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Recovering after a bushfire

“Treat yourself with the most kindness that you could possibly give yourself. The things that you're feeling, a lot of people are feeling right now and you're not alone in it. It's really important that you recognise that what you're going through is not a journey you have to do alone, and there will be people there around you.” Survivor of the Black Saturday fires, Chris Bogusis, shares his story on the Holding on to Hope podcast.

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Natural disasters like bushfires, floods, cyclones, drought, and other traumatic ‘natural’ events are extremely challenging for the people directly affected. The stress caused following a natural disaster can lead to ‘burnout’ and physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Some people will be able to manage the stress but for others, it may be difficult to cope. Most people eventually heal and recover and go on to rebuild their lives.

  • Feeling stressed, anxious, exhausted, or confused
  • Feeling sad, overwhelmed, or angry
  • Shock, feeling ‘numb’
  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Feeling lonely, isolated or withdrawn
  • Feeling unwell – headaches, difficulty sleeping, eating, weight loss/gain
  • Resentment or blaming others.
  • Increased substance use
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

 

Recovery takes time. It is important to allow yourself time to process your circumstances and regain a sense of normalcy. There are things you can do to heal and rebuild.

  1. Recognise when it’s getting too much - watch out for signs of stress and get extra support when things become overwhelming. Allow yourself extra time to get things done.
     
  2. Talk - release your emotions and tension by talking to someone you trust. This can help put things into perspective. It’s likely others in your community are experiencing similar feelings so this gives everyone an opportunity to release negative feelings and discuss practical ways to deal with the situation.
     
  3. Develop an action plan - decide who’s going to do what and when. Summarise your financial situation and discuss your options with your bank to alleviate stress of any financial concerns. Having a plan will help you feel you are making progress.
     
  4. Take care of yourself - eat well, exercise and sleep. Try to get back to your normal routine when you feel ready. Wherever possible, schedule extra time for things you enjoy or that you find relaxing.
     
  5. Get help - lean on family and friends. Strong support networks can provide emotional or practical support. Explain your needs and tell them exactly how they can help. Make a list of places to go to for help e.g. financial assistance, emotional support, your GP a helpline like Lifeline.
     
  6. Consider professional help - If you don’t feel some return to normal after four weeks, seek professional help (earlier if needed).

 

 

  1. Give your children extra attention and reassurance. Let them know they are not responsible for what has happened.
     
  2. Acknowledge your own feelings about the situation and let your children know its ok to share their own feelings.
     
  3. Include your children in plans for the future.
     
  4. Try to get back to a normal routine as quickly as possible. This provides a sense of security.
     
  5. If you don’t see an improvement in 4 weeks, or you’re concerned seek professional help (earlier if needed).

 

  • Your GP
  • Psychologist/Counsellor

National Resources

Services

State Resources

For state-specific assistance, see Department of Human Services 

 

For Crisis Support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24/7) or via text nightly (6pm-midnight AEDT) on 0477 13 11 14

Chris' Story

Here Chris shares his experience of trauma after living through three bushfires, including the harrowing Black Saturday fires of 2009.  He gifts us the strategies he now uses to live post trauma and shares how he helps others recover after similar experiences.