Having your home robbed is considerably less traumatic than actually being mugged, but the psychological after effects of a home intrusion are just as intense as a mugging. Take it from someone who has been a victim of both crimes.
In my early 20’s, my roommate and I were walking home from a late-night breakfast run and we were mugged. Eight months after that, while I was on vacation, I received a call from my apartment complex that my unit had been broken into. When I arrived home, it appeared as if my apartment had been through a war. Not only were many of my cherished possessions stolen, all of the remaining items were completely destroyed with paint and a machete. (It most likely wasn’t a machete, but that’s what it looked like). To this day, I don’t know if the two crimes were linked; all I know is that it took me a long time to feel safe again.
I think it’s fair to say I know a thing or two about recovering from the emotional aftermath of a burglary. With that said, let’s address what you’re going through and how you can overcome the negative emotions that come with being victimized. It is important to note that people respond to traumatic events differently, depending on a variety of factors, including personality, coping ability, values, beliefs, and life experiences. You may have one or all of the following reactions in a variety of ways, just keep in mind these reactions do not always take place in a linear fashion.
Shock and Disbelief
Immediately after a traumatic event, like a robbery, it’s extremely common to experience feelings of shock and disbelief. It’s hard to wrap your mind around what just happened; you feel disconnected from the event and your feelings. The immediate inability to accept what happened doesn’t last too long. By the time I was filing out police reports, I had accepted it.
This one used to trip me up because I didn’t fully believe I was in denial. I thought that because I never denied it happened, I couldn’t be in denial, but I was. Denial doesn’t mean that you don’t accept that the event took place; it simply means that you refuse to accept that it’s bothering you. Others may comment on your strength or easy-going attitude, when in truth you are avoiding dealing with the topic.
After you process and accept what just happened, you will likely feel a sense of loss. It’s especially upsetting when you lose sentimental or irreplaceable items. You will never be able to put value on sentimental items, and you will probably always feel a sense of sadness that they were taken from you.
Once you begin to move through the grief of your loss, you will start feeling angry. You will want to find the person responsible and make them pay for what they have done. You may even turn that anger toward your landlords, neighbors, friends, or yourself. It’s perfectly normal to want to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you. The trick is to not allow your anger to consume you. Embrace it, accept it, and then work to move past it. Carrying around intense feelings of anger isn’t going to bring your stuff back and it won’t help you move past the burglary.
This is probably the worst stage of them all. Not only have your valuables been taken, you have to accept the fact that your home – your sanctuary – has been invaded. Most of us think of our home as a safe place; it’s extremely unsettling to have your line of defense breached. It’s not uncommon for burglary victims to feel anxious or fearful of being alone in the home that was robbed.
How to Move On
Now that you know the stages, the next step is to conquer them. Here are some things you can (and should) do to get over your burglary:
1. Get Support
Support can be found through numerous avenues, including friends, family members, clergy members, or a therapist. Don’t be afraid to lean on others for emotional support and comfort.
2. Let Yourself Feel
Don’t let others minimize your feelings by saying things like, “Good thing you weren’t home,” or “You were lucky. At least they didn’t destroy your sofa.” Just because you weren’t home or all of your items weren’t set ablaze does not mean that you shouldn’t feel anything. You have been victimized – it’s okay to be upset about it.
3. Do Not Give in to Fear
While it’s perfectly normal to feel afraid, don’t let it control you. Take action to protect and empower yourself. Consider installing a security alarm system in your home and enrolling in self-defense classes.
4. Keep Your Routine
Try to get back into a routine as soon as you can. The more normalcies you have in your life, the easier it will be to move past this event.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Don’t give into self-pity. Continue to eat well and exercise and don’t overindulge in food, drugs or alcohol. You are stronger than a break in. Don’t let a burglar rob you of your good health and mental well-being.
While it may not seem like it right now, you will be able to move past the negative feelings associated with the burglary. Allow yourself the freedom to move through these emotional stages and remind yourself that this, too, shall pass.