Australia on Fire
Australia on fire. Who would have known that the headlines this summer would be so horrendous. The news reports so heart-breaking.
Extreme. Devastating. Monstrous. Unbelievable. Unthinkable. These are just a few of the words that come to mind as I think about the catastrophic bushfire events of the past few weeks here in Australia. It’s effects have been far-reaching, and will continue to be. As the lives of many thousands of people are impacted enormously.
We live in a town that has not been directly impacted by the fires. But communities as close as 70km away from us have experienced much devastation. (*Edit: In the last 2 weeks our town has experienced a few smaller, but significant fires. We’re so thankful for the fire-fighters and machine operators who worked hard and contained them under crazy weather conditions!)
We have family members interstate who fought hard to save their homes, and those who helped in the fight for the homes of others. Visiting and seeing the devastation was incredibly sobering!
The far reaching impact
It’s most likely that Aussies who’ve not been directly impacted by the fires know someone who has a story to tell. There are SO MANY stories to tell. Stories of horror, shock, fear, grief, pain, overwhelm, despair, relief and gratitude. Australia on Fire.
In these past weeks it’s reported that every single state and territory in Australia has in some way been fire affected. Unimaginable destruction and devastation across our enormous nation!
There’s so much work to be done in the aftermath of these events:
- Rebuilding infrastructure of towns and communities
- Rebuilding businesses and livelihoods
- Providing practical help and support for individuals, families and communities affected by fires
- Building the tourist trade to rebuild and support local economies
- Supporting people impacted with all the necessary ongoing mental health support required
It’s this last point that I’m going to highlight. Naturally. I’m a counsellor. This is my area of expertise and passion, so it’s here I find it most appropriate to comment.
Mental health + disaster recovery
As Aussies we often see what needs to be done and get on with the job. It’s an admirable quality. One of our greatest strengths. That same trait however, can occasionally become our downfall. Particularly when we’re not tuned into our own emotional needs and wellbeing. Perhaps there’s some recognition of emotional needs, but an inability to know how to manage them beyond that point.
It’s from this place that further disaster has the potential to strike. If left unaddressed. Sound a little dramatic? Maybe you can be the judge. Following are stories highlighting just two families’ pain and loss through the recent fires.
Real Aussies’ Stories
The Jackson Family
Family Home Burned
These stories are simply a representation of so many more who have lost so much in Australia’s summer inferno.
The mental health aftermath
Whether you’ve been on the front-line, or supporting those who were, here are a few practical tips to help navigate the mental health aftermath of such events.
- There is no standard, one-size-fits-all response to trauma. Everyone will deal with it differently.
- Talking about it will help some people. But perhaps not others.
- Ignoring your feelings will slow your progress and healing.
- Limit exposure to triggers where possible. Minimise time spent on social media, watching news replaying fire footage repeatedly.
- Stay connected to family and friends. Prioritise time with them. Your social/support network is of incredible importance. Especially in the recovery stage.
- Reassure children. Speak with them. Help empower them as they process their experiences and emotions.
- Seek out professional help where recommended. You don’t have to carry the load yourself. It’s equally as courageous as stepping into the danger zone.
Recently, special counselling/therapy funding for fire-affected victims has been announced. An unprecedented response to an unprecedented event. So necessary right now.
The task of rebuilding and working through the trauma is enormous and so real. Such a task most commonly requires external, professional support, but doesn’t need to be at the cost of our mental health.
Situations inflicted on individuals have been soul-shattering. Tragic deaths of loved ones. Loss of entire homes and contents. Horrendously traumatic sights and sounds. Haunting people long after the fires are out.
There’s absolutely no denying that such losses provoke a grief so deep it’s almost impossible to truly understand. The sadness. The grief. And the magnitude of loss. Incomprehensible. Unless of course that’s you.
If you need counselling support please contact me to have a conversation about how I can support you in your recovery journey http://www.novocounselling.com.au/contact/
Proud to be an Aussie
There’s so much that makes me proud to be Aussie. But what has warmed my heart most is seeing Aussies rise up and GIVE. Of themselves, their time, their money. And so generously. In our regional community the countless number of people offering their services and acting on needs has been mind-blowing! The flow of generosity from fellow Aussies and across the planet has honestly left me speechless.
In the middle of all these challenges there is a message that has made me beam with pride. It’s a message of unity and heartfelt commitment to our fellow Aussies. That we’ll be there for each other when the going gets tough. Now and in the days, weeks and months to follow. That’s what the true Aussie spirit embodies.
There are so many recovery initiatives rising up across Australia right now. It’s mind-blowing! Many of them at a local level. By communities and individuals who have actioned their heartfelt desires to make a difference and created waves of support across our nation. These people and communities are already doing exactly what they set out to do. Making a difference.
Check them out these initiatives and research others in your area. Consider what you can do to jump on board too.
Empty Esky https://www.emptyesky.com.au/
Spend with Them https://www.instagram.com/spendwiththem/
Australia on Fire
I’ve observed so much togetherness in our local community. And our nation at large. The coming together of people for a common cause over the past weeks. Australians are on fire. It’s been tragic and beautiful all at the same time. My prayer is that Australia’s land stops burning. But my declaration is that the spirit of our people would remain on fire as we keep working together. To support each other in the rebuilding of lives and communities in an even greater, unprecedented way.
In the middle of all of the challenge is the message that has made me most proud to be an Aussie. The message of unity and heartfelt commitment to our fellow Aussies. That we’ll be there for each other when the going gets tough. Now and in the days, weeks and months to follow. That’s definitely what the true Aussie spirit embodies.