Starting over when all seems lost
Starting over when all seems lost
Struggling with the grief of losing her husband of more than 45 years, Val* moved in with family who began helping themselves to her savings and mistreating her. She finally emerged from this dark period after experiencing kindness and care through a range of Salvation Army services.
In her 60s and suffering from multiple health issues, Val says she now feels stronger than she has in years. In fact, she says with a laugh, every time she passes The Salvation Army she blows a kiss and says “thank you”.
Val says her life went from “being just a normal person and family” to “hell” and then back again to a new position of strength and hope.
She explains that she struggled with depression in the later years of her marriage. She also could no longer work, due to deteriorating health and chronic pain, but she managed.
Her husband (who she married when she was just 18) cared well for her and he always looked after their finances. “We lived in a Housing Commission [home] that was perfect for us,” she says. “We were normal people. Then he got sick with cancer and he went really quick. In 18 months, he disappeared. He was a wonderful man.”
Suffering from grief and ongoing health issues – and with English as a second language – Val felt lost and vulnerable. She agreed to share a house with family members.
“I got sick quickly,” Val says. “My back started playing up ... and I couldn’t move. I was walking with a walker. I couldn’t go shopping or anything and they started doing [things] for me. They took my car and started helping.”
Sadly, Val explains, her family soon began helping themselves to her money. Plus, they took out small loans and contracts in her name with her savings card and identification.
Val says the relationship deteriorated over many months and she was often left in pain, with no medication and without her car. “If I got fed, I was very lucky,” she says. “Many nights I went to bed hungry.”
There finally came a time when Val reached breaking point and was able to get away. She left without her medication, clothes or money.
She was referred to Salvation Army crisis accommodation and says with another wide smile, “For me, that was like I went on a holiday. There was nice peace and quiet. I can’t believe there’s so much help in this country. I never knew because I’d never been in that situation.”
The Salvos provided Val with case management, support to find secure, affordable accommodation, and vouchers for the local Salvos Stores to help furnish her new home.
Val also receives ongoing support from The Salvation Army’s Moneycare service to help her sort through ongoing financial and legal issues. She says of her Moneycare financial counsellor, case manager, and others in the crisis accommodation service that their kindness and “beautiful hearts” have meant so much to her.
The support, Val says, “completely changed my life. I learnt so much. I was so naive before. They made me so much stronger, they made me so much better.
“Before, my eyes [were] always crying. I would have killed myself. I was at that stage – no hope at all. That’s what The Salvation Army brought to me ... all my hope, all my happiness, and [it has made me] a strong woman – a very strong woman!”
Val says she used to pray for help every morning in her dark times. “Now I thank God,” she says.
* Name changed to protect privacy.