Tag Archives: grief

Saying Goodbye to 2009


As 2009 comes to an end, I look back at all the changes it brought to so many forest dwellers. The Station Fire began modestly enough, but, like all things that cause great change, it caught everyone by surprise. I know I will never forget the snow of ash, the red air swirling around me, or the fear and amazement I felt as I fled for my life, one eye on the road ahead and the other glued to the vision of the roaring inferno behind me as it destroyed nearly everything in its path.

Since August 29, no one in the Angeles has been the same. Animals and people alike are struggling to survive. Most of us lost everything – homes, family mementos, collections, artifacts, antiques, photos… all the tangible things we held dear. Some have been able to move forward from those losses more easily than others, but none of us has had an easy time. It will take years to restore some semblance of normalcy, but I don’t think any of us will truly “recover”. How could we?  Continue reading →

Pianos, musical instrument sculpture

I am struck by the large number of pianos I have seen among the burned homes. I never knew there were so many pianos in our neighborhood because I never heard them played, and it is tragic to see them lying there.  I would like to make a sculpture out of any remains of musical instruments that were lost in the fire, and it is my hope that this could be used as a tool to help raise money to assist victims who lost so much.  Perhaps this could also be incorporated with some live music while on display at some time in the future. Please, if you find remains of your musical instruments and would like them to find rebirth in a work of art, contact me directly.

Mark Fitzsimmons
2062 La Paloma

Wildfires can take a psychological toll

L.A. Times – by Martha Groves 9/6/2009

For those who have lost homes to wildfire, experienced terror in the face of approaching flames or suffered injury, the psychological effects can be deep and long lasting.

Such was the conclusion of five Rand Corp. researchers who studied hundreds of evacuees after a firestorm ravaged large sections of Southern California in October 2003, destroying more than 3,700 homes and forcing an estimated 100,000 people to flee.

Now, as wildfires again rage across Southern California, a co-author of the study recommends that fire evacuees be aware that mental problems can linger long after flames have been doused.

“It’s quite natural to feel despondent or stressed or on pins and needles for the first days and maybe even weeks,” said Grant N. Marshall, a behavioral and social scientist. “It’s only with the passage of time that if symptoms don’t abate, it may turn into something more long-standing.

“The encouraging thing,” he added, “is that you don’t have to suffer in silence.”

Continue reading →

Emotional Recovery After Natural Disasters: How to Get Back to Normal Life

This is a book I’ve shared with multiple disaster relief responders, mental health professionals and survivors. You can purchase this book used very reasonably at Amazon:


By Ilana Singer

A new book release, gives more than simple advice from a grief counselor. This easy-to-read book is filled with practical information and tactics for victims of natural disasters and the people who work with them. Tested, successful directions include examples of what to do and what not to do, all part of recovering from trauma and returning to normal life.

We meet six-year old Dominique, traumatized by the Northridge Earthquake, who needs solutions to her anguish, not theories or explanations. Parents, teachers, and doctors learn easy, practical measures to help relieve a child’s fearfulness.

Hank, a firefighter is recovering from smoke inhalation. His wife, Joyce, sits at his bedside as he recovers. For weeks, horrific memories of the Vietnam War interweave with images of being trapped by the Oakland firestorm. We learn how trauma effects emergency workers and their families, and how depression is often a normal reaction.

Through these and other stories of families, teens, and seniors, myths are uncovered and readers get sound new direction: Avoid anyone, psychologists, tv experts, and do-good advisers, who say you must “relive” and “go into” your anguish or you won’t recover. It is one thing to recall past horrors from a safe distance of many years, it is quite another to relive shocking events while recovering from the current one.

Victims and non-victims alike learn the frequently overlooked signs of trauma and what to do during the acute phase of emotional shock. Coping and moving beyond the acute phase works best when you use the right “tactics,” tactics that are found is this book. These tactics tell you what to do to build the strategies you need. They offer a solution, not a philosophy, differing from traditional counseling in three profound ways: Putting you in charge, making you the expert on your needs, and letting you devise your own solutions.