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Posted by on Feb 10, 2009 in Health | 3 comments

Strength For Those on the Front Lines, Australia Fires

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As I put up on TMV yesterday, whole families were lost by being trapped in their houses or trying to run away in their cars or on foot. The fires chased them and killed them. Entire towns have streets with blackened bodies lying where they were caught by the fire…

and the nurses, doctors, civilians and soldiers who are doing search and rescue… please pray for them too…

for there is a phenomenon little spoken about amongst those of us who are trauma specialists… it is called secondary trauma.

It is a kind of functional shock, meaning one can go on with great strength and focus, effectively helping others through a horrific disaster site, but the flashbacks of some of the horrendous sights, smells and sounds the helper witnessed firsthand … these are recorded by the psyche, by the body, by the spirit and soul…

and often enough start trying to take one’s mind, heart or spirit apart for many weeks, months, even years afterward. Flashbacks, nightmares, ‘unscheduled’ tearing-up, staring off into space, isolating, et al… all these have to be dealt with. It isn’t that the person is weak at all. It is that they are fully human.

This secondary traumatization is what well-trained helpers of all kinds knowingly face in order to do their work to assist the injured, dying and dead. The symptoms of secondary trauma sometimes do not surface until months after the mission has closed. Even though we’re trained to know what to do to deal with it all, it can be twenty miles of washboard road for a time.

If anyone has a poem to leave as a prayer in the comments here, it is likely some of our Aussie readers will send it forward to others who are in need, helpers, front-liners, and others.

Kentuckian Wendell Berry is a poet so of the land and of independent spirit, he could have been an Aussie himself. He wrote about how the world assails so deeply and what to do to ever protect the spirit: This is the last line of his poem, “The Mad Farmer’ Liberation Front”… one of the the most powerful, time-tested tiny maps I’ve returned to time and again no matter which mission I’ve been on, no matter what I’ve seen and heard during unspeakably horrendous times:

Practice resurrection.

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