I received a text early in the morning on Monday, October 9th. It was from Jody, my college teammate. It read, “My home is gone.”
I was confused. Jody lives in Santa Rosa and I had just been in Santa Rosa two days prior for an amazing wedding. Everything seemed perfectly fine when we were there and I had only briefly heard of a fire in Napa. But having grown up in Northern California I assumed it was high atop one of Napa’s mountain ranges and out of harm’s way. I never smelled smoke…so how in the world could this be happening? How could Jody be telling me her home was gone?
Immediately, I picked up the phone and called Jody, admittedly a bit dazed and confused on my part. She tells me everything. She tells me about the 1 o’clock call in the middle of the night from her neighbor, how she was out of town visiting her mom’s cabin at the time and how all she has is literally the clothes on her back.
I do not try to tell her everything is going to work out. I do not tell her she’s lucky she’s safe and everyone in her family is safe. I know all too well there are no words that can help at times like these so I just listen and soak in the trauma and heartache. The fact of the matter is loss is loss no matter how we cut it. Jody began to compare herself to me and she began to question her pain as if it didn’t measure up to mine. “I lost my home…you lost your daughter,” she said “I shouldn’t be feeling so devastated.”
“Please don’t compare the two,” I said. “Loss is loss and it hurts no matter its delivery and no matter its punch.” She didn’t have much time to talk. What about my dad? His medication? My Mom? What about my job? What am I going to wear to work? On and on the questions flowed and understandably, in the moment, there were no answers.
Post Trauma Bears Its Ugly Head
Ever since last year when Paul, my husband, went to the emergency room, I discovered I had a whole bunch of trauma lurking around inside me. After talking to Jody I found myself feeling so sad and helpless. Jody’s loss was stirring up the feelings of my own loss. “Jenna,” I thought….oh how I understand the devastation of loss. By Tuesday I felt catatonic. That feeling you get when you just feel immobile. I knew the signs, I had taken on too much emotionally charged energy and I only have so many resources to draw upon. So I did something that goes against my grain. I took a break. During that time, I read and napped. I have learned over these last three years that sometimes we have to take steps backwards in order to take leaps forward. By evening I spoke with my sister about my emotional reaction and she helped me by coming up with the idea to start a GoFundMe for Jody. She said, “Dena, this way you can help without feeling like you have to take care of all the details yourself.”
I continue to understand that walking in other people’s traumas and tragedies has a way of stirring up my own feelings of loss, sadness and helplessness but in the end I think it helps me better understand me and I know it’s a space I want to continue to make myself available to.
To help Jody, my teammate, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/nor-cal-fire-victim-my-teammate