Marking the day

The anniversary of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires will impact the lives of many people.

It will be a time when people reflect on the loss, trauma and devastation caused by the fires, but it will also be a time when people remember the stories of hope and survival, and to celebrate the ways in which the community came together to support and care for each other.

Everyone will find themselves reacting to the anniversary differently. What is important is that people find their own way to mark and remember the day. Some people will attend or participate in community memorials, while others may choose to do something with their family or friends.

For others it may be important to go somewhere significant and quiet to reflect alone.

Whatever people choose to do, it is important that their decision is respected.

On the day of the anniversary you might find that you experience a range of unwanted feelings (eg. sadness or loss). You might feel more tired, be unable to sleep or be in a low mood.

Some people might find themselves feeling quite fearful and overwhelmed by the day. Others might notice these feelings leading up to the anniversary but as the day passes the feelings subside.

For some the day will come and go and nothing will change in how they feel. Everyone is different.

How to mark an anniversary

There is no one way to mark an anniversary. It is important to think about what the event means for you, and then how you want to manage it.  If you decide not to mark the day you might still experience some unwanted reactions to the anniversary, so it might be good to have a plan about who you can contact - a friend or family - if you need some support.

Some things that might help you to plan ahead:

Think about how you want to mark the anniversary

There are lots of different ways to mark anniversaries. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get involved in a community event
  • Create your own memorial with family and /or friends
  • Create a piece of art/poetry that you share with others on the anniversary, or load it up for others to read.  Click here to go to Bushfire Stories 
  • Plant a new tree somewhere significant
  • If you lost someone special in the fires, think about what they really enjoyed doing - maybe you could do it for them on the anniversary

Talk to your family/friends about how you want to/ don't want to mark the anniversary

  • Communication between family and friends is very important on significant anniversaries. Make sure you:
  • Think about what is important to you for the day
  • Let family members know what you want
  • Talk to family about their needs for the day
  • If your wishes don't completely fit, try for a compromise
  • Be aware that family members will have particular needs to know you are safe on this day.

Think about who you might like to spend the day with

  • Remember that being close to friends and family can be really important.

Look after yourself

  • Make a list of some things that you might like to do on this day. Doing things that you enjoy can help you to balance out any difficult or stressful emotions from the day.

Learning to live with your experience

While it might be hard to imagine, you will think less about your bushfire experience as time passes. It is important to remind yourself that part of your recovery is to rebuild, refocus and learn to live with what has happened. You will always remember your bushfire experience, but how you move forward and achieve your own goals and aspirations is up to you.

Think about some of the positive developments that have occurred in the recovery since the bushfire

Not everything that was affected by the bushfires will be back to normal, but many things have been fixed or rebuilding has begun.

Since the fires there has also been extensive work done to keep people safe in case of more fires this season. These are positive steps to a community rebuilding and can help you to see hope for the future.

The losses and trauma you have experienced will always remain with you, but the intensity of these feelings will gradually fade and you will feel more able to cope and rebuild.

You are not alone as you recover and if you hit a tough spot there is always help around for you.



February 2009 Victorian 'Your Bushfire Space' was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund and has been developed in collaboration with the Victorian Department of Health