The best way for them to move on

If there has been one over used phrase from politics and the press over the last few years it would have to be the words 'we need to
move on.' Often it can mean 'we don't wish to discuss this further'. It can gloss over political gaffs and injustice that the perpetrator has no wish to redress. The story of our nation is one where one party is continually asserting the need to 'move on' while the other insists that there may be something we really need to get sorted at the roots of the relationship if there is ever going to be any trust or goodwill in the place that we may be 'moving on' to. How then does one 'move on' from an act of nature so devastating that it shakes the very faith one has in the soil underfoot? How do you move on through the unhelpful psychological coping mechanisms that are often a result of deep trauma? The 'survivor guilt' of being untouched when so many have lost people they love and everything they own. The crazy risk taking that comes when the anxious mind is so fearful it will deliberately seek dangerous situations in order to avert the bigger danger that one senses but can not actually name. A testing to see if destiny/God/nature/ really meant it when the survivor was saved? The gaping chasm that is left in the lives of those left behind when someone dies before their time. How does one move on from these things and how do those sitting on the outside in places far from the geographical and emotional epicentre help?

The first human response to trauma is often one of adrenaline fuelled busyness. A rushing to do something… anything that might help. Even in the very early stages of a disaster on the scale of the one in Canterbury this rush to busyness is not always justified. The rescue teams may have come under some initial criticism for the apparent slowness in getting to some areas in the town for search and rescue and yet in listening to the international experts who have had experience in such places as Kobe and Haiti, the controlled, methodical pre-determined method of disaster response has been the most organised and thorough that they have seen anywhere. Sometimes – this 'taking stock first' approach can be just as helpful when trying to help people around the sudden and unwarranted loss they're experiencing and therefore talk of the need to 'move on' when people are still searching for the people they love is premature. Yes. Water and electricity needs to be reconnected. Yes dangerous buildings that have been cleared must be pulled down. But the rallying cry to 'forge ahead' and metaphors of phoenixes rising could rub against the raw sensibilities of those who are left grieving. It is important that they are allowed to acknowledge and stand with the full depth of what has happened and to have the community stand with them in that – to be reassured beyond any unreasonable doubt that there is no possibility that there could be anyone left alive – before the search is called off or they are asked to 'move on'. You can only move on when you are no longer tied to the spot – the old life that you had- and that emotional untying to the old can take a lot longer than we sometimes acknowledge in modern Anglo culture. This week is the Red Cross 2011 annual Earthquake appeal. The rapid response team from Whangarei have already flown out to lend a hand – if you see the girls with the buckets round town you can help them help the people in Canterbury while they work out for themselves what and when is the best way for them to 'move on'.

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