As the crisp winds of Autumn bring a new season to Santa Barbara, it is hard to believe that it has already been nine months since the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow.
In some ways these months have seemed to fly by and in other ways, time has stood still. While some of the mud and debris has been cleared on properties, many in town are still feeling ‘stuck in the mud’ emotionally speaking. In this season, the conflicting realities brought about by disaster cause us to feel as if we are taking two steps forward and three steps back at times.
The summer provided a welcome break from concerns about the rain, but as the probability of precipitation rises in Santa Barbara County, so can the levels of stress. Many of the individuals, congregations and organizations we have been supporting through the Riviera Care Center Project are amid preparing for the possibility of another evacuation season.
Some of the folks we listen to have asked why overwhelming emotions are just now starting to surface. Others have said that they feel as if their reactions are a bit delayed and wonder why the grief is now starting to set in. To those who feel that way my response is “actually, you are right on time with your reactions”. We all experience the effects of stress and trauma differently. Our bodies, hearts and minds bring things to the surface in their own time… and as there is an opportune season in our personal lives to tune in to our emotions.
The phases of disaster that a community may go through often sees a collective stage of disillusionment leading up to the anniversary. This stage can include feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, and sadness. As the intensity of the first response, or “hero” phase, wanes, it is common for people in the community to feel tired and experience a significant dip in energy levels. The feelings that surface around this time are normal, healthy and necessary in the work of restoration. September brought the closing of the Montecito Center and with it a heightened collective awareness of the ongoing needs of our community. In response to these needs, ICTG continues to co-lead the Community Wellness Team and ensure collaborative efforts in providing for the mental, emotional and spiritual health of Santa Barbara County residents.
This season has marked an increased need for therapeutic services to individuals and groups. It has also marked an increase in requests for us to provide disaster and preparedness education, group processing and coaching, and facilitation of gatherings for collective healing. We remain committed to supporting our community with these services through the Riviera Care Center Project.
Thank you for your continued support to our local efforts to provide care and restorative strategies to survivors, organizations, churches and business in Santa Barbara County. We are passionate about our mission and grateful for your generosity – it continues to make a tremendous difference, especially in this season!
Director of Congregational Health & Trauma Chaplain
Marvel Hitson serves as ICTG's Director of Congregational Health & Trauma Chaplain.
Marvel has been based out of the Montecito Center alongside the HOPE 805 Team & other community partners supporting Santa Barbara County in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire and Debris Flows. She is currently working towards long term recovery through Riviera Care Center Project in collaboration with the Community Wellness Team.