What brought us together
The past few years we have all felt the effects of being a country divided. As a clinician, I hear more and more of long standing relationships being torn apart by politics, families cutting off relationships over Facebook comments, strangers arguing in line at the grocery store. I find myself reflecting upon how separated we are all feeling and how wary we have all become of one another.
Then the fires came roaring in, devastating thousands, taking away the most basic of human needs from so many- shelter, water, food. The fires took down whole communities, taking everything and leaving nothing in its wake. Tragedy and trauma in the forms of natural disasters, such as these fires, hold no discriminations. The fires do not care if your home is worth millions, or a shack. They do not care if you are democratic, republican, or who you know. These fires have affected so many, and have taken, traumatized, and destroyed. So what can come of such catastrophe and heartbreak? Community.
Anytime we experience a trauma, we must be acknowledged for the magnitude of the event that has happened. We experience distressing symptoms that many of us out of fear, confusion or shame keep to ourselves and minimize. So when a community comes together, they are able to recognize they are not alone in their survival. Researchsuggests that reestablishing ties to family, community, culture, and spiritual systems is not only vital to the individual, but it also influences the impact of the trauma upon future generations.
A direct quote from a tornado survivorwho’s house and property had been lost in the damage:
“I always dreamed of growing up and moving away from this small town. However, after seeing the way the people of the community came together I have never been more proud to be a Washington Panther.”
What I personally witnessed was no longer people feeling the need to be right or wrong, rather people coming together, bonded in a way that only those communities who fight such disasters do. I saw help groups popping up online, donations being collected, friends lending out rooms to stay to strangers, cars to help tow animals, and a common feeling shared among all: I feel for my fellow person. I bear witness to this pain and acknowledge loss. Those who have never connected, strangers were now brought together and bonded in an irreversible way.
In times of tragedy such as this, it gives me hope in watching people coming together in a natural healing process of support and empathy. In these events when the pain of death and loss is incomprehensible; as Mr. Rodgers stated, looking for the helpers can allow us to feel hope in humanity for rebuilding, renegotiating traumas, restarting, and reframing. We can allow ourselves to connect with each other through empathy, through the common thread humanity that weaves through all of us together in the event of witnessing a disaster.
As another survivorof a natural disaster stated:
“Hope remains when the world crashes down around us. No natural disaster can destroy the hope that is everlasting.”
IF YOU KNOW OF ANYONE OR YOU YOURSELF HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY THE FIRES, OR BY THE THOUSAND OAKS MASS SHOOTING, PLEASE CONTACT ME DIRECTLY TO INQUIRE ABOUT FREE SERVICES FOR VICTIMS WITHIN LOS ANGELES COUNTY.
•National Suicide/Crisis Hotline (24/7 support) – 800-273-8255
•Wellness Center at Boys & Girls Club of Malibu – free therapy for students of Malibu
•Kaiser Behavioral Health in Thousand Oaks – community trauma group open to public
•Give an Hour – Westlake Village https://giveanhour.org
•Mindfulpath, Inc. – offering support group on 12/2/18 at 1:00pm-3:00pm in Calabasas https://www.mindfulpath.com
•Trauma Resource Institute - https://www.facebook.com/traumaresourceinstitute/posts/10155755943360143?hc_location=ufi
Alexis has been a part time contributor to the online website Patientworthy which is dedicated to education and awareness of rare and serious diseases. Links to articles written by Alexis: