Board Walk ~ Susan Gorin

Susan Gorin


The ongoing recovery

Posted on June 7, 2018 by Susan Gorin

Last October, we all lost something, even if that something was just a sense of safety. We were all busy before the fires, and now those of us who lost our homes have added daily interactions with insurance, permits, builders, architects, soil samples, and septic systems. We’ve been in “go-mode” since October, and it’s physically and emotionally exhausting to be in survivorship for prolonged periods of time.

It’s mentally draining to spend countless hours attempting to inventory a house full of stuff, especially when other people keep telling you, “It’s just stuff.”

But it’s not just stuff. It’s not just a chair. It’s the place where my mother rocked me to sleep. It’s not just a picture frame, it was a wedding photo. It meant something emotionally to my family. And it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge that and talk to people who understand.

And there are people who understand.

California HOPE is a FEMA funded program that provides community-based outreach and psychoeducational services to survivors of natural and human-caused disasters. California HOPE Counselors meet survivors wherever they are (in a restaurant, home, neighborhood, community center, business, church, etc.).

These California HOPE Counselors provide short-term interventions, free of charge, to help survivors:

  • Understand their current situation and reactions
  • Reduce stress through emotional support
  • Review their disaster recovery options
  • Use or develop coping strategies
  • Connect with other people and agencies who can help them in their recovery

Connecting with others helps heal trauma. Sometimes talking about what happened can help life seem less overwhelming. Other times, just being with people who are accepting and understanding, without having to talk, can feel best. For those of us who hurt, and those around us who hurt with us, here are some recovery basics to remember as we navigate survivorship together.

When you are involved in a disaster, you may be affected personally regardless of whether you were hurt, lost a home, or lost a loved one. You can be affected just by witnessing a disaster. It is common to show signs of stress after exposure to a disaster, and it is important to monitor your physical and emotional health.

You may experience things like:

  • Emotional changes like anxiety or fear; sadness; anger; guilt; feeling disconnected or numb.
  • Physical symptoms like stomachaches; headaches; changes in appetite; fatigue; tremors or shaking; being jumpy or easily startled.
  • Behavioral changes like trouble sleeping; changes in energy level; crying frequently; using alcohol or other substances; feeling irritable; isolating.
  • Problems with thinking including difficulty remembering; difficulty concentrating; feeling confused; worrying; difficulty making decisions; difficulty talking about what happened.

I know a lot of these resonate with me, and I have observed them in colleagues and constituents alike. We do need to go on with our daily tasks, and those of us who lost our homes have a whole new array of things we need to do as well. Remember to be kind to yourself, and get back to the basics

Things that are proven to help:

  • Eat well
  • Move daily
  • Exercise – talk a walk with friends or family perhaps in one of our Regional or City Parks
  • Hydrate often
  • Sleep more
  • Love, laugh, and connect

From the ashes we will rise. It will be slow and it will be frustrating. But together we will get through the loss and find joy again.

You can reach Sonoma Valley California HOPE providers at 707,608,8806 and the program manager at 707.565.4868. California HOPE providers serve the whole county. For other regional providers and additional mental health and wellness resources for fire survivors visit



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