Have you ever burnt yourself on a flame?
Have you ever followed a forest fire on the local news? Or watched a home crumble ablaze on live TV?
Have you been on the news, because that was your home on fire?
Recovering from losing your home and belongings from an uncontrollable fire is never a formula or three-step plan. It is something that takes years of healing, reminiscing, and growing from what you were left with.
In Pamela’s case, three generations’ worth of heirlooms and two fires later, she found that connecting with people who have been through the same saddening experiences was the thing that helped herself, her art, and others the most.
After 5 day evacuation from another encroaching fire in Pamela’s neighborhood, art therapist Kat Kirby, artist Jane LaFazio, and Pamela wanted to help the women who lost their homes in their town’s fires. The ladies developed a free “Women’s Fire Survivor Support Group,” using expressive arts as the portal for healing the emotional trauma created from the flames.
Pamela and the women knew that in this kind of situation, traditional therapy can fall short. The expressive arts such as drumming, painting, movement, sand tray therapy, collage, and poetry are especially effective in giving form and expression to the thoughts, feelings, and body sensations that trauma holds. When given shape through the arts, these feelings can then be seen outside of the body and therefore, become more approachable.
While feeling deeply displaced, it is crucial for fire survivors to find a neutral zone in which to feel safe. Through art-making, they step over the threshold of harsh every-day reality into creativity and play. When the art-making is complete, the group reflects on what happened. They find that their initial feelings, often full of restrictions and road blocks, have opened to new possibilities, options or insight.
It took a traumatic event for Pamela to realize there is something to be done in helping those that shared the same pain she did when losing her possessions, her house, and in a way, part of her life. There is something good that comes out of the worst situations, if you look hard enough and dig deep enough. The Women’s Fire Survivor Support Group is a testament to that.