Counseling Center

Camp Fire Anniversary Reactions

It is impossible to avoid acknowledging the devastating effects of the Camp Fire as the first anniversary approaches. Even if you did not lose property or loved ones in the fire, this trauma has affected us all in northern California. Increases in anxiety, anger/irritability, sadness, preoccupation with memories of the event are all normal experiences for those of us who survived the experience. You might also feel restless, have trouble concentrating or feel hypervigilant., these reactions are known as the Anniversary Effect and they are normal reactions to abnormal events. It is your mind’s way of trying to make sense of a terrible experience and resolve grief.

The following are suggestions for coping with the Anniversary Effect

  • Limit your exposure to media. Often news sources, post graphic and dramatic images and stories. You have survived this trauma, you do not have to relive it.
  • Talk about your experiences, feelings, memories. Again, even if you did not lose your home or loved ones in the fire, you might have strong reactions to the anniversary and you have a right to support.
  • Conversely, it is also okay to engage in activities that distract you from these memories if you are overwhelmed .
  • Acknowledge the impact of this trauma. Do not underestimate what you have been through, but also acknowledge the progress you have made in this span of time.
  • Take care of yourself, whatever that means for you.
  • Keep your routine.
  • Be compassionate toward yourself
  • Reach out to family and friends and accept kindness from others
  • Do not compare yourself to others. All traumatic reactions are different.
  • If you are able, consider participating in one or more of the community remembrance events. Connecting with others with similar experiences can be a powerful part of the healing process.
  • Avoid alcohol and other mood altering substances. While it can be tempting to numb unpleasant feelings, these substances are likely to exacerbate the problem.

Sources:

https://www.mentalhelp.net/ptsd/anniversary-reactions-to-a-traumatic-event/
https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/sma17-5047.pdf (PDF)

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline/anniversaries-triggers