Words seem inadequate to begin to describe the carnage and devastation that the bushfires in Australia have created (and continue to create). So far, 23 people have lost their lives, over 500 million animals have been killed, 1,300 homes are lost, and over 12 million acres of the land has gone up in smoke. We are not even halfway through the fire season …
Trauma, grief, and anger, have broken down the front door of so many lives. Uninvited, they bring with them emotional turmoil and confusion, making it hard to think or cope. Sometimes they turn the TV on and keep playing distressing scenes over and over again. They can also create all sorts of physical responses such as nausea, vomiting, trembling, dizziness, etc.
In the weeks, months, and years to come, Australians in their various communities, need to be aware of the unseen crisis that will continue in the lives of many of their family, friends, colleagues, and the stranger they encounter. What are some ways that you can help with this unseen crisis of continued distress?
Reach out and spend time. Listen. Don’t attempt to solve a problem, provide any great wisdom or cliches, or try ‘cheering’ them up. Listen and ask questions about the stories they want to talk about.
Respect a person’s requests. If they wish to be alone, respect their wishes. If they would like you to not talk or do something – don’t be offended. Respect their wishes.
Run around – do those seemingly menial tasks that are sometimes so overwhelming for someone finding it hard to cope with the magnitude of loss – cook a meal, pick up the children from school, do the washing, care for a pet, or offer your company in the difficult times.
Regularly check-in. The outpouring of care and relief amidst a crisis is helpful. However, it is often in the months after that the reality of loss becomes such a heavy burden. Connect people to the support they may need – doctors, social services, mental health therapists, financial advisors, etc. Offer to drive them to those appointments.
We cannot for a moment assume to understand what a person who has gone through trauma feels, thinks or wants. We don’t. Don’t assume. Respect. Ask permission. Listen. Most of all, be present.
I know I speak on behalf of many Australians when I say a heartfelt thank you to all those who have gathered courage, kindness, and a vast array of skills to help – a special mention to the hundreds of fireys who have worked tirelessly.
Australian, we are in this together. Let’s be there for one another.
Connect. Commit. Care.
If you have not done so already, please consider a DONATION to help people and animals alike.
Counselling Supports for people affected by bushfires.
Defining Stories offers free counselling support to bushfire communities – please contact via webpage.
– A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference. – Eeyore