LIVING STORY                 

Juliet Bruce, PhD

Community Resilience Narratives
Supporting Recovery from Disaster-Related Trauma

Helping people who have suffered traumatic stress safely tell their story begins to contain it, helps them integrate what has happened into the larger ongoing story of their life, and re-establishes connection with other people who can support and love them.

After the first responders leave and physical injuries have been stabilized, after the immediate shock
begins to wear off and the world goes on to other stories, survivors, families, and the community must begin the long journey of rebuilding their lives.

"When we face a crisis, we deal not only with the event that precipitated it,
but our prior experiences as well. Challenging life events unearth our most painful thoughts and feelings. They scratch the emotional scars of our past," writes Dr. Mark Lerner, Chairman of the Institute for Traumatic Stress.
Just as immediate medical care increases the chance of survival after physical injury, so processing one's trauma experience with skilled and compassionate listeners who know how to prevent re-traumatization greatly increases the chance of long-term emotional recovery.

Building on my experiences in Washington, DC after 9/11, the anthrax attacks, and DC sniper episode, and with New York City firefighters who continued to suffer from PTSD six years later, I offer story sanctuaries where disaster survivors and witnesses can safely share their stories in the wake of natural or man-made disaster.

-- Koshin Paley Ellison, New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care

We're living in an ongoing disaster of violence. I've asked myself what I can do. The answer is to offer story sanctuaries, or help to develop story curricula and other anti-violence/arts programming. Similar programs in Washington, DC, and NYC have produced positive, if small, community projects aimed at increased understanding among conflicted groups. It's impossible to continue hating a person when you listen to their story, and tell them yours.

I am also offering free story sessions to Dreamers and other immigrants in danger of deportation, to help them tell their American story to government representatives, the media, and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) judges.

To discuss my non-violent story activism and/or resilience facilitation services for your community, organization, or workplace, please contact me at

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