Keeping our soldier in mind
"It is very difficult to put into writing the difference that having support from SiM has made to our family. It really had to be witnessed to be believed. Soldiers in Mind has made us realise that we ‘matter’, that our soldier was important and that the sacrifice he made is understood and appreciated.
After one particular visit from Nikki, his sister said that it was the first time following his death that she felt better after a visit from someone and it had given her ‘a lift’; a feeling shared by the whole family that, in this most difficult of times, with Soldiers in Mind and the physical and emotional support that they have provided to us we can take comfort and still pay tribute to our soldier and his sacrifice.
Our soldier was killed whilst serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick 16 in 2012. He was part of our very small, close-knit family and his death has had a major impact on our lives and mental well-being. This is especially the case with the females in the family who in the weeks following his death really started to struggle to cope with their grief and the effect this was having on their daily lives.
After phone contact, the Welfare Officer became aware that the family were struggling. He arranged a visit bringing with him Nikki Lester of Soldiers in Mind.
From that day Soldiers in Mind (SiM) has provided invaluable support to our family alongside the support provided by the welfare officers. We feel that SiM was there to listen to our worries, concerns and questions and to provide practical and emotional support through a very difficult time.
Some of the things SiM has done for our family include:
· Visiting on a regular basis as well as maintaining email and telephone contact so that we feel fully supported.
· Securing a referral to ‘Winston’s Wish’ for a 14-year-old member of our family who has been struggling to cope with her grief.
· Liaising with the school so as to ensure that all involved parties are supporting the children in our family as much as possible.
· Providing a number of practical ideas to help our family work through their grief and the associated issues such as providing memory boxes so that we can have a safe place to keep all the things associated with our soldier.
· Arranging for keepsake teddies to be made by combat bears which were made from our soldier’s uniform and include the Battalion badge, his name, rank and the operation he was part of in Afghanistan and a message on the bears feet. These teddies are particularly significant to our family as we have very little other personal effects for him.
· Purchasing a star in his name as a lasting tribute to our hero.
· Arranging for our family to meet another bereaved family from the same Battalion as his. This soldier was a friend of our soldiers, and was serving with him in Afghanistan. He was killed approximately 7 weeks after ours. After our soldier’s death he had returned home on R&R and had spoken about his death and how badly this had affected him. Meeting another family, especially one with a close link to our soldier, going through the same experience and understanding the feelings they are experiencing is a great comfort to our family.
· Arranging for some of his friends and colleagues and commanding officers to come and meet us when they returned from Afghanistan. Due to our geographical location we didn’t get to meet any of his friends/colleagues who he trained or served with before deployment. By arranging this meeting, and the family having a chance to talk about him and his time in the army and in Afghanistan, we feel that we are being given a chance to get to know his ‘other family’ which is a great comfort to us.
· Identifying that some members of the family would benefit from a therapeutic activity and applying for and securing funding for this.
· Contacting his friends and colleagues in Afghanistan and obtaining recent pictures of him, particularly whilst he was serving in Afghanistan. Because he was only there for a short time prior to his death, there was no opportunity for him to provide the family with photos and as such they feel a great sadness that they have no pictures of the last few weeks of his life.
· Contacting the local authority to establish the process involved for the family to erect a bench and tree in our soldier’s memory and securing the funding for this. It’s now up to us to determine where we would like to put the bench and the tree."