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Lessons Learned While Not Being Evacuated

sonoma strong


It’s a strange situation to be in really…not being evacuated. When in fact so many people you know and care about have had to leave their homes, some at a minutes notice. And others that you know or have heard about have lost their homes.

While I am talking about the recent, and ongoing, fires in Northern California, I’m sure some, if not most of the feelings and thoughts one goes through in these times of disaster can apply to any situation such as this.

The feeling of guilt hits at the oddest times.

Guilt? Why the hell would someone feel guilty? It is a common feeling that people feel when others surrounding them are going through tremendous loss and they are not. While talking with a neighbor the other day she said she was embarrassed but that she felt guilty for being safe wile so many others are in such dire situations. Survivor’s guilt is not uncommon at all; in fact it is a natural feeling. Not everyone feels this but those that do can feel it in varying degrees. What can you do to get through these feelings?

  1. Understand that you are not alone. If the feelings continue to a fairly high degree try to find a support group with others that a feeling the same guilt. By doing this you will find yourself feeling a bit less isolated.
  2. Realize that your survival grief and exist at the same time as you grieve for others. Being grateful for your own survival does not diminish your grief for those who did not get out of the disaster with quite as much as you did.
  3. Stop asking Why? This is a tough one to deal with but truthfully you will never get an answer to this question. Why them and not you? Try to let go of that question.

Isolation is one that hit me pretty hard.

Because we are in a firestorm situation the air is tremendously toxic which means most people are staying inside as much as possible. Many of us are also trying to stay off the local roadways in order to allow the first responders to get through. Luckily I am one that enjoys my time alone, at least for the most part. Even with that though I have certainly felt the isolation this past week. So what can you do?

  1. Connect! Reach out to your friends and make sure they are alright. Whether that is through phone calls, text messages or however you usually do it – just connect.
  2. Do you have space for a displaced friend? Offer it to them. If you don’t you can at least offer your emotional support.
  3. If there is any way that you can actually get together with a few friends do it. Of course this certainly depends upon the current situation you are dealing with.
  4. Stay off the social media. Ok, maybe not completely but do take breaks from it. Social media can become overwhelming with people posting photos of the destructions around you, telling of another friend who lost their home, people posting go-fund-me sites. I’m certainly not saying to stay off completely but do try and limit your time on there.
  5. Don’t forget your family and friends that do not live in the immediate area. Keep I touch with them and let them know exactly what is happening. So often news coverages from out of the area are not always accurate.

Don’t get complacent.

If the situation is continuing such as the firestorms here do not allow yourself to become complacent and think that you will always be safe.

  1. Keep your car packed with your “go-bag” and other personal possessions. While it might sound as though things have gotten better realize that in some of these situations s things can change in a heartbeat. Continue to be vigilant and ready to go if necessary.
  2. Get your news from the local news. Most areas have at least one local radio station that will provide the most accurate information.
  3. Sign up for the emergency alerts for your specific area. You will need to find out from your local city, county, police what service they use. Make sure you use your cell number since most of us carry our phones with us.
  4. Be aware that what you see on social media may or may not be accurate. Try not to pass rumors along to others. If you are unsure about a post you see you can either ignore it or check it for accuracy before passing it along.
  5. It’s fine to post accurate information that you might be receiving but realize that sometimes the continuing of those posts can be a bit much for others. Also realize that most people in the area are receiving the same notifications you are. However, if you are aware of someone that does not receive those notices you might contact them personally and let them know how they can receive the notifications.

It is not selfish to think of yourself first.

While it may sound selfish at the moment it is selfish at all to think of or take care of yourself. In fact it is pretty damn important to do so. And as always this does not necessarily mean those large self-care things we do. It does mean though those little things that can sometimes be much more important. Some things such as:

  1. Get a good night’s sleep. Ok, so this one can be a bit difficult while things are happening all around us. It seems that every little noise is one that needs to be checked out now. Even if that is a noise you hear on a regular basis. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep try to take a nap in the afternoon.
  2. Take joy in the little things that take place. One of mine this past week was getting my gas turned back on and being able to actually take a shower.
  3. There is no need to feel selfish. I sent a friend an email to see how they were doing as I felt they had probably been evacuated. She responded that they had indeed been evacuated. But then she went on to say that she had to work but was having problems doing so but that she also didn’t want to be fired. When I responded that she should not feel that she will be fired since everyone in her office is going through much the same thing. Her response was that she had been selfish in that thought. No she was not being selfish.
  4. Understand that you are absolutely not alone in how you are feeling. I spent the night at a friend’s house one evening. I probably did not need to but I did. I personally felt unsafe and have a feeling there may have been deeper emotions as well. A day or so later I spoke with a friend who sked me not to tell anyone or not to laugh at her. She then told me she was feeling quite numb and just didn’t know what she should be doing. Remember that during times such as this everyone is feeling things they may never have felt before. You are absolutely not alone!
  5. Know that your concentration level may not be what it was before. Several of us where I work are working from home (and will be for months to come). I find that while I could concentrate on a project for 2 to 3 hours before it is now about an hour before I must take a break. That is actually very common and there should be no embarrassment about that.
  6. Don’t worry about how you look, or that you may be wearing clothes that don’t necessarily fit, or that your hair isn’t washed. Take a look around you and you will notice that everyone is in the same situation.
  7. Realize that you may well cry at the slightest thing. Seriously it is alright. Be patient with yourself.
  8. Oh and also understand that you may end up laughing at the stupidest things – especially yourself. Believe it or not that is also pretty darn common. I think I have laughed at myself more in the past few days than in my entire lifetime


Do you feel the need to be of help?

Many of us who have survived feel the need to help those that have been displaced. But how to do that?

  1. Many centers will most likely be set up for those displaced. They will need both donations and volunteers.
  2. Before you get in the car and drive around to the various centers please check first to see what and who they need. In our recent fires some of the centers had so many volunteers and donations that they had to actually turn away people.
  3. Check the various websites for your local charities and organizations. Many of them will be posting what they need and where.
  4. Remember that the situation may well be long term. Think about waiting a week or so to volunteer since most people want to help out immediately then they leave. Volunteers and donations may well be needed for several weeks.


The new normal

Realize that life as you and your community knew it has changed. And that lifestyle that you enjoyed will never return to what it was before.

  1. Understand that even once the situation is over it will not be completely over for everyone. Many people will be dealing with insurance, finding new housing, new clothes and so many other things that you may not even be thinking of.
  2. There will be places within your area that may be off limits for the general public. Respect that and just don’t go in to be a looky-loo.
  3. Understand that the rebuilding of your community is not going to happen overnight. It will take years to complete and will most likely not look the same as it did before.


The firestorms my area is going through right now may be the first time many of us have been in a crisis situation. The best we can do is what I have seen so very much of this past week. Care, support and love for your neighbors, both near and far.

Know we are all going something of our own but that we are also in this thing together.

It seems that all of the recent emails and texts I have received from local people sign off with “stay safe”. So with that being said…


Stay safe




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