More Questions Than Answers After Devastating Wildfire

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Dear Rabbi Schusterman,

Due to the tragic loss of my home is a devastating fire, including my studio with a lifetime of files necessary for my profession, I’ve been thrown into such a funk that I haven’t been able to return to my work. I eagerly started reading your book, but I couldn’t read past chapter three. The tragedies you wrote about in the beginning of the book cut me deep.

Having read many of the answers you suggest, I am only left with more questions. I’m sure there will be many people who will find respite and answers in your work. Unfortunately, I’m not among them.

S.B., Raleigh, NC

Dear S.B.,

You have experienced a deeply painful tragedy and my heart goes out to you.

As hard as it is to go forward after such a disastrous loss, I do not believe that God wants your productive life to end so abruptly. I believe that He, Who is aware of what you went through and are still going through, wants you to heal and rebuild, impossible though it may seem to you at this time.

Proverbs teaches: “Salvation [lies] in much counsel.” Perhaps you could seek advice and support from those who have been through similar losses and experiences as you did. Ask them how they managed to overcome their grief and move forward. I know that eventually, you can find the respite that you deserve and that you seek.

I understand that having read only the first few chapters of my book, you might not have discovered answers that speak to you. I address your situation in Chapter 10 (see: “Finding hope through history” on page 230), where I relate what can be learned from communities that were devastated by wildfires. Somehow, despite this shocking trauma, they found the strength and resilience to rebuild. In this chapter, I also write about how trauma can actually be transformative, opening a window into a new understanding of the self, and even a new understanding of how to live life. There is a name for this process: Post-Traumatic Growth Syndrome (PTGS). One can emerge from one’s loss experiencing an opening for new life lessons and personal and spiritual growth, and will be in a better position to heal, and even to reach a new level of maturity.

I hope that this may provide you with some added encouragement.

Rabbi Gershon Schusterman

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