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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How to cope if you have experienced a natural disaster

Where 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 because of the damage and trauma impacted on local business and populations.

At GriefLine, our trained and skilled volunteers can support you during this time and into the future. We offer phone, SMS and video counselling to work with you in exploring all the aspects of your loss and grief and reconnect you with your own capabilities and strengths.

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, support and doing this 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 your own. 

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. With organisations like GriefLine, you have immediate access to counselling and support services to help you through the initial processes, which have happened and how to cope with the 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 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 often 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 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 how you feel but it is short term and creates secondary problems. Be mindful of what you are doing and seek healthy ways to cope. See 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.’

COVID-19 Coronavirus

Since March 2020, there have been many discussions and concerns around the Coronavirus outbreak across the nation. Increasingly, as a result of the rapid spread of this virus, there have been changes across all states and the federal government in relation to increasing restrictions. As a community, we have not had much time to prepare for self-isolation and like anything which we experienced as a shock, it may feel stressful and may impact our mental health, our sense of isolation and our well being.

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

Please contact Grief Line and speak with one of our trained and skilled volunteer counsellors to work together on maintaining your well being and providing you with support during this period. See EAST Toolkit.

Please find the direct link to the Depart of Health for further support and information about COVID 19. https://headtohealth.gov.au/covid-19-support/covid-19

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 a job and income and the need to move temporarily or permanently.

Ring GriefLine and speak with one of our volunteer counsellors during this time. We are ready to take you call 7days a week, 365 days of the year.

Fire

Usually, the unexpected and rapid destruction of property, the environment, wildlife, human life and resulting disabilities created by a fire, can be experienced as shocking, terrifying, traumatic and overwhelming. Often there is a sense that the fire will just continue to burn and this sense of not having any control can result in feeling powerless and paralysed. As a result of fire, jobs and income can be lost, also with the need to move from the community.

Ring GriefLine and speak with one of our volunteer counsellors during this time. We are ready to take you call  7days a week, 365 days of the year.

Drought

Droughts can affect people in a myriad of ways. Often, the long timeframe involved, resulting in a drought, can result in a slow erosion of dreams, disillusionment, symptoms of anxiety and depressive thoughts and a natural preoccupation with worry about 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 the ability to afford certain foods and can negatively affect the quality and quantity of food eaten. The decrease in spending money may have a negative ability to be involved in community recreational activities or even to afford petrol to attend to the maintenance of health ie: doctor’s visits. Droughts can also negatively affect the environment and animal habitats and may take a long time to recover. A drought may also result in needing to move from the person’s community, where they may have grown up to an unfamiliar town or city.

Ring GriefLine and speak with one of our volunteer counsellors during this time. We are ready to take you call  7days a week, 365 days of the year.

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, leaving the person feeling very unsafe in situations and places, where they may not have previously associated with fear and vulnerability. Everyone will deal differently with their loss and grief and follow their own path. 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

Ring GriefLine and speak with one of our volunteer counsellors during this time. We are ready to take you call  7days a week, 365 days of the year.

Tips to cope

Some people will find their own path through grief and loss and will find 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.

For others, they 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 to this, is if friends and/or colleagues have also experienced the terror event and are also dealing with their own response to the loss, grief and trauma and may be caught up and struggling with their own experiences of what has occurred.

For other people, they may find Helplines and Crisis lines helpful, in requiring further formal support to work with what has occurred and to make sense of it in which they are provided with skilled and empathetic support and counselling. These services can be accessed immediately following a tragedy and can support the person in the early stages following these events.

If the person continues to experience symptoms, a referral to a Psychologists, Mental health Social Worker and/or Psychiatrists can provide longer term therapy, following a terror attack.

If you are requiring support following a terror incident, you can ring GriefLine, available 7 days a week through your local state hotline number, where you can speak with a skilled and empathetic volunteer counsellor.

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