Are you in a place that isn’t affected by the fires and feeling helpless or guilty continuing your day to day life when other peoples’ lives are being pulled apart? Here’s some ways to manage survivor’s guilt and feel like you are contributing to the community in this crisis.
Today as I was going about my day, drinking my coffee, reading about the devastation the fire has caused to our land and people, and felt a strange emotion. It didn’t feel right that life for me was just going on uninterrupted. Often when a trauma happens around us but not to us, we can question ‘why did that happen to my neighbour and not to me?’ Or become anxious and ask ‘is that now going to happen to me?’. When crisis strikes, we feel a lack of control over our lives, and as humans we love control, it makes us feel safe.
You may be feeling some survivors guilt if you are feeling: guilty for feeling joy and enjoying activities; feel like you should have done something to help prevent this tragedy; constant sadness even though you may not have been affected; reliving traumatic feelings from the past; feeling alone or disconnected from the world or just feeling helpless there is nothing you can do to help.
If any of these things start to describe you, here’s a few things you can do to take back the control and trust in the world.
Accept that you’re doing your best every moment; bring it back to the basics and take it minute by minute or second by second and just be grateful for each thing you have. Other people suffering does not mean you should also suffer.
Acknowledge that this is happening in this world and it is what the insurance company would call an ‘act of God’, meaning no person is at fault. Accept that we do not have control over who will be impacted and that there is no way you could have prevented this happening.
Do something, call that friend who is impacted or scared; give some knowledge or skills, volunteer somewhere.
Human connection at this time is extremely important, although our world is burning and changing, we need to have trust and consistency in relationships. It confirms to us that humans are good and that people care, and we need to be reminded of this in crisis.
Donate. I had a friend say to me recently “I really care, but my skills don’t lie in front line action, so I am going to let the people with those skills be there. I am really good at making money! So that is how I will help create change”. You can see a list of place to donate here https://www.abc.net.au/classic/read-and-watch/news/bushfire-donations/11823676
If you are feeling that the fires have really rocked you and that you are having constant feelings of worry, guilt, or sadness make sure you have honest conversations with those around you and connect with help. Talk to your doctor or counsellor or call a support line. Remember whatever you are feeling is valid and real.
The fires are not just burning houses but creating devastation in peoples optimism and mental health. Lets check in with ourselves and our loved ones even if we are not immediately affected.
Thanks for reading and lets all connect as a community to do what we can to look after our well-being
And here's the links if you need to be in contact mental health service: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-helplines