Dan Bigley, Beyond the Bear
January 6, 2022
3:45 pm – 5:00 pm CST
Topic: Dan Bigley, Beyond the Bear
Start Time: Jan 6, 2022 04:32 PM
Access Passcode: 2MS9RR.r
Dan Bigley’s life was going great with strong plans for his future. His plans ended in just a few moments by the bank of Alaska’s Russian River. He could never return to the life he knew and had to find his way forward in a very changed world where he overcome pain, isolation, changed relationships, loss of independence, loss of security, and fear. But he does find his way forward. His story is told honestly and even with humor.
For almost the past two years, our colleagues, our friends, our work, the families we serve, and we ourselves have found that our lives changed very quickly in March of 2020. We’ve lost friends and family, we’ve had our teams fearful in their work, we’ve lost staff, we’ve all been isolated from each other, felt the loss of security, found ourselves immersed with new challenges, and overwhelmed in work that seems to never end in workdays that seem to get ever longer. We can learn from Dan’s story and journey of how to help rebuild and move forward for the families we serve, our communities, and ourselves.
With a degree in natural history from Arizona’s Prescott College, Dan changed his career after the bear encounter to the most challenging and rewarding job he’s ever had, taking severely disturbed children on recreational outings of Alaska Children’s Services. He gained his master’s degree in social work from the University of Alaska-Anchorage and became the Director of Therapeutic Foster Care for Denali Family Services, the largest such provider in the state. Dan planned on joining us personally at our retreat, but we’re happy to share that as of January 1, 2022, Dan will begin his new job as the CEO of Denali Family Services. He will be joining us live via Zoom to share his journey, how it can help our journey, and to hear from us and answer our questions.
On July 14, 2003, I was wrapping up a stellar day of salmon fishing at Alaska’s Russian River when, moments from the safety of the car, a grizzly came tearing around a corner in the trail so fast it had to dip its shoulder to make the turn. I barely had time for “bear charging” to register before the bear had me facedown over rocks and roots, fingers locked around the back of my neck, elbows tucked in tight, I tried to play dead. Just when I thought the bear was done, it flipped me over and bit across my face. The person I’d been the first 25 years of my life died that instant.
“Upper nose, eyes, forehead anatomy unrecognizable.”’ Is how the medevac report put it. Weeks later, in an intensive care unit, I emerged from a drug-induced coma and into an alien body and an even more alien world. I have vague memories of being told I was blind. After fighting for my life so hard, I didn’t have the energy for a big emotional reaction. That would come later, and it would come in many different forms. Among all I lost my new girlfriend. I’d been interested in her for about a year, and we’d finally connected—the night before I was mauled. Blind and disfigured, with a long, painful journey of healing ahead of me, I was in no shape to be in a relationship. We came to the only logical conclusion we could come to, to set each other free. But could we? ”Beyond the Bear” is many stories, a survival story among them. But in the aftermath of my mauling, dealing with the physical and emotional devastation, came the realization that letting myself become a bitter man had far more potential to ruin my life than being blinded by a bear.
We thank the generosity and support of Gorman & Associates for sponsoring Dan’s program.