[November 23, 2023, Kula, Maui] The Rotary Club of Maui recently sponsored a Day of Healing workshop at St. John’s that included transportation from Lahaina. Dr. Bridget Bongaard, a board-certified internal medicine physician and a hospice-certified medical director, set out to help those who are experiencing grief and PTSD due to the Maui wildfires, or any kind of trauma. Bongaard has used her knowledge to set up numerous integrative medicine programs and retreats over the years. In addition, with the Pacific Cancer Foundation, Bongaard co-founded the first annual Maui Cancer Wellness retreat.
“The objective of the Day of Healing workshop was to learn how to work through the challenges that those affected by the fires have faced: loss of home, family, displacement, loss of jobs and other related trauma,” said Rev. Heather Mueller, president of the Rotary Club of Maui. “Dr. Bongaard was able to help people identify the difficult emotions they have experienced. The workshop began with the question, ‘Realizing that life is different now, how do we move forward and begin to heal?’”
(Pictured from left to right: Katy Shroder, Rev. Heather Mueller, and Dr. Bridget Bongaard share a life-changing experience at the Day of Healing Workshop)
Bongaard explained, “The goal of trauma healing is to give participants a realization that they have control over their lives again. My approach to wellness is a three-dimensional process: physical, emotional and spiritual. We work step-by-step to achieve the different stages of understanding how our brains and bodies work when life’s events happen. Then, we discuss the emotional impact that we carry with the memory, and how to move beyond this and fill the gaps in our lives.”
Using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Bongaard led the group to fully understand what their loss meant to them individually and how to move beyond it. A session on Resilience Despite All Odds taught the group how to create peace and purpose in an uncertain world and how to find new solutions for problems. To help overcome grief and trauma, Dr. Bongaard also discussed the five stages of the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle.
Bongaard added, “While learning through these different modalities, participants also had the opportunity to take time for themselves, interact with others, tell their stories, and enjoy nutritious food. The workshop showed participants how to handle difficult problems by finding their strengths, and realistically looking at individual needs to create a different future, while still honoring the precious things in the past. Plus, it was a time to make new friends and build community.”
Many people affected by wildfires or other traumatic events need time and space away from their normal duties and routines to be able to focus on themselves and gain insight. West Side participant Katy Shroder, a clinical psychologist from Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, and member of the Rotary Club of Lahaina, who lost her place of worship, shared, “Since the fires, I have been constantly busy helping others with their trauma and healing. This workshop was the first occasion where I took time to heal myself. While this was a group event, people worked in private over sensitive issues. Guided by Dr. Bongaard, who is an excellent mentor and lecturer, we were able to see new ways to deal with old problems. We were given the needed keys to resilience; to be able to move forward more easily by understanding ourselves more deeply. Also, for me, the workshop was a good reminder of the need to reframe a situation, to recognize that it is not hopeless, and that an opportunity to move on is there if we keep seeking it.”
Paula Baldwin, from Trinity-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, and a past president of A Cup of Cold Water Community Care-van reflected, “I would like to sum up my experience of the healing workshop with three words: inciteful, gentle, and long-lasting. Dr. Bongaard is a highly skilled leader. I walked away from the day with a new understanding and approach on how to handle issues for the rest of my life. If you’re thinking about going to the next workshop, go! You too will walk away with ideas and inner stories that will be important to you.
“At the end of the workshop there was a very powerful experience where one could walk in meditation and come out with insight regarding their situation, self, and community,” Baldwin added. “Led by the Rev. Mueller, we were blessed to have this opportunity to walk the labyrinth, to reflect and deeply grasp the learning we received. People left feeling changed and rejuvenated.”
Bongaard concluded, “Everyone has experienced pain or loss in his or her life at some time. Our healing workshop offers the courage to overcome trauma and fears and live a peaceful life. I hope those in the community that need this kind of life-changing assistance will attend the next healing workshop in Lahaina.” For info about the next workshop or for a one-on0one consultation, call Dr. Bongaard at 808-866-6155 or email email@example.com.