The loss of any family member is always very hard to cope with, but it can be particularly difficult for those who lose a loved one serving in the army. Here, we explore some of the avenues of support open to those left behind…
Sadie Baldwin was an army spouse living in Germany when she tragically lost her soldier in an accident. This is her story…
“The first few months were a bit of a blur. My mum and in-laws were flown out by the army to help me.
“At the time, Lilly-Mae was just 15 months and OB was four months.”
Sadie also had support from her best friend and fellow army spouse Claire, plus the unit welfare officer from 5 Rifles and a padre.
During those first few months Sadie says she kept going for the sake of the children.
“I just didn’t feel like I would ever be happy again, but I knew that I had to at least try to give the children as normal a life as possible.”
The family moved from Germany a month after Ricky had died. Sadie initially chose Service Family Accommodation (SFA) in Beachley, so she could be close to family, and she started to look for work around six months after Ricky’s death.
“Financially we were okay whilst living in SFA, however, once we left, I was hit with the real world. I wasn’t entitled to a lot of financial help as I had Ricky’s pension, so it was seen as an income.
“He had died with his life insurance papers unsigned, so we didn’t have any money to buy a house.
“I applied to the council but the only place offered was nearly an hour away from my work and the children’s nursery.
“I decided to rent privately but this meant I needed to earn more, so I took on a second part-time job.”
Over the years, their needs as a family have changed.
“When I first lost Ricky, I had two children who depended on me solely and I had little time to myself. Now they’re older and more independent I find I’m alone a lot. However, I’m part of the Army Widows Association, which is a great organisation.
“One of the widows I’d connected with on Facebook asked me to come to their AGM.
“I was nervous but decided I needed to go.
“I met some of the most amazing ladies who have become family rather than friends,” explains Sadie.
The children are part of the Scotty’s Little Soldiers charity. “Scotty’s offers all sorts of help and advice. We go to the Christmas party every year, which is amazing,” says Sadie.
Advice to others
Sadie’s advice is to open up: “Talk about how you’re feeling.
“The only way you’ll be able to get help and to make your hero proud is to take small steps to living life again.
“As a family we talk about Ricky a lot. People have given me stories and pictures to show the children so that they know their dad was an amazing man.
“We’ve all had counselling but OB found it hard.
“He struggles with the fact other people have their dads around,” she says.
“There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think of him.
“Sometimes it’s hard, like when the children had their first days at school or left primary school for the last time. We celebrate his life on his birthday, remember him on our wedding anniversary and the anniversary of his death.
“Most of all we keep his memory alive as OB looks exactly like him.”
Resources and support
AFF’s bereavement page
JCCC: Manages forces casualties and compassionate cases 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
SSAFA support groups
Forces Children’s Trust
Scotty’s Little Soldiers
Families’ Activity Breaks
Royal British Legion
Childhood Bereavement Network
War Widows’ Association
Forces Pension Society
Army Welfare Service: 01904 882053 or AWS-HQ-IAT@mod.uk
Cruse Bereavement Care
Child Bereavement UK
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide
Bursaries and academic assistance
There are several organisations that can offer advice and support to service children and young people whose education is affected by the loss of a serving parent:
The Children’s Education Advisory Service holds a list of schools which offer bursaries to the bereaved children of forces personnel. Email DCYP-EASenquiries@mod.gov.uk