Community Gatherings Offer Healing for Emotional Wounds After Disasters

26 August 2020

Photo by Ed Coffey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers via Flickr

After the Tubbs Fire in 2017, Anabel Garcia felt on edge every time an ambulance siren blared outside her home in Santa Rosa, California. Sirens reminded her of evacuating during the state’s second-deadliest wildfire, which killed 22 and destroyed 5,000 homes. Flames reached as close as five miles from her family’s house.

“It terrified us,” Garcia said in Spanish. “But it was scarier having to go through it all a second time.”

She means the Kincade Fire, which blazed through Sonoma County last fall. Garcia recalled the roads being blocked for hours, preventing her, her husband and their two teenage children from evacuating.

At that point, Garcia, 46, considered moving from California to avoid living through yet another major wildfire. “It was traumatic, psychologically and emotionally,” she said.

To cope, she attended a convivencia, or community gathering, hosted by Humanidad Therapy and Education Services. Wildfire survivors gathered in a local park to discuss their experiences with a bilingual therapist over hot chocolate, coffee and bread. The therapist walked through deep-breathing exercises, stretches and relaxation techniques in Spanish. After attending these free group sessions for several weeks, Garcia felt better. She realized she wasn’t alone.

Continue Reading on California Health Report

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