Honor the fact that your body and emotions have been under siege. Give yourself time to recuperate and don’t diminish your experience because it seems less harsh than someone else’s. Chances are you probably need to rest and recuperate from the experience too. Naps cannot be over estimated.
Plug into whatever your Spiritual practice is. Meditate, pray, spend time in nature, do yoga, listen to your favorite music, dance–whatever it takes to deliberately create relaxation and peace in your life.
Eat and drink well. This is not the time to wash away the suffering with martinis. This is a time to nurture your body with healthy food and drink. It’s a way of being gentle with your self.
Don’t minimize the experience. We have had to watch ourselves in terms of “survivor guilt.” Though many of our neighbors had it much worse than we did, we still needed to honor that the stress from being evacuated from our home is real stress.
Be with your community. The Sunshine Canyon community has created many ways for neighbors to be together. There is great power in bearing witness to your neighbor’s story and to having your own story be heard.
Count your blessings. This one can seem difficult in the face of so much sorrow, but knowing the Grace of things is just as healing as knowing the grief of things. You need both to be able to move on.
Cry. Crying is an emotion that cleanses the heart and helps discharge emotional and physical tension.
Sleep. Extra sleep when you have been under stress helps the mind to process and integrate the events that have taken place and it helps the body to recoup the output of energy that was necessary to cope with the events.
Forgive. The person who inadvertently started the fire has been a member of our community for over 40 years. Seeing all the 1000s of acres of burned forest and all the familiar home sites where now only chimneys stand is very difficult. Talking to friends who have lost their homes and all their possessions has been heartbreaking. Nonetheless, forgiveness is crucial to healing. It allows us to drop the 100 lb. sack of resentment and move on. For some forgiveness will come more slowly than for others. Forgiveness unburdens us and frees the heart to live and love again.
Put yourself on a nurturing schedule. This is not the type of schedule where you fill up every moment with a “to do” and then check it off. This is a schedule where you commit to getting yourself into bed at 10:00 and doing 5 minutes of deep breathing with the intent of getting 8 hours of rest. This is a schedule where you commit to exercise in the morning; a 10 minute meditation break at lunch time and a few minutes of inspirational reading when you get home from work. This is a nurturing schedule into which you fit the rest of your life, rather than the other way around.
All of these suggestions deal with ways to begin healing. We relate them to the experience we just had, but they can be implemented into any kind of “loss” situation. No one in this world is exempt from suffering. Personal suffering can help build deeper compassion in our being. Practicing self-care skills is an important part of the healing process, and we are sharing with you what we have put into motion to deal with our stress, in hopes that somewhere down the line our experience and sharing may help someone else.
Sunshine Canyon does not look the same right now. It will not fully recover within the time we have left on this earth. One of the great truths of life is that everything changes and ends, and sometimes rather quickly. We allow ourselves to cry when we hike up the road to a forest that is now blackened and charred. We will allow ourselves to celebrate when we see the green that begins to come back in the spring. We are grateful to our neighbors and our friends; grateful to the beauty that this canyon has given us over the years. There is still work to be done; grief and sadness that will become integrated, and grace and gratitude that will underscore our faith in God and nature.