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Restoring the rafters to support a new life

I was watching “Nova” the other evening. It was a special on the rebuilding of Notre Dame’s 800-year-old roof in Paris after it was ravaged by fire in 2019.

The work, time, effort and ingenuity it is taking to restore it to its former glory is requiring the efforts of hundreds of dedicated art restorers, engineers, architects and archaeologists.

As an example of the enormous challenge they are facing, the narrator was pointing out that they will not be able to use the same oak used to create the arches for the vaulted roof, because some of the trees, which were harvested in the Middle Ages, no longer exist. Yet the roof is being rebuilt with wood coming from as far away as Ghana. And although it may be different, it will be just as strong, resilient and beautiful.

We have been through trials by fire here too. So many have lost so much. And to add to this tragedy we have been dealing with a virus that has threatened our community and livelihoods for months.

Like the solid structure that held Notre Dame’s ceiling, we are discovering we are just as strong, resilient and beautiful, and our community and our lives can be rebuilt. But it won’t be the same. It will be different. Grandparents will talk about the terrible fires and pandemic of 2020. But they will also talk about how they survived it.

I recently gazed upon charred land where houses once stood and families decorated Christmas trees, held barbecues and greeted children after soccer practice. I have also watched architects, developers, city planners and neighbors come together in restorative ways.

But where do we go with our grief? Our sense of loss? I think the first step is to acknowledge that we have these emotions and feelings. To express them to people who feel safe. To understand that healing is going to probably take a really long time. Not to pretend everything is OK. To cry. To remember distraction from pain is not necessarily dealing with it, that alcohol and drugs just temporarily numb it. And if you find yourself with a case of “I should be better by now,” maybe see a counselor.

Some will go back to work right away. Others have had to sign up for relief programs, before they’re even sure what they lost. Getting back on the horse can be a good thing, but not if the horse isn’t ready. You may be experiencing some symptoms of trauma and not even realize it, such as memory problems, constant agitation or anxiety, feeling overwhelmed and unexplained fear.

Here are a few suggestions to restore some inner peace while you are putting your life back together. Try setting limited daily goals. Use social services. It may take a while, but that is what they’re there for. Try and connect with loved ones often.

Remember you are a human being not a human “doing.” Remember “being strong” is a relative term and there are many ways of being strong, including asking for help. Lead with your strengths but allow others who can help to lead with theirs too.

Try to get out and walk or move each day. If you can, participate in yoga, meditation, singing or similar pastimes online. Ask people who want to give you answers not to, unless you’ve asked for them. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Give yourself permission to have some bad days. Remember you are not alone. Here are some helplines — Services: 211; Jackson County Mental Health 24/7 hotline: 541-774-8201.

Lucie K. Scheuer is a local writer, and a consultant who has worked in the fields of nonprofit development and chemical dependency/dual diagnosis treatment for over 30 years. Email 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan at innerpeaceforyou@outlook.com.