10 Things NOT to Say to Flood Victims

Author’s Note :: This blog was a collaborative effort of survivors of flooding and their thoughts on how common sayings have made them feel. Not all statements resonated with all victims, but I felt each one was important to list so that readers could understand their feelings behind the well-meaning comments. I have said many of these things and probably still do today. The list is not meant to demean others, but to give a new perspective on how some flood victims feel, remind others to be sensitive to their feelings and offer assistance if at all possible. As always, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and raw emotions. Giving support from your heart is ultimately the main goal in this tragic time.

10 Things NOT to Say to Flood Victims

Louisiana has been in a state of emergency for the past 6 days.

Relentless rain and rising rivers have caused disastrous flash floodin10 Things NOT to Say to Flood Victimsg all throughout the south. 40,000 homes destroyed, 30,000 people rescued, 10,000 in shelters. There was little time to prepare, and the damage to properties and human life is unimaginable. A drive down almost any road in Southeast Louisiana reveals the horrific aftermath that flash flooding caused just days ago.

Louisiana communities are beginning to dry off and pick up the pieces of their homes and lives. In the midst of such tragedy, people are coming together in order to help each other … and it’s a beautiful sight.

In times like these, we feel obligated to express our concern and condolences to others who were victims of this disaster.

couch in kitchenRarely can a response or comment make a situation better, but we can express our empathy so that those affected know we are here to support them. We want to connect, rather than disconnect. We want to try and put ourselves in their shoes, take their perspective, be free of judgment, and ultimately, we want to feel with them.

Sometimes when we are speaking to those affected by the horrific floods, we say things that are well meaning in nature but do not help in our desire to be empathetic. And sometimes these comments are anything but supportive.

Here are 10 common sayings that flood victims don’t want to hear…

“Just be thankful that you are all safe and alive.”

I’m fairly certain everyone who survived the flooding is thankful they are alive and well; they do not need us reminding them.

“It’s just things that can be replaced.”

While “things” can often be replaced, many times they cannot. Pictures and family heirlooms, amongst other things, cannot be replaced. The longing for these lost materials will stay with them long after the flood waters have receded.

“At least you only got a few feet of water, my house flooded to the roof.”

Some houses got impacted more so than others, however it is NEVER appropriate to try and one up a fellow victim.

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

Just no. Can we stop with that saying?

“Let me know if you need anything!”

This well meaning comment has such great intent. Truly it does, but flood victims need lots of things and their minds are already overwhelmed. Can I recommend saying something more productive such as, “Can I come over to help you clean up in the morning?” or “Would it be alright if I buy your family some necessities like clothing, toiletries, and supplies?”

“It could always be worse.”

Yep, it sure could, but in this very moment, things are pretty grim for the victims. They need to feel all the emotions they have without judgment.

“I’m praying for you.” (and then nothing…)

Obviously you can totally say this comment (and I encourage you to do so), but please don’t stop there if you are in the area of need and can physically help. When one just endured such a tragedy, they often need help now and they need it fast. I’m sure no one gets offended by a prayer offering, but what they would really love in addition to your prayers is your man power in helping them begin to rebuild their life. (Please keep the prayers coming if you are unable to do anything else!)

“I sure hope you had flood insurance.”

Well, what if they don’t? Do they need a reminder that this devastation will cost thousands of dollars? Instead, maybe ask if you can help them with making claims or paperwork.

“At least you have each other.”

Our families are number one, obviously. It should go without saying that being together is the ultimate blessing, but even having each other doesn’t erase the pain or trauma of enduring a natural disaster.

“At least…”

Let’s just say anything that starts with “at least” should ALWAYS be off limits in times of crisis and trauma.

14022161_10102887378961226_4561534825650858800_nSilver lining, comparing, or judging in your words is never productive and only disconnects you from the victim when we should be connecting. These people are hurting and they have every right to be. Louisiana’s flood victims are vulnerable right now, and their emotions are running high. They need to feel our love and support in their time of need.

This advice is based on other victims’ experiences and may not resonate with all, and thanks okay.  The one thing I’m certain of is that we should all be sensitive to their feelings and offer our support.

Often times, our need to comfort those suffering around us leaves us speechless or stumbling our words, but as long as we acknowledge them in their time of need and genuinely offer our love and support, I think we will be able to recover and rebuild from this tragedy together.

#LouisianaStrong

Need Help With What to Say or Do for Flood Victims? Click HERE for 10 Things You Can Do! 

Other Helpful Posts For Victims of Flood and Other Natural Disasters

How to Help The Louisiana Flood Victims {Drop Offs, Donations and More} :: Moms Helping Moms

Louisiana Pride :: Sending NOLA Love to Baton Rouge

3 Ways to Help Baton Rouge Flood Victims Immediately {From Louisiana or Afar}

It’s Just Stuff, but It’s Okay to Cry

The Incomparable Beauty of Community

To The 90 Percent, From The 10 Percent

Sights and Sounds of the Storm

Resources and Information for the Louisiana Flood Victims

As the Floodwaters Rise

Floodwaters Wash Over Me, Wave After Wave

We are the Helpers

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33 Responses to 10 Things NOT to Say to Flood Victims

  1. Tricia August 17, 2016 at 10:30 am #

    Thank you, this is everything I have been feeling!

    • Katie
      Katie August 17, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

      No, thank you!!

  2. lisa August 17, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    Sorry this is ridiculous … it’s what we do and what we say. I’m a flood victim and lost my dad. We love support regardless!!!

    • Katie
      Katie August 17, 2016 at 7:38 pm #

      I’m sorry that you found it ridiculous and I’m so sorry that you lost your dad. My sincere condolences Lisa.

  3. Paula August 17, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

    Please…..never ever, ever, ever, indicate that saying “I’m Praying For You” is something NOT to say. I read the explanation behind it and understand what you mean.

    However, if I hadn’t taken the time to read your explanation, I would not know what you meant. Most people will not read the explanation and will believe the title as it reads alone. For some, prayer is all they have.

    Please don’t take it away from them and don’t prevent prayer from making a difference in someone’s life that may not know they need it.

    In addition, I’m fortunate enough to be able to work, but I have to work. For some, prayer is all I have to give. I don’t accept your indication that the impact of my powerful prayers is not enough.

  4. My problem often is all I can do is pray :-( August 17, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    My problem often is all I can do is pray 🙁

    • Katie
      Katie August 17, 2016 at 7:40 pm #

      Please take these words with a grain of salt, and if all you can do is pray, then PLEASE keep praying!! Prayers can move mountains!!

  5. Paula August 17, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

    Please…..never ever, ever, ever, indicate that saying “I’m Praying For You” is something NOT to say. I read the explanation behind it and understand what you mean.

    However, if I hadn’t taken the time to read your explanation, I would not know what you meant. Most people will not read the explanation and will believe the title as it reads alone. For some, prayer is all they have.

    Please don’t take it away from them and don’t prevent prayer from making a difference in someone’s life that may not know they need it.

    In addition, I’m fortunate enough to be able to work, but I have to work. For some, prayer is all I have to give. I don’t accept your indication that the impact of my powerful prayers is not enough.

    • Katie
      Katie August 17, 2016 at 8:09 pm #

      Hi Paula. I’m a praying person and absolutely believe in the power of prayer. I’m sorry if you felt that I was inclining that people shouldn’t pray at all.

  6. Linsey Stuckey August 17, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

    I completely understand what you’re coming from, but can you follow up with a blog post listing all the things you SHOULD say? We have dozens of extended family members in the Baton Rouge and Denham Springs areas that have completely lost their homes in the past week. I’m at a loss for all the things I SHOULD say, especially after reading this post. It seems, based on your blog post, that there isn’t anything that is right to say. Rather than criticize, can you give suggestions on what to say?

    • Katie
      Katie August 17, 2016 at 8:10 pm #

      Hi Linsey! I am working on a follow up blog now from fellow moms who are survivors of flooding here in Louisiana. Also, I love your blog; your family is beautiful!

  7. Wendy Hawkins August 17, 2016 at 6:57 pm #

    Thank you for posting this article. I’m ashamed to say that I have said some of these things to victims of this past week’s flood. Though I was well intentioned, I can see how saying things may irritate a person rather than soothe after reading this post.

    • Katie
      Katie August 17, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

      Oh Wendy, please do not feel ashamed. I have said these same things often. I’m sure your friends knew that you had the sincerest intentions in your comments. I wanted to bring attention to this topic because many friends of mine were experiencing these well meaning comments and people didn’t know how it made them feel. The comments are not the feelings of all flood victims by any means!

  8. Genevieve August 18, 2016 at 1:46 am #

    I’ve found the best response to any tragic event (flood, death, sickness) is to acknowledge it. Don’t attempt to lift someone’s spirits. Agree the situation sucks and it’s okay to be angry/sad/overwhelmed.

    • Katie
      Katie August 18, 2016 at 10:16 am #

      YESSSSSS!!!!! I have another blog coming up about what you can do for the victims and the very last one is about listening. Thank you for your comment!

  9. Sara Taylor August 18, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    Great article- and sometimes we say I am praying for you and then don’t. I think we need to stop right then hold the persons hands, pray and cry with them. Everyday everywhere there are people hurting and they need someone who will stop long enough to hear their hurt and pray with and for them.

    • Katie
      Katie August 19, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

      I LOVE THIS!! So much YES Sara!! Don’t just say you’ll pray, stop right there and pray with them!! That action speaks so much louder than just words! Thank you so much for commenting this!

  10. Lisa August 18, 2016 at 10:17 am #

    I think that you should look at the intent. Yes, people say off the cuff answers and do things that I’m sure in hindsight look uncaring or flippant but in my view, as long as no one asks why I would choose to live in a state that floods, then I’m ok. Everyone’s emotions are in full effect right now and I get it, hell, I went through Katrina myself and understand taking offense to little things people say during times like this. But sometimes you have to also understand the other side and realize many people on the outside feel extremely helpless to do anything at all especially if their family and friends are in a completely different state. Appreciate your opinion but don’t really agree with some of these “Things not to say”

    • Katie
      Katie August 19, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

      Hi Lisa, thank you for your comment. I’m certain most people look at the intent, and would never say anything to someone saying these comments b/c they know they mean well. But this post was more about the whole idea behind just saying words instead of finding another way to help.
      In the author’s note I stated that not all agreed with all 10 things but I felt it necessary to allow readers to view how “some” victims felt with the comments. I did not flood and have survivors guilt big time; I didn’t know what to say either. That is why I wrote my second post that you can find on this blog, 10 things you can do for flood victims. Our actions are what is needed most, not our words. 🙂

  11. Bob August 18, 2016 at 9:54 pm #

    So rather than, “I hope you had flood insurance” can we say , “Well, I guess you were too stupid and did not buy flood insurance even though you live in a floodplain?”

    • Katie
      Katie August 19, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

      Bob, in my opinion I think both of those statements should be left unsaid, but to each their own. Those who just lost everything don’t need our judgment, only our support.

  12. Kim Arnold August 18, 2016 at 10:08 pm #

    No matter what anyone says to me I try to look past the actual words and see the heart of what they really intend, and if it’s meant to be consolatory I will choose to appreciate it.

    If anyone is attempting to be compassionate and sympathetic toward me I am going to acknowledge and appreciate it no matter what words they may use to express it.

    The last thing I would ever want to do is hand out a rule book on how best to be kind to me because in so doing I might make the person concerned about me feel small or rebuffed in some way. They might take it that I don’t want their encouragement and or prayers…and nothing could be further from the truth. ?

    But that’s just me. I respect others rights to see it differently and will keep praying, even if that’s all I can do at this point.

    • Katie
      Katie August 19, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

      Absolutely. This is why I wrote my second post, 10 Things You Can DO for Flood Victims. They just need our support and help right now.

  13. Linda Newell August 25, 2016 at 7:28 am #

    This is wonderful. Having been a victim of the levee failures in NOLA, I can add that one should never tell a flood victim “what did you expect? You shouldn’t even be living there.” (This is especially hurtful when your disaster wasn’t even a natural one.)

    Also, please don’t forget the victims in Tangipahoa Parish and other areas. I know that people in places like Chalmette and southern Mississippi, which were wiped out in Katrina, felt like unloved stepchildren because all the focus was on NOLA.

  14. Denise August 31, 2016 at 8:21 pm #

    You left out the one i hate hearing, “why don’t ya’ll just move up North?”. Well, family, jobs, children, grandchildren, grandparents, friends, just to name a few reasons why.

  15. J.P. Cox September 1, 2016 at 6:45 pm #

    Katie-

    This is excellent. I am a pastor in SE Louisiana. Do you mind if I share this with my congregation?

    • Katie
      Katie September 2, 2016 at 9:30 am #

      J.P. Cox, thank you so very much. I would be honored if you shared!! 🙂

  16. Kimberly September 12, 2016 at 7:57 am #

    We were Flood Victims in Denham springs and we did lose everything…. We have heard everyone of these …and the biggest one was “I’m so sorry for your loss” that one was over and over it got to the point where my husband said if I hear that one more time…. It’s just hard and now trying to find a place to live… It sucks

  17. Brian Davis September 19, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

    I enjoyed the enjoyed reading this and have heard everyone of these saying and I know that people has good intentions when saying these things. But one thing that most people don’t know is that yes we still have our families but here’s the issue with that. With the limited number of places to stay we don’t feel like we have our families.Personally I am at my parent’s home, my wife and youngest son are with friends so he can get to school and my 2 oldest children are each staying with different friends that do not flood. So yes my family is alive but it almost feels as they are not because we can’t sit around and have family time. It has been over a month since we have all been in the same room at one time. it is very stressful and had to put into words what that feels like.

  18. San Diego Water Damage Pro December 23, 2016 at 12:49 am #

    This is a very informative article.

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