Hopeful Families: Wendy’s Story

For 12 years, Wendy cared for her partner, M, who suffered from a number of mental and physical health issues. M rarely left the house due to agoraphobia; this led to an addiction to online shopping, which subsequently left them with a lot of debt. M was also abusive; for example, he would not eat food anyone else prepared for him, and would threaten to harm himself if Wendy was not able to feed him. This behaviour was often dismissed and blamed on M’s mental health issues. Sadly, in July 2017, M passed away suddenly. Wendy was in a very low place, with little confidence and feeling isolated.

“I needed some support and couldn’t do it on my own. I needed to change my mind set. I didn’t want to live. If it wasn’t for the children, I didn’t get up. I used to sleep all the time”.  It took some time for Hopeful Families to build rapport with Wendy and break down trust barriers. Firstly, dealing with the debt that had been accrued due to M’s online shopping addiction. With support from Hopeful Families and specialist partners, Wendy was able to secure debt relief orders and negotiate cheaper utility bills. One specialist partner, ‘Noah’s Ark’, was also able to use external funding to pay off some existing debt.  Moreover, Hopeful Families worked with Wendy on developing budgeting skills, and liaised with her landlord to ensure there was an affordable repayment plan in place.

Secondly, Wendy needed support with her mental health. Through Hopeful Families, Wendy accessed a ‘Mind over Matter’ course, which provided her with techniques to deal with depression, stress and bereavement. Wendy benefited from this counselling so much that the course tutor recognised her as a “real ambassador” and as such, organised the sessions so that Wendy could “meet and greet” others on the course, and provide peer support and mentoring for those who had been through similar situations. Through tackling her mental health issues, Wendy realised her own self- worth and acknowledged that the way she was previously treated was not acceptable. Wendy was also better equipped to deal with confrontational situations much more calmly rather than feeling scared and vulnerable.

Wendy and her son

In addition to helping Wendy access support for herself, Hopeful Families also looked at how they could support her children; both of her sons were badly affected following the death of their father, which consequently impacted on Wendy.  Hopeful Families worked closely with Wendy’s social worker during ‘Team around the Child’ (TAC) meetings. They helped them access ‘Time Out’ support, which was a 12 week programme run in partnership with ‘Healthy Minds’.  During the programme, Wendy’s children learnt new techniques to deal with their grief, including talking therapies and arts and crafts. Having other children on the course also enabled Wendy’s children to make new friends who understood their situation, offering peer support. Through accessing a fun and regular programme, Wendy’s sons built up a routine, learnt how to respect their mum, and developed a calmer outlook.

Following the support Wendy received with the help of Hopeful Families over the space of a year, Wendy built enough confidence to start and maintain a part-time cleaning job.  Through taking on this new role, and reflecting on her counselling sessions, Wendy not only feels empowered and has developed assertiveness and professionalism, but is also showing her children an alternative way to approach life.  Having a job has also impacted on Wendy financially; she was previously very reluctant to go out and socialise due to financial constraints, but now feels she is able to be more social and see her friends.

Wendy’s increased confidence has also led to her following up on a dream she has had for a long time – to work with children. At the time of interview, Wendy was just about to start a second job at her son’s school. To date, Wendy has found the support for her children particularly effective for one of her sons, who is now able to talk about his father’s death, and knows it is alright to be sad. Moreover, with the help of Hopeful Families, her other son will soon be accessing counselling sessions, which Wendy is optimistic about. Her short term goals are to get them into a more comfortable situation, and to let them start being children again.

If you would like to find out more about Hopeful Families contact lisa.connelly@regen.org.uk or call 01422 347392.