to follow, the faster you will bounce back.  Those first steps toward feeling better turn into bigger things.  It’s important to celebrate those steps in a positive direction and revise your plan as you see new things emerging.

When we stop dwelling on the negatives, excuses and pain…when we stop telling ourselves or others the negative story, we can start writing a new positive story.  After a disaster or significant setback, you have an opportunity to discover a new story.

It’s not unusual to discover that YOU have changed.  What you value changes.  You may be motivated to accomplish something greater and do something that makes a difference to others.  Embrace it.  It is possible to be blessed by disaster.  It is possible to find rainbows over ruins.  You can bounce back from setbacks.

About the Author:  Susan Sherayko is a 3 time Emmy nominated executive in charge of production for a daily morning show, mindset coach and author, “Rainbows Over Ruins” in which she shares her journey after a landslide destroyed her home.  For more information on how to pick up the pieces after a disaster, check out Your Survivor’s Guide: 12 Tips to Gain Inner Peace available FREE at

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