Well here we are, approaching the anniversary of a year since the fires of late 2019, early 2020. We are wondering how you’re travelling with it all now?
Integration can be a Step By Step process, it can feel at times like we’re moving forward quickly, and at other times slowly or even backwards.
Our team have been walking alongside many of you, supporting with some practical, some emotional recovery steps – we are here to support you with this longer-term recovery process, and we know the journey is unique to each person.
We’re curious to know how you are looking after yourself at this time. We are hearing that many people are feeling fatigued. When we are stressed over long periods of time, our bodies become tired with elevated cortisol levels – the hormone that we release when we need to keep going through challenging times.
So it’s really important to rest and take time for self-care. And to find ways to reflect and acknowledge where you’ve come from and where you are now.
There are people available to talk things through with, people who don’t judge and who understand about the experience of recovering from a disaster. Sometimes we can be caught off guard when an anniversary brings up feelings or memories of experiences we think we should have moved on from. It can help to know you’re not alone with those feelings.
It’s really okay to not be okay sometimes. Recovery can be a longer process than we expect. Dr Rob Gordon explains about anniversaries for significant events:
A PERSONAL STORY OF RECOVERY
Like so many families in our region, Leam Dzwinek and his two children had bushfires impact their property at the end of last year. While Leam and a friend managed to save the house, his surrounding property was burnt, and he lost many of his much loved animals.
For Leam there have been a variety of challenges on the recovery journey. He found it took time to work through the experience of having stayed to fight the fire. The bushfires and then the effects of Covid have also taken a toll on his plumbing business. And the burnt land has meant the immediate loss of the rural lifestyle he and his children enjoyed.
Ruth Myers from Step By Step has been in touch with Leam since earlier this year.
“When I first met Leam he said he was “okay” but I was aware that he may be feeling overwhelmed with the ‘what to do’s’,” said Ruth. “What to do first, how to start, and the financial processes. I met with him and had a good yarn, and over time I could just check in on him; meeting him at a coffee shop, or in the office, or at his home.”
Leam says Ruth told him about some available grants and helped him to apply for them. She has stayed in contact and supported him by letting him know what services and financial support is available.
Leam was able to receive a small business grant from the NSW Government and he has also received help from the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. “Thankfully, I had a great number of friends who helped out. The financial support helped get some things started,” said Leam.
Approaching the one year anniversary of the fires, Leam has been planting flowers and shrubs to bring some colour back to his garden. With the risk of fires much lower this year, Leam says he feels safe. He is looking forward to creating some new play spaces for his children, and after an initial lull he’s getting his business back up and running. He is looking forward to a family Christmas, doing some rebuilding and enjoying time with his children.
I’m really grateful for Leam’s sense of community and sense of moving forward. In a word, he lives resilience,” said Ruth.
Step by Step Recovery Support Service Editorial - September 2020
No-one can say that 2020 has not been a year of profound challenges and changes. As we approach the first anniversary of the bushfires (and floods) it’s really important to step up your self-care and the care of your loved ones. Some people may want to attend community memorials, others will choose to spend time with family and friends. For others it may be important to spend the day alone. This important milestone (one that nobody invited) can bring with it painful memories and reminders of what has been lost and what has been changed forever. It can also be a time to reflect on the journey travelled so far and the road ahead. You may feel very uncertain about the road ahead…that’s OK. None of us are sure of what the future might hold. This is a time for respite, rest and reflection, reaching out and connecting with each other. It’s OK to not feel OK. It’s OK to grieve. Tears can be healing. You’re not alone and you’re not forgotten.
Step by Step bushfire recovery support service is here to walk alongside people (affected by the bushfires and floods) living in the Hawkesbury, Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Mid-Western regions. We can meet you for a chat and a cuppa wherever you feel comfortable, at home, your favourite café, over the phone or online. We can also help you with disaster recovery grant applications, practical support, recovery updates and link you with your local network of health and community services.
Step by Step is here to listen and to walk with you. There’s no blame, there’s no shame….. we help give your feelings a name. Remember that you are resilient, you are courageous, you have suffered and you’ve been through so much…but look how far you have come. Believe that you can keep moving forward step by step.
Go to this youtube video to listen to disaster recovery expert and clinical psychologist, Dr Rob Gordon talk about what anniversary events mean to individuals, families and communities.
Go to our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Step-by-Step-Recovery-Support-Service-110797763847269/?ref=bookmarks
Lifeline's 13 HELP (13 43 57) is a dedicated bushfire recovery line available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for any person needing support as a result of the bushfires.
The friendly Step by Step Team
STAGES OF RECOVERY
Blue Mountains Region
It’s been about 7 months now since the bushfires in our region. You might find it interesting to know that the recovery process does go in stages. As a community, the intense time of directly responding to a disaster is known as the Heroic phase – there’s high adrenalin, lots of stress and people come together to help in heroic ways. When the immediate threat has passed, we experience the Honeymoon phase of having survived and of naturally wanting to help each other. There are lots of promises and donations and a hope and expectation of action and support in recovery.
By 6 months or so we realise things are moving slowly. It might be that government support is not quite forthcoming, you may experience insurance delays or impediments to cleanup or reconstruction. Disaster response agencies have moved on and the press and wider public interest have dropped away. People are tired with the ongoing effort of recovery – this is known as the Disillusionment phase. We get on with taking care of our own lives, properties and losses, communities can feel fractured and disconnected from each other.
It’s in this phase that local support is so important. Communities can lean on local services who will walk alongside them through this phase of recovery, understanding that rebuilding and integrating the recovery experience takes time.
Lasting for several years after a disaster is the Reconstruction phase. Having the right support available, whether it’s financial, emotional or practical can really assist communities and individuals to recover well and move forward with their lives.
Step By Step are here to support you with this longer-term recovery process, and we know the journey is unique to each person – we’d love to hear your story.
BUSHFIRE RECOVERY ON WHEELS
We’re a group of local outreach services who can support you and your family in whatever way you may need, with practical, emotional and confidential support – no judgement, no labels. No door is the wrong door and you won’t have to retell your story to lots of different people.
We can help with applying for grants, small property repairs, essential household items, grocery vouchers and a professional listening ear to support the whole family’s emotional wellbeing.
Step By Step Bushfire Recovery Support Service: providing practical, emotional and holistic support for the whole family. Call Ruth 0466936747
GRANTS & ASSISTANCE
NSW Primary Producers Special Disaster Grant $75,000
Extended until December 15, 2020. www.raa.nsw.gov.au
Red Cross Primary Residence Rebuild & Repair Grants
close August 31st 2020 Call Red Cross on 1800 733 276 or check redcross.org.au/grants We can help with completing your application
NSW Small Business Grants
Up to $50,000 available if your business has been directly affected by bush fire. There are also $10,000 loans available Call 13 77 88
Register at Service NSW for Block Cleanup
apply.service.nsw.gov.au/bushfire-cleanup or call 13 77 88
Property owners will be contacted to discuss damage and eligibility
For complaints call 1800 007 539
Free Counselling & Mediation
Counselling for individuals, couples or families -
By phone In person Online 1800 864 846
Financial Counselling Australia
Call 1800 007 007
Disaster Assistance Finder