Aftermath of fire still has many stresses

As the city puts the pieces back together after the devastating forest fire wreaked havoc on our summer, many people are only now experiencing the full extent of the stress, grief and frustration this disaster brought with it.

Only now as people begin to take stock of the damages and deal with insurance companies, restoration companies and builders is the reality of the situation flooding in.

For some it is the constant reminder of all they have lost that catches them off guard every time they need something that isn't there and have to go shopping yet again to replace it. Others are experiencing elevated stress as they begin to sort through details with insurance companies and find they were not as well covered as they originally thought.

Still others are dealing with home renovations, restorations or rebuilding projects and feel frustrated with delays or the hassle of dealing with the companies hired to do the work. These restorations may not be perfect and they are left having to accept the scars that will remind them of the disaster and their loss.

Some have lost loved pets or are forced to be separated from their pets because of their temporary lodgings.

Just the sheer enormity of the work to be done is overwhelming for most. Families with two working parents who were already barely managing to get everything done now have to find a place to live, replace everything they owned, deal with claims, design and build a new home and attend to the emotional needs of their children. All of this while continuing to work and make ends meet. For many, the cracks are beginning to show.

Cynicism may be setting in for some who feel companies, politicians and life are not living up to expectations.

The initial euphoria many felt at the huge outpouring of community support is beginning to wane for some as they face the necessity of moving on. Now that constant media coverage and political visits have passed, our community needs to hunker down and get to work - here's where the hard part starts.

For many, the onslaught of details is causing feelings of helplessness, stress and frustration; all of which can lead to an onset of depression in the wake of this traumatic experience.

Other people simply want to get back to their normal daily routines. They feel they are receiving too much attention as a result of the fire and feel smothered by well-meaning people offering unasked for advice, sympathy and personal comments.

Now is the time when community support groups and services need to be ready to face increased instances of depression or unresolved emotions relating to the fire. It is precisely when things return to normal for everyone else that those most affected by the event begin to feel separate and overwhelmed.

Compassion by employers, friends and family is necessary at this time - but should be offered by letting the person know help is available should they need or want it.

For those experiencing these later onset feelings, know that you are justified and should not expect to feel nothing at such a loss. Accept your feelings and seek a caring, non-judgmental person to speak with. Give yourself time to recover.

Eliminate any optional responsibilities and give yourself time to get everything done while at the same time spending time with your family. You may have to reduce your work hours in order to do this, but your mental health is worth it.

If you are feeling completely overwhelmed by feelings of grief, loss, frustration, helplessness or stress, don't feel afraid to seek professional help. Speak with your family doctor and get referred to counseling services or a support group in the community.


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