Monday, February 09, 2009

survivor guilt

I've not been able to find the words to describe the emotions that the bush fires are stirring up. For those not from Victoria, so many of the devastated areas are a short drive from the city. I figure everyone in Melbourne knows someone or has some kind of connection to the places these tragedies are occurring.

Despite not feeling able to articulate this, I did manage to respond to a post by Poppalina and rather than try to recraft them - if sums up how I feel about this horrible, unimaginable disaster.

Survivor guilt. I think we've all got it right now and those of us who are enjoying the comfort of our city homes feeling a strange mix of bewilderment and utter uselessness.

I spent yesterday afternoon visiting my neighbour who'd lost her home in the Ash Wednesday fires. I figure PTSD runs deep, 26 years is nothing and all it takes is a whiff of smoke and 24 hour a day emergency radio broadcasts to bring it all back. She was holding up ok but her husband was feeling very wobbly. They couldn't bear to watch tv but had been listening to radio. She wanted to talk about the day her life changed and pulled out a photo taken the day after their house burnt down. It was gutting. Totally flattened, the odd brick recognisabe, a garden light and the water tank the only remaining items. She pointed in the direction of another property naming the dead, recalled another neighbour who's frantic knock on their door in the middle of the night had saved their lives (exhausted from weeks of hot weather and alerts and 7 months pregnant she was sound asleep up to the moment the fire reached their property)....

Somehow the couple of hours we sat chatting made me feel better. As devastated as they are, those that survive just with the clothes on their backs but with no direct loss of lives feel grateful. Human resilience is amazing.

But 108 confirmed dead and rising far too that leaves too many ripples in far too many peoples souls...

It goes without saying that I, along with every other person with a heartbeat around here, wish I could do more than donate money (the relief centres don't want material donations right now and I am ineligible to be a blood donor). I suspect we can offer more concrete help once the immediate crisis has passed.

There are 100's of CFA volunteers on the front lines, working around the clock. My utmost admiration to all those amazing men and women who risk their lives to do this. I also think of volunteers' families back home who can't help but worry about them as they fight the fires.

Thanks also to ABC radio 774 for their around the clock emergency broadcast, so many people in front of and behind the microphones providing amazing coverage.

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Blogger docwitch said...

I absolutely agree - and share a lot of these emotions.

Being one of the fortunate ones, I also feel the uncanniness of being insulated from it all. Here in the peace and cool of the inner-city suburbs it is so hard to fathom the horror that is less than an hour away from here.
The images of catastrophe are delivered to us around the clock, but that too is mediated, and it's something we can switch off and on at will. Yet there are so many who are trapped constantly within an unending nightmare.

Everyone I know has just been wandering around in shock, and with a sense of overwhelming helplessness - even with donating money, and going through the cupboards to dig out blankets and clothes to donate, I feel so ineffectual.

1:37 pm  
Blogger Suse said...

Well said. Those of us still here feel useless, grateful, guilty and wrung out.

7:53 pm  
Anonymous Dani said...

Couldn't agree more. The healing will take a long time. Some will never fully heal. I am so glad I am able to give blood. The need to do something constructive for those personally affected is overwhelming.

Whilst I certainly have my share of survivor guilt, I am also grateful beyond belief that my family was spared. Because it was mere good fortune in several cases.

8:53 pm  
Blogger antikva said...

Thanks for dropping by to check on us, it's so hard to comprehend the loss and heartbreak.


10:29 pm  
Blogger Johanna said...

Surviving a bit of hot weather seems nothing compared to coping with these incredible bush fires - my thoughts are with those who are in the eye of the storm and have many difficult days ahead!

11:00 pm  
Anonymous glutenfreeforgood said...

I came by to visit and to let you all know I am thinking of you and sending good energy from here in the US. This is such a well-written post. Thank you for sharing your feelings.

Honestly, my heart goes out to you.


1:37 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

The blood bank is "overwhelmed" with calls from donors, which is great. If it gets new people into the system donating blood and plasma regularly one, small good thing has come out of this awful disaster.

Though it is time that the blood bank reviewed it's sexual activity guidelines. Had a relationship with someone who lives overseas or comes from another country in the past 12 months - then you can't donate? You mean a bonk with a Brit backpacker or a dalliance in Christchurch last year and you can't give blood? If you are a gay or bisexual man, or a woman who's had a relationship with one - blanket ban. Same with guy's who've had sex with a sex worker. Safe sex doesn't count. In my experience the most unsafe sex happens with straight guys who don't tell their partner/girlfriend what they've been up to!

8:11 am  
Blogger Lene Andersen said...

From my safe perch in Canada, it's nconceivable that a fire can be so large and so deadly. We have forest fires here, but this is beyond anything I've ever heard of. And I can't put what I feel into words, so thaks for saying it for me.

2:38 pm  

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