Today in Christchurch the sky has been filled with smoke and there has been familiar and frightening sounds. Intermittent sirens and helicopters have cut across our consciousness all day. For me these are the sounds of the days following February 22nd 2011. Hearing them triggers fear and panic and I've fought to stay in the more reasonable part of my brain, smiling at the children, focusing on keeping my breath and voice steady. At 3pm I hid in the bathroom and cried.
I've been given the privilege of being in the position to help another family tonight by having them stay with us away from the smoke and worry further up the hill. The kids are whispering to each other on the lounge floor, distracting each other from the own worries about what is happening in the world beyond our home. My eldest spent the afternoon under her duvet on the couch letting worry wash over in her crashing waves. Being able to help our dear friends gave her the focus she needed to get a grip of her own Worry Bug, shoving him under the couch she gathered things to comfort our friends.
Earlier tonight, as darkness fell we went quickly back up the hill to gather important things from our friend's home. People lined the streets along the bottom of the hill. Some were surely just there to rubberneck, but some I'm sure had their binoculars not on the fire, but on their own homes, watching, waiting, praying that the fire doesn't touch them. The flames on hill were mesmerising, unchecked and roaring along the ridge.
Tonight we all sleep on tenterhooks, unsure of what we'll find when we wake. In the morning tempers may be shorter, eyes heavier and small people especially worried. We'll need to keep to our routines as much as possible, limit their exposure to media about the fire and answer their questions simply and with reassurance. We can let them talk about it but we shouldn't let it take over. We can offer distraction and lots of cuddles. They'll look to us to know what to do and will reflect back what they see.
Most importantly we'll need to mind our own emotions and thoughts and be aware that we will find it harder than usual to stay 'reasonable', especially if deep memories of past trauma are triggered in the coming days. We'll need to share our adult worries with other adults, seek and offer support where we can.
Kia Kaha Christchurch, sleep tight x