We love working with other charities supporting Forces families, and The Ripple Pond is a charity we admire and are very happy to work with. Here, founder of The Ripple Pond, Julia Molony, shares her story….
Why I set up The Ripple Pond
In 2009 my second son, Anthony, deployed to Afghanistan. This was his 6th tour of duty in seven years. On 21 May I received a phone call from Anthony’s wife to say he had been seriously injured when his vehicle had detonated an IED. Thankfully I have a very good relationship with her and she asked me if I would take her, their two year old son and two week old baby daughter up to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham to be there when Anthony arrived back in the UK.
The previous six years had seen the eldest two of my four sons away on tours of duty, and I had never really had any opportunity to unwind from the stress that each tour of duty left me with. I was in no fit state to deal sensibly with the news when I heard it: I was shocked.
Anthony’s injuries were not straight-forward. He was subject to endless operations, repeat courses of antibiotics and a very limited life-style. There were times when we thought we would lose him. Eventually, in March 2010, he made the decision to have his left leg amputated below the knee.
Friends and family would phone and ask how he and the family were and then hang up. I was left feeling very isolated and alone with my fear, anger and loss. I wanted to talk to people who would understand and accept my feelings without telling me what I ought to feel. I couldn’t find any support available to family members of injured soldiers.
I decided to use my knowledge as a psychotherapist and set up a network of local self-help peer led support groups, with the aim to take away that feeling of isolation and to foster autonomy to aid recovery from secondary trauma. So with this in mind, I launched The Ripple Pond in 2012 (with the assistance of Sue Hawkins, whose son was also injured while serving), and in 2015 it became a charity.
The Ripple Pond is for adult family members of physically and emotionally injured service personnel and veterans – wives, partners, parents, and siblings (over 18). We provide a safe place for family members to talk about their feelings and issues, and for these to be heard and acknowledged by others in a similar situation.
Our core support is ‘group meetings’, with a maximum of six in any group, face-to-face or via Skype, to make sure everyone gets heard. Meetings are held on average every other month, and we try to make them as local as possible – if there are at least two members in an area, we can get a group up and running. Currently there are 23 groups across the country. These groups enable a sharing of knowledge and an exchange of ideas and thoughts and an acceptance of a new normality.
And we have a ‘buddy’ system, whereby we put members in touch with one another, so even if there is no group in their area, they can still access face-to-face support. We also have a ‘private Facebook page’, where members can share their stories and feelings.
Recently, some of our members with younger children have joined Reading Force. Through a shared interest in a book, family members can chat about a book, outside of the ‘health’ related daily grind. The books encourage communication and imagination in both adults and children, and Reading Force is an activity that can be done even when other activities with the children are not easily possible or the parent is perhaps away receiving treatment.
Ripple Pond member, Naomi, says:
“As a Veteran’s family we really appreciate being included in Reading Force. When serving the family is recognised and there is a lot of support out there for children connecting with their serving parents, family support and health support. The sacrifice my husband made and the effect his mental health now has on our family even years after leaving the Armed Forces has a massive effect on our entire family, the ripples extend to myself and my children. It means so much to know that we are cared about and included in Reading Force. I can’t put into words how much my spirits were lifted last week when our first parcel arrived just a few days after we had applied for it. We felt like we mattered to someone.”
If you are caring for a loved one with a military attributed injury, to find out more about The Ripple Pond, go to www.theripplepond.org
If you would like to receive a free Reading Force scrapbook and book, please request one here.