The morning after what will be now known, as the Marshall fire in Colorado, I walked through fog cloaked neighborhoods affected by the fire. The area was still smoldering, even small patches of flame could be seen scattered underneath the debris.
Minutes into my walk, the first sign of winter came fluttering down on the very last day of the year. Snowflakes soon dusted the trees, cars, and house frames burnt almost beyond recognition, puddles of muddy water gurgling from busted water pipes, roofs sunken or ripped off entirely from uncontrollable fire and voracious winds, which took aim at what was once a row of townhomes for individuals and families. What once stood, towering single family homes down the way, now they were either left miraculously unscathed or leveled completely to the ground.
There are no words to describe the feelings that welled up inside me, as I stood quietly, taking in the decimated surroundings. I felt as though I had entered the aftermath of a war zone more than anything.
As I drove back home, my mind wandered back to my own personal experiences when life had caught me off guard. I had survived, but I knew life as I knew it would change and it would never go back to what it was. There are no instructions on how to rebuild your life after tragedy. It’s an organic process of trusting, believing, having faith, and people that care about you enough to support you along the way to move forward and back to wholeness. I have come to find that healing grief is not linear and comes unprovoked at times, when one seems to ride the wave of feelings that expand out.
The outpouring of love and support in the community was demonstrated when I saw cars lined up yesterday to donate time or needed things to community centers that opened their doors for the people whom have been displaced from this tragedy. Even in my little neighborhood, people are opening their homes, too. The stories that are coming out about the survivors is heartbreaking, as many left with their children, pets, and just the shirts on their backs.
There is an impermanence to life. It can change without your permission, and often will not give you a moment’s notice, as my life experiences demonstrated and even as this recent collective experience has shown, where a journey to rebuild a house from the ground up, both literally and figuratively can change oneself beyond recognition.
Through the process of grief, comes the unexpected desire for appreciating the wonderful parts of life; a baby laughing, warmth of the sun, a bird souring across the sky, the realization that we somehow made it out of that experience alive, that we are loved by others.
This will not be an easy road for many, especially those without a foreseeable ending in sight, a predictable pathway, but it will happen eventually, creating a stronger house, built the way you really want it for the stronger people it will soon shelter inside. Making room for loss, also opens one to new feelings, experiences, desires in the never ending growth cycle all life moves through in becoming.