Supporting Families Of The Fallen

With the relatively high number of soldiers losing their lives in Afghanistan, there are more and more military families in the UK dealing with bereavement having lost a loved one in active service. Between 2001 and September 2010, 338 British lives were lost in Afghanistan, and the families of the fallen grow in number with each death.

Families of service men who are killed in action face a number of challenges in addition to their tragic loss; often having to move out of Army accommodation and finding themselves without an active support network. Anyone who has lost a loved one will know how impossible a situation that is to find oneself in – especially when small children are involved.

Throughout the UK there are several charities on both local and national levels that work to support bereaved military families in a variety of ways. This year the Royal British Legion started offering free legal support and advice to the families of the fallen, in addition to the financial and other support that they offer.

Veterans-UK is also a valuable resource for ex-servicemen as well as military families. They offer a support line alongside resources and links to other organisations that may be able to offer help.

Winston’s Wish is a UK charity that works with bereaved children from all walks of life – they have reported an increase in calls regarding military children, and offer a helpline which is accessible for young members of families of the fallen.

Regimental associations and charities are another point of call offering some support to families. Because they often have close relationships to the soldiers and families, and know about the challenges faced by each individual regiment, they are perfectly situated to provide in-community support.

All of these organisations are in need of financial backing, and initiatives like the new charity, Families of the Fallen, help to raise the money that these organisations use to support bereaved military families. Ordinary people across the UK can be thanked for the donations they have offered and continue to offer – even during the tough financial times of recent years. Our generosity as a nation shines through.

With uncertainly around how long the British involvement in Afghanistan is set to continue, the number of families in need of support is only likely to grow in the future – so a joint effort and collaborative community approach to supporting the families of the fallen is needed.

However opposed anyone may be to the reasons behind going to war or the fact of our continued presence in the region, there are very few who can deny that we have, as a society, a duty of care to those who are in need – and that the bereaved families of soldiers killed in action most certainly need all the support, both financial and otherwise, that we can afford to give. As a nation we can do a lot to support families of the fallen, providing them with better accommodation, opportunities and the support they need.

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Healthy Social Relations and How to Build Community Networks That Support Them

Research has demonstrated a link between social isolation and morbidity and all-cause mortality. Socially isolated persons are at the highest risk for a variety of diseases and fatal health outcomes, and social integration directly influences the onset, progression, and recovery from illness. This association has been shown for diverse physical health problems, such as the common cold, cancer, HIV infection, cardiovascular diseases, and cardiovascular reactivity.

Social relationships impact physiological systems, which in turn, impacts morbidity and mortality. In a review of studies of social relationships and physiological processes, researchers found strong evidence for beneficial effects of relationships on aspects of the cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and immune systems.

Familial ties as well as emotional support are important dimensions in protecting people from damaging pathophysiological processes. Loss and bereavement, for instance, are followed by immune depression, which compromises cellular immunity. This, in turn, reduces overall host resistance, so that the individual becomes more susceptible to a variety of diseases, including infections and cancer.

Furthermore, research on relationships associate emotions with biological development of the brain and the neurological system. Social relationships are closely linked to a variety of psychological processes including feelings of distress, depression, loneliness, and other emotional states. Studies show that social relationships encourage health behaviors that prevent the onset of illness, slow its progression, or influence the recovery process.

Physical exercise is closely linked to social integration and social relationships. Perceived support by family and friends can help in developing the intention to exercise, as well as initiation of the behavior.

Social relations occur within communities, and building community requires five basic social structures. Organizations that attend to the five structural components below will form a sustainable community, and conversely organizations that fail to address these components will inhibit the growth of community.

Intermediate Size. The structure must be small enough for people to experience them (provide a “sense of community”) and large enough to provide incorporation into the larger societal structure.

Presence of Significant Primary and Secondary Interaction. The organization must provide both a primary (directly personal) and well as a secondary (access and reference to a larger group) interaction.

Key Institutional Setting. The members of the community must view the community services as central, and to some degree essential, to their well-being.

Relative Stability. The structure must endure over time.

Concreteness. The structure must maintain relevance by incorporating people with whom a significant number of community members interact and identify with.

Seven Ways to Tap Your Spiritual Traditions and Beliefs to Manage Grief

One of the most important resources to turn to when mourning the death of a loved one is the spiritual core beliefs and traditions you have been exposed to. Many mourners have told me about using their spiritual practices to find meaning and eventual peace of mind in trying to integrate their losses into their suddenly different worlds.

In particular, spiritual beliefs help to bring comfort, and in many instances, a sense of relief and meaning to the loss of loved ones. Here are seven ways to plumb the depths of your beliefs to find peace and ultimately the motivation to begin the process of acceptance of the death.

1. Meditate on the belief that the people who come into your life to help at this time, the meaningful things you read, the unexpected things that just seem to come out of nowhere and give comfort, are the Universe, God, or a Higher Power knowing you are in need and remembering you. Look for ways that Your Higher power tries to connect with you. If you look, you will find. Many choose their Higher Power to be their therapist. Believe your Higher Power is with you, especially in time of need.

2. Love has long been considered a most powerful force for dealing with the fear and worry that are common responses when mourning. Love protects. God, the Universe and your Higher Power all work through love. That’s why our support networks are so useful. You will also feel better if, even as you are hurting, you show love for others through service. Create a routine of caring.

Focusing on how to love in separation–a critical spiritual task–will also keep your loved one alive in your heart as you begin the major task of accepting his/her loss. It will give you a spiritual boost. And, most important of all, love yourself without limits. Be good to yourself. Give yourself a gift every day.

3. Use traditions and rituals as vital supports in dealing with transitions. You can create new rituals for starting each day, remembering your loved one, or trying to establish a new habit or routine. Rituals stabilize and help us connect. Perhaps you may want to start a tradition of celebrating the deceased’s birthday or special anniversary.

4. Read what the various holy books say about the legitimacy of sorrow. Don’t deny the pain. Many divine figures grieved. Jesus grieved. Give yourself permission to grieve as long as you feel it is necessary. Embrace your grief and allow it to run its course. Be assured that your grief is not only normal; it is the only kind on the planet, because each relationship is one of a kind. And, don’t avoid legitimate suffering. It will cause even more suffering in the final analysis.

5. Many people believe in the doctrine of The Communion of Saints. It is essentially the belief that deceased loved ones who go to heaven can be prayed to and intercede to God for survivors on earth. I often tell mourners there is nothing wrong with talking to the deceased loved one, or praying for a sign that the loved one is in a better place. If you don’t get an answer right away, don’t feel your Higher Power hasn’t heard you. Be patient and persist. Believe that you will be heard and never abandoned.

6. If you believe in a spirit world, afterlife, or heaven then you can also dwell on the following possibilities. Possibility is what hope is all about.

A. Your loved one knows what you are going through.

B. Your loved one can help you now more than before.

C. You can ask for ideas on how to deal with a vexing problem.

D. The deceased loved one assumes there will always be a relationship with survivors.

E. Grieve with the conviction and remind yourself that you will be guided through your ordeal.

F. Some day their will be a reunion.

7. Pray for the wisdom to make the right choices. Coping well and good grief are all about wise choices. For example, when will you intentionally start new routines, when will you freely express what you are feeling, when will you take a break from your grief, when will you employ self-care on a regular basis, and when will you start loving in separation are all based on the power of choice. For months or years your choices will pave the way for integrating loss into life. Pray as you would talk to your best friend. Cry out for help. Ask for strength, but seek wisdom to choose.

We are mysterious beings who clearly have a spiritual yearning. Be open to how your everyday spirituality (kindness, active caring, compassion, we are all connected) can play a major role in bringing comfort and new meaning into your life at this time of great turmoil. Talk to others who have similar beliefs and allow your intuition to become part of your decision making process. You possess the ability to grow through your great loss and find inner peace.