Together since they were 16 years old, Chantelle married her husband Ryan in 1998 and they became parents to two girls, Rosie and Daisy. Ever since she had known Ryan he had been involved in the Territorial Army (TA) and loved serving in the military, following in his brother’s and father’s footsteps.
Ryan was unable to join the Army full time due to being deaf in one ear yet he was proud to serve in the TA and progressed his career in medicine as an operating department practitioner, eventually working at the local hospital.
In 2006 Ryan completed a six-month tour of Afghanistan, but when he returned home he struggled and was eventually diagnosed with PTSD.
“He had seen awful things out there as a medic and to protect me he refused to talk about what had happened or how it had affected him,” explains Chantelle.
“Over the next couple of years we carried on, but small things would put Ryan on edge, with bonfire night noise and Remembrance time being particularly difficult.
“Ryan and I just learnt to cope with his diagnosis and he was put on anti-depressants by his doctor. However, there was no support after his tour and I think he felt alone as a reservist – he went out an individual and came back as an individual.”
In 2015 Ryan hit rock bottom and sadly passed away after taking his own life.
"I didn't know which way to turn"
Chantelle and eldest daughter Rosie, who was 14 at the time, had to cope with the trauma of finding Ryan, while youngest daughter Daisy was left devastated by the loss of her Dad.
“It was a horrendous time,” says Chantelle.
“I didn’t know what to deal with first or which way to turn and it seemed that all the little things to sort out were building up. As well as dealing with our grief, the paperwork and the general aftermath of what had happened were a struggle to cope with.”
After a friend suggested to Chantelle that The Royal British Legion might be able to help, she contacted us and met Annette, an Advice and Information Officer.
How The Legion stepped in to help
“I just listened to her,” explained Annette.
“Obviously I didn't want to put more pressure on her at that stage, she had a lot to cope with and you could tell that she had loads of things going through her mind.
"So I just said I would be there and I gave her my contact details.”
Following their meeting Annette kept in regular contact with Chantelle, and put her in touch with one of the Legion’s Benefits, Money and Debt advisors.
“From the moment she arrived she simply listened to everything I had to say, my frustrations, my upset, my concern for the girls and it was just a relief to have someone turn round and say ‘yes we can help you’,” said Chantelle.
“Annette provided advice on how to get copies of paperwork I required from the TA and also directed me to a solicitor for help with the inquest – just that support with the little things really took a weight off my shoulders. “
The Legion helped us come back together as a family
The Legion also funded a family break at Center Parcs for Chantelle and her daughters. It was their first holiday without Ryan and gave them a chance to spend time together away from the stresses and strains of home life.
“The holiday allowed us to reconnect as a family of three and took us out of the bubble we had been living in since Ryan’s passing,” said Chantelle.
“Just to have that opportunity to make new memories and process how we were all feeling in a safe and relaxed environment was priceless and came at a time that was difficult for us with it being our first Christmas without Ryan.”
“It was the break we really needed and we came back stronger after feeling so numb before.”
“After Ryan passed it seemed that we had nowhere to turn and support wasn’t easy to access,” she adds.
“However, the Legion came in and listened, supported and helped us come back together as a family.
“It’s comforting to know that they aren’t just there for the immediate needs, but Annette still checks in on us and I know I can contact the charity at any time for advice and information.”