21 October 2013

Have you or someone close to you been affected by the bushfires?

Do you need someone to talk to?

Do you feel like you have to ‘keep it together’ for the sake of others, eg: children, husband, wife, parents, friends?

Do your well meaning friends simply not understand what you are experiencing, what you are going through?  Do they say things like…’yeah, when my handbag got stolen… or,…when this happened to me…it was the same’.  

No-one, myself included, can know or understand exactly how you are feeling and to assume so is ignorant and it hurts.  Your experience is going to be different to someone else.  Even if they also lost their house in the bushfire.  It is a different experience for everyone.  

People don’t always know what to say or, don’t think about what it is they are saying.  Sound familiar?

I feel tremendous empathy for people who have experienced the devastation of losing their homes, memories, loved ones, pets, sentimental and personal belongings.  Many services will be provided to support the survivors to re-build their lives.  However, it is the many other losses these people experience on a daily basis impacting on them on a much deeper level than losing possessions.  The loss of independence and autonomy is not often addressed or understood by many people in society.  Possibly, because, unless you or, someone close to you has experienced or been exposed to a similar experience, you cannot begin to imagine how someone may be feeling during this time.

While it is beneficial to receive financial support from community service organisations, it is paramount these survivors receive emotional support such as counselling to provide the opportunity to feel heard.  Counselling for survivors and their families is imperative to ensure the crisis is managed effectively and prevent the trauma from having ongoing long term consequences.

Although happiness may not seem like a convincing outcome at this moment, it is possible for these people to not only recover financially and emotionally from this disaster but, to return to the previous level of happiness or even happier.  While this may sound bizarre, studies have found people experiencing a life changing event (such as the significant losses associated with bushfires), can return to or improve their level of happiness within twelve months of the loss.  An American study compared people who had won the lottery with people who had become paraplegics and found both groups were equally happy one year after the life changing event.

So how is this relevant to survivors of the bushfires?

Bushfire survivors, may be currently experiencing a state of crisis thus, going through the emotions experienced with grief and loss such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Crisis intervention specialists will provide the families with financial and emotional support over the next few months.  But, what happens when the services pull out, the news crews leave, the public lose interest?  What happens when the newsworthiness loses its momentum?  What happens when funding is cut or runs out?  How many counselling sessions will you be eligible for?  What if you need more, what then?  What about their extended families and friends, what if they need counselling from experiencing vicarious trauma?  Please see our resources page for counselling services in Australia.


Update: Jacqui is available for online counselling sessions through her new website JacquelineHogan.com