Who am I after the fires?

Did I ever think afterwards, So this is how my life turned out, this is who I am, a homeless mother of two?

No, you’re just so busy surviving, you don’t think about those things. The view of your world changes, though. I now meet people and wonder what kind of grief, tragedy or disappointment are they dealing with right now?

The most extraordinary thing during this tragedy for us was the community support. We always knew we lived in a wonderful place full of amazing people but what happened after we lost our home, no one could have prepared us for.

Friends and family overseas started fundraisers, locals here came by to drop off anything from beds, meals, clothes, toys, books to tools, dog kennels, bikes to trampolines and chickens. Local businesses wanted to help and gave vouchers and freebies to all affected families on a scale completely unexpected. Strangers from all around the world travelled to our small island paradise not to go on holidays but to get their work gear on and help us fence, clean up dead and injured animals, pick up millions of nails and put a smile on our faces. The generosity of everyone was overwhelming but greatly appreciated and definitely needed. And never did I wonder, what are they going through right now? Is there a reason why some are so passionately helping, why it’s become a core need for them to be part of our recovery?

In the early days, we had no idea what we actually needed and even after weeks worth of donations flooded in, no idea what we already had. The need of the community to bring us back to where we were was extremely heartwarming and I have never felt so close to people I barely knew ever before in my life.

You never really know the true impact you have on those around you. You never know how much someone needed that smile you gave them. You never know how much your kindness turned someone’s entire life around. You never know how much someone needed that long or deep talk. So don’t wait to be kind. Don’t wait for someone else to be kind first. Don’t wait for better circumstances or for someone to change. Just be kind, because you never know how much someone needs it.

~ Nikki Banas

In the midst of all this anguish, it was hard to be the one to console others, trying to diffuse any awkwardness when first meeting again even though you think you are the person suffering most.

There were many friends feeling guilty about having been ‘spared’ by the fires and therefor didn’t want to ask how we were going. They thought we would have hard feelings towards those in ‘luck’ of still having a home. Having friends avoid you for fear of not knowing what to say or do was one of the worst things in the aftermath of losing our home.

If I thought someone was genuinely a good friend, and you had shared a lot of experience with them, and they avoided you, that really hurt. I could sort of understand, but at the same time, it’s another part of loss. You’ve lost whatever you had but then people just drop out, and instantly there’s more loss. There’s nothing anyone could say, no matter how badly it came out, that could be as bad as what’s already happened to you. So it’s much better for people to just let you know that they’re there to help, if you need it. For people to show that they’re still there is the most important thing.

Because often people would say things, like they didn’t want to bring it up because “I didn’t want to remind you of it.” And you’d think, Oh yeah, I would have forgotten all about it.

… theory is that people become paralysed because they want to offer something authentic or meaningful and they fear not delivering.

~ Leigh Sales

Fortunately some of them came and cried with us whilst telling about their feelings and I could console them and say ‘I am SO glad you still have your home. Imagine the sheer size of this tragedy if now there was NOWHERE for us to go and have a cuppa anymore. No one who could donate some spare clothes or pre-cooked meals to help out in the early days and no one mentally strong enough to help us rebuild for months and months after all this.’ We need our neighbours and friends’ places that were narrowly missed by the ferocious beast of a fire, to look at their houses, get ideas and make some plans for a new future home.

I think life is both good and bad simultaneously. You have good moments during the hard times as much as you have hard moments during the good times.

I also believe that there is a positive that can be drawn out of every negative. Loosing your home isn’t an experience I wish upon anyone or would recommend to start seeing the better in life, but it has certainly given me a new perspective of the here and now. I have since asked myself the question “What am I waiting for?” in multiple aspects of my life and have come to the conclusion (like so many before me) that no day is promised and I only have one life.

I now listen more, not just to what people are saying but to what they are really saying. Their faces, their body language, their reactions, their messages, texts, Facebook posts. I feel I have fine tuned myself to action and reaction, personal growth and respect for other people’s problems.

But I have also started to listen more to myself. What do I need, who am I, where do I want to go, who do I want to be, what can I do to help and give back to all those that lit up my darkest days? Losing your security blankets does that to you and even though it was a tragic time that now feels like a long gone nightmare, it was real and it taught me lots.

Yes, I am a homeless mother of two.

But it’s just a label and I won’t let any of these words define me. I can be anyone I want. I can be anyone I’m dreaming to be. I have been inspired to be a better version of myself. Do I have a roof over my head? Yes. Am I worried to end up sleeping under a bridge? No way. If this has taught me anything, it’s that the universe has my back. And in saying that I don’t mean an unknown force out there somewhere, I mean the people. The people who have been there through it all and care. For a while in the early days after the fire, I wondered how we would deal with the work load and the emotional challenges once people have forgotten about us again. I now have realised, that they won’t. I am not alone and that feeling gives me so much comfort and a sense of security, that I know we will be okay.

So have you ever asked yourself, who am I or who do I want to be?

5 thoughts on “Who am I after the fires?

  1. This is beautiful, Sabrina! I have loved your profound self-reflection throughout this crisis and beyond.

    You’re right, you don’t know where people are, and it’s been interesting and sobering to think how many people in our community are quietly carrying their own trauma. My Dad, friend and I narrowly escaped being burned in our car on Ash Wednesday, 1983. That memory has sat with me ever since, and each new round of near misses takes its own toll; Black Saturday where Stuart was part of the Army’s deployment searching for bodies, Pinery fire which burned Stuart’s old farm, and now this.

    Like you, I’ve found that the generosity and courage it brings out in people is what heals this layered trauma. For me coping with this summer on top of all that bushfire baggage was about feeling like I could contribute the right things at the right time, and seeing how much everybody around me was doing and giving and sharing. Like Will from Will’s rare breeds said to me while he was surrounded by fire, “everything just seems to work how it should at a time like this.”

    Also your comments about binaries, good and bad in everything – Covid lockdown seemed like the worst possible thing for the community after the fires, but seeing you turn it into a rich and valuable time to heal with your children was inspirational. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 🥰 „Home is where the heart is“ so I see you as a „houseless mother of two“. Let the love and support around you continue to strengthen you😘😘😘

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love love love this Sabrina ❤️ So insightful and reflective. It’s such a strange thing how (speaking for myself), we who didn’t lose our homes feel that’s it’s wrong to bring our tears to you and those who have lost everything. But I agree with you that crying together helps and I feel now that my tears are this massive burst of empathy for you and how you must be feeling. How amazing you are to be so happy there are still homes for you to enjoy a cuppa in, I still remember you saying this to me in the early days. Here we are on opposite sides of the fence yet our arms are still around each other 🙏🏽You know the kettle is always on at my house xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The whole event is surreal to think about now. The tragedy and heartache of it all lingers on forever for those that experience such loss. It’s like losing a loved one, eventually time will heal the wounds. There is a lot of people around with PTS nearly losing thier lives in the fires. And many won’t even know they have it yet. I imagine when another fire gets going in summer people will be very anxious. Just hope that we as a society learn from this. Policies and procedures in national parks need to change. It’s all very well to want to conserve flora and fauna but by being too protective of it has ironically caused a totally loss. Including all the property adjacent to it. I fear the corona virus has taken over all political thoughts and nothing will change. Keep your chin up Sabrina, your doing a great job, taking care of and focusing on what matters most to you. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

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