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'Mail' Newspaper Articles

Focal Point (for publishing—17/02/09)

Responding to the Trauma

You don’t need me to verify the fact that we as a nation are grieving like at no other time. Words like holocaust and hell fire have been used to describe what we are otherwise finding hard to find words for. Our Prime Minister first identified that we as a nation were grieving on the 12th of Feb even before the half of the story had been told. The difficulty is that we have not yet quantified the loss yet so many of us don’t fully know what to grieve over. For those who have suffered horrendous losses, its way too early for grief counselling - all they really need now is practical help, someone to either just sit beside them and say nothing, or someone to listen to their story. Here are some helpful tips:
    • It is so important for listeners to know that the teller, in telling that story, is often simply trying to validate their actions and decisions that may or may not have saved a life or a home. 
    • If we are the listeners we don’t have to have answers and we need to remember that in real terms, we don’t know what it is like for them, even though we might have experienced something like it in the past. 
    • The teller might make a statement about a hopeless future or say that they feel guilty that they or their house survived while others around them lost all. Don’t say, “no that’s not the case” or “things will be alright”. That’s where they are right now and that’s ok. 
    • It is vital to the healing process that the tellers eventually talk things out. It has a therapeutic effect. However without badgering crisis victims they should be quietly and empathetically encouraged to tell their stories when they are ready. 
I have noticed that as the enormity of the loss unfolds the greater the sense of helplessness seeps through our bones. I have had a number of men in particular; say to me that they feel powerless, small, helpless and even insignificant in the light of what they are trying to come to grips with. There is another thing that happens at this time and its what we call transference. That is when the likes of this current crisis taps into some other unresolved crisis in our lives that also may be out of control. Past traumas and losses get revisited and before long we can experience a crushing sense of depression. Often we who sit on the sidelines and don’t seem to be able to help in any constructive way have to deal with a loss that we can’t quantify either. Maybe we are thinking that we are loosing the battle against global warming or fearing what might be the loss of our families and homes if a fire comes to us. Maybe we are feeling the loss of security and the loss of potency when it comes to be able to protect others. A number of my current clients have wanted to talk about these present fears. Let me encourage you to talk with someone about the way you are feeling now or about the issues that are being brought up by this crisis. Family and friends can help but if you feel you haven’t got the type of family where you can do that give us at Valley Care or any other counseling service a ring and come in for a chat. There are also many phone line counselling services too. Three to start with are, ‘Nurses on Line’, ‘Beyond blue’ & ‘Lifeline’. Take care and may God watch over you as you trust in Him.

Graeme Dawson B.Min. Grad.Dip.CC. 
Co-ordinator Focal Point & Valley Care Counsellor & Manager
Valley Care Counselling Service 0409 517273.


Focal Point Yarra Valley 2009