Dr. Noelle Nelson


Phoenix Rising: Surviving Catastrophic Loss: Fires, Floods, Hurricanes and Tornadoes

“We couldn’t do anything to save it. Your house is ash.” Words you never want to hear.

Words that your home, your beloved home, was incinerated in a wildfire. Or flattened by a tornado. Pulverized by a hurricane. Washed away by a torrential flood. Total, irreparable destruction caused by a devastating natural catastrophe.

And yet, those are words many of us have heard, and then somehow have had to live through the aftermath–dealing with the consequences of losing everything.

This is the story of my experience with the Woolsey Fire, which took place in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in November 2018. The fire burned 96,949 acres, destroyed 1,643 structures, killed three people and resulted in the evacuation of over 295,000 people.

I lost my home and everything in it. By definition, a natural catastrophe is sudden, unexpected and life-altering. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and – in my case – fires, usually erupt into our lives without warning. Your world is turned upside-down from one minute to the next, and everything is shattered, demolished, destroyed. Somehow you have to rebuild, literally from the ground up, your entire world. But how? How to get past the agony of all that was lost? How to summon up the courage to move forward when everything inside of you wants to give in to the despair?

That’s what this book offers. The tools of how to move forward. The skills and understandings that will support you in finding not only what you need to survive – and hopefully one day soon, thrive – but also to develop a new story of your new life. This is what devastating catastrophe demands of us, the willingness to create a new story. One that can sustain us in the years ahead.

You didn’t survive your catastrophe to wither away in self-pity and misery. Oh, there will be self-pity and misery aplenty, I can assure you from first-hand experience, but it can be short-lived. There are gifts, even miracles, that will emerge from the ruins of your catastrophe that can make your life richer, better and happier than ever before. Yes, it takes patience. Yes, it takes time. And yes, it can be done. You can rise from your catastrophe, like the Phoenix from the ashes, stronger and better than before. You can.