As a five or six year old, I watched the Dandenong’s burn from the safety of my front verandah. I still remember the air thick with smoke and the colour of the flames observed from the safety of the base of the Mountain. I remember the displaced animals, predominantly birds, But I will never forget the fear my mother was trying valiantly to hide, especially when my father, a local policeman failed to return from his shift. We later found out he had been deployed to the fire zone on a double shift, this was in the day not just of no mobile phones but of no house phones. Fear is catching even when being disguised.
At school, the normal rhythm of the day was replaced with story telling, sharing and art. My picture of the fire, as seen from my porch was on our classroom notice board for weeks. Never an artist, drawing dancing flames in smudgy colours on a darkened background even I could capture, and for once my art work accurately reflected the image in my head.
But this has been the year of flirting with fire. Earlier this year my brother and sister in law, enacted their fire plan and the first we knew of a fire was their text message saying they had left their farm. At that stage, they expected to be away from the land for a day. Weeks later they were lucky to return, to an untouched home but where the fires had burnt within spitting distance of the house. Everything else was destroyed, all outhouses, fences, play area, and chook shed (including chooks), the cattle strayed into the neighbour’s care but the lack of feed meant that they were sold much earlier than expected. They were very fortunate and able to attend the weddings of their sons this year, and the births of two new grandchildren.
Last November, we were due to be in California for work and a short break, just hours before flying out my husband’s company suspended travel to the area. And we watched with horror as the state was consumed by fires, including the areas we were meant to be visiting. We are looking forward to personally thanking the Hotel Manager who refunded our booking fee after a rushed phone call in the middle of their night, when we head that way later this year.
Last night, from the safety of my home, I went to bed wondering if the Lodge my husband and his mates had built in the Alpine region would survive. It did, I can’t even start to think what it might be like to have my home destroyed. My heart goes out to so many. When I see the photo’s of those caught in the fires on the beach of a much loved holiday destination I feel concern for my own families health, many of whom suffer from asthma and my prayers take wing for those to whom the weather has not bought cleaner air but more uncertainty. How angry would I be if I was one of those vulnerable individuals, the very old and very young who were not evacuated! I’ve only struggled for 2 days with very poor air quality.
I was also comforted by the support of prayers from the Northern Hemisphere as a friend promised me she would continue my prayers as I slept as she did day. I would also like to thank the Californian Firefighters that have come to help. What a feat after battling their own fires. And the Reserves who have been called out of their everyday to help.
I have never experienced a situation like this, a region yes, but not as much of our country burning over 4 states.
Even the term environmental refugee, causes me concern, for those in our community who have been political or religious refugees these evacuations and the loss of possession may reach a deeper grief than anything I am aware of. A feeling of insecurity in a place where safety was hoped for.
Now what about our kids.
I am not an expert in Childhood trauma but I have studied a little in this area. So,
these are my thoughts and some resources that might be useful
Prayer (adapted from next week’s RCL Psalm 29)
God as powerful (show your muscles)
As the Wind (blow),
Fire (wiggle your hands from your shoulders down)
And Rain (wiggle your fingers down from the shoulder)
Bring peace (take a deep breath and relax your shoulders)
I also love Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFBx9FZT–c when the prayers are too big to easily express
Dr Vivienne Wood wrote a small book
Building Emotional Health and Wellbeing by Vivienne Mountain https://www.amazon.com.au/Building-Emotional-Health-Wellbeing-Pastoral/dp/0648271420/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Vivienne+Mountain&qid=1565740999&s=gateway&sr=8-1, available as an ebook as well as bound
Let your child draw or play out their experiences. The town mat and fire engines are good tools to facilitate play.
The kids helpline have these suggestions. https://www.facebook.com/KidsHelpline/?__tn__=kCH-R&eid=ARC_GxiGXJHuIiRGHkRaK3ci0egZdxYVBlOUv6721VE3hDfMVhXQTdW_kwpsG5yh_mWVfmjMV3Rqa1dU&hc_ref=ARR4xye5QmCaSlJDiy_wxls_cKNx_ZbmwNPUFyK1-kVux0hee7ZDED8_Pp0WpzamM6w&fref=nf&__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARAz8HPxFws1upObCB-QfZRhMXINR5kN7CHy3yC-qKjHlzSmT1ia6TypYwD-z43jKzEX-O5l1z9XpEFU_fl9plgNCtIMBDVD6gl3pLOyrFYm2DwsRWBV_ehyeEoOX2ochDv8sXoHu_fK7pFvPfJuF-RNPB8t-DF3ctDokGPnIVH29ew8lFnHyd6EV-S9mcnt9wuphSrV-oF3R9ZkW6c7LyaaxJaW7EwoX6CuoqGZSiZsBxarRK_udI0JkaHLA1pgJbrxFxcnFNCNMcDpmYtc3PViv3Qqy5jGFhgNeoe0rJCGqkGtNpGaiTVFyOkni8dZzEMfzYuLSJMJfCsczHqrLHoNFGAIr7nVvQXSJeV-HeIfsCHFBDlnP6eHhVQYEWAK4Bb7OGhxoqYSGnyTr7n6yOSXHmrqU6b5D2E04mwkdeXi13pX-Ja4bTLFr8Xsr-CHKWH3IyVb2tscNlcnfVWcsprednB-aJkxq5W6w0uy6HAZTtbyec2dKA
As a faith community.
Provide a safe space and environment for children to express themselves and have safe people with which to express their concerns.
Hold the family in your prayers,
you may be able to help out with food or fees
and continue to stay a positive, safe space for all.
Parents may find it difficult during the school holidays to limit media reports, but try to limit the viewing or use sources or check details when your child is absent, or asleep.
Be aware of their trauma, use the Bear App https://innovativeresources.org/resources/digital-applications/bears-app/ or the Tracee Moroney feeling books https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XegIx_zgXqM such as When I’m feeling Sad
When I’m feeling SCARED https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY5PklAYIBM, etc
Yarra Plenty Regional Library put together this list of books dealing with disasters https://yprl.bibliocommons.com/list/share/411301297_library_geek/1555452799_books_about_dealing_with_disaster_for_children?_ga=2.101564481.1104479734.1577959991-302965281.1486347740&fbclid=IwAR2N8–A5b6FAVoBgnFHHA_Zkgs3aDhOkofYc3ZCnlgWhH010z2pFh4exog
Professional help may be needed, You could recommend http://viviennemountain.com.au/index.html if in Melbourne Australia
Or find a child or family therapist in your area