Texas P.R.I.D.E. Crisis Counseling Program Survivor Success Stories Recovering, Rebuilding, and Reclaiming Life Stories
Bastrop County Complex Fire CCP
On the first day of the support group, the Texas P.R.I.D.E Crisis Counseling staff was surprised and glad to have such a large turnout. Although preparations had been made to attend to children separately from the adults, when a young woman arrived with three boys, she politely asked that her children remain with her. She said the fires were the third disaster they had experienced recently and they felt better staying together.
After introductions and the group counseling had begun, we learned that this woman with the three boys was a single mother. In addition to the three boys, a younger sister was at home with a sitter. After explaining that this was their third disaster, this mother related that they were uninsured renters in the neighborhood and had been totally burned out.
Over the next four months the boys and their mother regularly attended the group counseling sessions. The dynamic of the group was positively affected by the boys. They seemed to heighten the spirits of the others attending the group. It is as if their youthful presence was a reminder of growth and vigor which survivors of a tragedy always need. In addition these boys took pride in and assumed responsibility for assisting with setting up for, as well as cleaning up after, each group counseling session.
Most recently, their mother was faced with being without a home. Since their current rent was being increased, she could no longer afford the place they were living in. She presented her situation to the group and related that they had 30 days until they had to move out. The Texas P.R.I.D.E. team, along with the group members, researched many different options. With only a week before their move out date, a group member found an affordable home for her and her children.
This family’s and all of the group members’ lives are filled with similar challenges. To see them unite with such support for each other is inspiring. This group demonstrates the resiliency of Bastrop!
While in the community, I encountered a single mother of two who lost her home and all of her belongings in the wildfire. She had homeowner’s insurance which covered most of her major belongings, but not everything. Through talking with her, it became apparent that she was suffering from high levels of anxiety. She said she could barely sit still in her new home. She was continuously being reminded that she did not have her own “stuff” and “the new home just did not feel like home.” For example, she would go to get something and realize that it was no longer there because it had burned in the fire. After hearing this, I asked her, “What could she do when she feels this way? What did she enjoy doing? What could she do to take care of herself?” She said that she enjoyed taking long baths and spending time with her children. I urged her to do these things, and that she needed to take care of herself. When I visited her for a second time, I asked about her anxiety. She said her new the home was beginning to feel like home and she had started putting time aside for herself. When her children were not home, she would take a bath or just spend time alone. Since she started doing this, her anxiety had decreased. The last time I spoke with her, she was spending more time with her children, but also taking time for herself. She felt at home and was even able to sit down and watch a movie.
Throughout our time going to visit folks at their homes and in businesses, we’ve come across a number of individuals who have often referred to themselves as being “one of the lucky ones.” These folks were in the area affected, but their homes survived (or “just” had smoke damage). Often they were one of only a few, or the only ones in their neighborhoods or on their streets whose homes were spared severe damage. Some described not feeling like they had a right to be upset because they still had a home. Those with little damage did not access resources in the area (including the Texas P.R.I.D.E. Crisis Counseling Program) because they felt that they were taking it away from someone who needed it more. Both associated with what some refer to as “survivor’s guilt.” Just letting these folks know that we have encountered others that are describing similar experiences has provided a sense of relief that they are not the only ones experiencing these feelings. We also let them know that some folks have found it helpful has been doing something to give back in some way. This has helped affirm that our focus is not just on those that have been “burned out,” but also on anyone in Bastrop County.
Hurricane Ike CCP