Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Support Networks - Why you need one!

I "talk" by e-mail, through Facebook or Twitter, on the phone, or in person with hundreds of Veterans and loved ones each month. And, I can tell you honestly that those who are most in need of help are all lacking the same thing... a good support network.

In our military lives, support networks are kind of built-in. You arrive at a new duty station and as soon as you (or your spouse) reports to their new unit, you have people to call on. You may not be comfortable calling them, you may not particularly like them, but in a crunch, they're there.

Once we enter "veteran world", though, so many of us fail at setting up our own network. Truthfully, for those newly dealing with combat injuries, it can be one of those things you just can't seem to get around to. The days are too full with survival to worry about playing nice with anyone. But, honestly, if you are truly focusing on survival and not just treading water until your world collapses, you've got to make a plan to find a group of people you can rely on.

Right now as I type this I hear the groans. "Are you kidding me? If I try to add one more thing to my 'to do' list, I'm going to drown." I said the exact same thing four years ago. But, fortunately I had someone in my life who wouldn't let me ignore her advice. Please let me be that person for you!

Here are some great ways to start finding people with whom to connect -

(1) Ask at your nearest VA Vet Center or VA Medical Facility if they have a support group. Most facilities have groups for Veterans and many are starting groups for caregivers & spouses.

(2) If you've moved close to family or non-military friends, do your part to educate them about what your family is going through so that they can be a good support network. You can't really be upset if they're not helping you when they don't know what you need. When they ask if you need something, don't give vague responses. Give them specific ideas of how to help ("I could really use help watching our children on Tuesday afternoons so I can do errands," or "We need help with fixing our gutters, " etc.). Not expecting people to be mind readers will save you a lot of grief! Family Of a Vet even has an article (available by CLICKING HERE) that those dealing with PTSD can print and give to loved ones that contains a brief overview of PTSD and then tells them how they can be of help to you!

(3) Find a church where you're comfortable. Most churches provide ways for newcomers to meet and connect with members. Talk to the pastor. Let him or her know that you're new (or recently returned) to the area, share a little about your background, and be upfront about the fact that you are trying to be proactive about forming a support network for your family.

(4) Look online for moral support. There are many places where you can virtually meet others who are facing the same challenges. A few of my favorites are: the Facebook page (not a totally shameless plug, we really do have a great group of people!), the Veterans Benefit Network (has forums for spouses and for PTSD, and is, as a whole, about a lot more than just helping people navigate the VA benefit process), and Veteran Caregiver (their site will even "match" you with other caregivers who are close by and have similar situations).

Whatever you do, go ahead and get started. I promise you (cross my heart!) that it will make a huge difference in your ability to cope with your new life and in the happiness of your family. You can do it! I have faith in you. After all, I've never known a Veteran or caregiver that wasn't able to rise to a challenge!

Brannan Vines
Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of - a site dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and more!

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