Natural Disasters

When nature becomes unpredictable and threatens our personal safety, homes or businesses, it  can be overwhelming. We can feel panicked and out of control and experience profound trauma, with the loss of loved ones, communities, homes, stock and livelihoods.

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COVID-19 Coronavirus

Since March 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic has taken a hold on our nation. As a community, we had very little time to prepare for the financial and social impacts, self-isolation or loss of life.  For many, it was a highly stressful experience which may have negatively affected our sense of connectedness, our wellbeing and even our mental health.

It’s very natural to feel a range of emotions, including stress, worry, anxiety, boredom, frustration, anger, resentment, blame and low mood amongst other responses. Many people feel distressed by the constant news and an overwhelming amount of information about the situation.  They may also find themselves constantly drawn to media reports about what is occurring here in Australia and internationally. 

Griefline offers several resources for coping with the grief and loss brought on by COVID-19.   You can contact the Griefline helpline to speak with one of our trained and skilled volunteers who will listen and provide support for maintaining your well-being during this period.  Or tap into our dedicated COVID-19 online forum here. An excellent tool for finding hope again is the EAST Toolkit. You’ll also find more tips on this web page.  

Floods

Flooding is often very immediate and unexpected and can also involve loss of human life, severe damage to property, loss of pets and livestock, destruction of crops and risks to health as a result of waterborne diseases. It can also involve loss of jobs and income and possibly the need to move temporarily or permanently.

Griefline offers several resources for coping with the grief and loss brought on by floods.   You can contact the Griefline helpline to speak with one of our trained and skilled volunteers who will listen and provide support for maintaining your well-being.  Or tap into our dedicated online forums for peer-to-peer support. An excellent tool for finding hope again is the EAST Toolkit. You’ll also find more tips on this web page.  

Fire

Bushfire can cause unexpected and rapid destruction of homes, properties, bushland and towns.  Sadly, it also destroys human life, wildlife, livestock and pets.  Job-loss and the demise of businesses are other unfortunate outcomes.  With communities being torn apart as people move away. 

The event can be experienced as shocking, terrifying, traumatic and overwhelming.  The experience of the fire being out of control can also leave people feeling powerless and paralysed. 

Bushfires can result in many different forms of grief and loss.   For support and understanding call GriefLine to speak with one of our trained volunteers. We are ready to take your call 7days a week, 365 days of the year.  You can also tap into our dedicated Bushfire online forum here.  An excellent tool for finding hope again is the EAST Toolkit. You’ll also find more tips on this web page.  

Drought

Droughts can affect people in a myriad of ways. Witnessing the ruination of properties, livestock and infrastructure can be extremely distressing. The negative effects on the environment and animal habitats can also be devastating and may take a long time to recover.  Often, the long timeframe involved in a drought can result in a slow erosion of dreams, disillusionment, symptoms of anxiety and depressive thoughts. 

It’s also common to develop a preoccupation with the economic consequences of what will occur if the drought continues.  There may be a significant drop in income, which in turn may have an effect on one’s ability to provide for their family as they normally would.  The decrease in spending money may also negatively affect family involvement in community and recreational activities.  Even affording necessities such as petrol, clothing and medicines can be compromised. 

Unfortunately, for some people, a drought can also result in having to move away from the community they have grown up in or reared their own family. 

The effects of drought can result in many different forms of grief and loss.  For support and understanding call GriefLine to speak with one of our trained volunteers. We are ready to take your call 7days a week, 365 days of the year. Or tap into our dedicated online forums for peer-to-peer support. An excellent tool for finding hope again is the EAST Toolkit. You’ll also find more tips on this web page.  

Acts of terror

There are some differences between the experience of terror and natural disasters. Natural disasters occur within a particular context, whereas the experience of terror can come to be associated with the possibility of another terror incident happening anywhere and at any time.  This can leave people feeling very unsafe in situations and places which they may not have previously associated with fear and vulnerability. The profound level of distress and complete unpredictability can result in the person wanting to avoid particular places or associations with the event.

Some responses to acts of terror:

  • Disbelief
  • Shock
  • Rage
  • Anger
  • Low mood/depression 
  • Feelings of unfairness
  • Overwhelmed
  • Betrayal
  • Withdrawal
  • Anxiety
  • Avoidance
  • Hypervigilance

For support and understanding call GriefLine to speak with one of our trained volunteers . We are ready to take your call 7days a week, 365 days of the year.  To connect with a caring and compassionate peer support group you can also tap into our online forums here. An excellent tool for finding hope again is the EAST Toolkit. You’ll also find more tips on this web page.  

How to cope if you have experienced a natural disaster

When natural disasters occur, it can take a community a long time to rebuild. Secondary grief, loss and trauma often surfaces as parts of the community disappear due to the damage and trauma inflicted on local business and populations.

At Griefline, our trained and skilled volunteers can support you during this time and into the future. We offer a free helpline to work with you in exploring all the aspects of your loss and grief and reconnect you with your own capabilities and strengths.  You can call our toll-free number 7 days a week.

In the meantime, here are some strategies to help you;

Connect with each other

It may feel like your community is torn apart but there is unity in experiencing the same catastrophic conditions. We know that seeking and accepting resources and support early helps your recovery. Band together and reach out to those suffering around you. Connecting with just one other person can help you and make a huge difference to that person’s experience. Altruism has many benefits and focusing on someone else’s pain can be a healing opportunity for both of you.

Ask who can help you

In natural disasters, the community and surrounding areas will action support quickly. Psychologists and counsellors are often sent into the affected area to begin the healing. Organisations such as Griefline, also give you immediate access to telephone and online support services to help you through the initial processes.  Here you can express your thoughts and feelings freely and find ways to help you cope with the emotional impact. Pick up the phone and make a call. Know you are not alone.

Look after yourself

The shock and instability of a natural disaster can be overwhelming, physically and emotionally. It can be difficult to think about looking after yourself in these times. To manage the stress and emotional roller coaster, take time to rest, eat, think and breathe. Looking after yourself is essential to coping with the situation. Listen to mindfulness meditation apps and make time to focus on recovery. 

Find order in disorder

Feeling some control when the world around us is in chaos can be important. Start with putting some regular routines in place. See the EAST Toolkit and get reconnected to your past wellbeing strategies. Wake up at your usual time, eat at regular intervals, do your best to catch up with people or engage in familiar activities where possible. A sense of control can be established by small moments of regular activity such as a morning walk, swim or meeting. An anxious mind will seek structure so build a schedule as a coping strategy.

Let’s talk more

Open up and talk about what is happening by sharing your story and emotions. Natural disasters can produce very intense feelings such as anger and projected anger as a result of feeling hopeless and helpless. We can become grief-stricken or experience heightened anxiety.  Talk about your emotions and acknowledge that it is normal to be experiencing a range of feelings. The more we express ourselves in a healthy way the easier it is to repair and recover. See the EAST Toolkit.

Avoid unhealthy options

When we are emotionally vulnerable and physically exhausted, frightened and panicked all at the same time it is easy to opt for unhealthy ways to self soothe. Alcohol and drugs, comfort eating and oversleeping for example, may feel like one way of managing.  However, these coping mechanisms are short term and often create secondary problems. Be mindful of what you are doing and seek healthy ways to cope. See the EAST Toolkit.

No big decisions

The last thing you need, as you are trying to cope with the fallout and trauma of what has happened is to add to your stress level. Try to limit other sources of stress in your life. Don’t make big decisions right now. The only thing you need to focus on is looking after yourself and those around you. Getting your life back into some kind of normal and grieving for the loss that comes with natural disasters. Avoid taking on too much and learn the art of saying ‘not now.’

How to cope if you have experienced a terror incident

Some people will find their own path through grief and loss.  They may find their own ways of adjusting to the horror of what has occurred until the immediacy of the event begins to slowly dissipate and they are able to engage again with work, colleagues, friends and their own interests.

Others may find the comfort of friends and colleagues reassuring in providing empathy and understanding as well as supporting daily and practical concerns. One of the challenges is when friends and/or colleagues have also experienced the terror event.  They may be caught up with their own response to the loss, grief and trauma.  

This is where Griefline can be helpful.  Our trained volunteers provide support to work with what has occurred.  They help you make sense of it through skilled and empathetic support and can provide coping skills to get you through. These services can be accessed immediately following a tragedy and can support the person in the early stages following these events.

If you continue to experience symptoms, a GP can provide a referral to a Counsellor, Psychologist, Mental health Social Worker and/or Psychiatrist for longer-term therapy.

If you are requiring support following a terror incident or natural disaster, ring GriefLine 7 days a week through the national toll-free number or tap into the Griefline online forums for peer-to-peer support.

GriefLine provides anonymous and confidential telephone support. Please call the the GriefLine Helpline in your local state.