Elizabeth Dole Foundation
Hidden Heroes
Caregiver Journey Map Campaign for Inclusive Care

Melida Collins

What are the most significant lessons you have learned from being a caregiver?

To always expect the unexpected, and that I do have some sort of control. I’ve learned to just allow and release the negative comments or thoughts. But most of all, I’ve learned to treat caregiving and self-care as a spiritual practice by having my husband and kids join me while I meditate, and to take the practice of mindfulness and live it instead of just practicing.

Can you describe a milestone or a moment that made you feel empowered or inspired as a caregiver?

When I convinced my husband, who happens to have a PhD, to join me in getting our coaching classes and certifications. That was amazing because something shifted during those classes, he saw himself and recognized what he was doing to his family. In a weird way, he was coached to look beyond his physical limitations and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and get back to his can-do and will do attitude. After coming home from our first module, we formally began our non-profit called FRAME Initiative.

What do you wish people knew about military caregivers?

How truly stressed we are, but that we will rarely admit it, and that do not expect anything. Caregiving is something we do as a labor of love, but sometimes we just need an outlet to say what we need to say, or just scream a little and say “I am angry!” and that is it.

My Story

Melida immigrated to America as a very young child with her mother and two older siblings.  She learned from an early age that hard work and following your dream pays off. Raising five children with a wounded spouse, she has been able to stay on task and get the job done. Her can-do attitude and fierce loyalty to her family have served her well in helping others. Melida's husband is a retired chaplain colonel who was twice wounded in Iraq. He suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), a broken back, and numerous neurological and physical limitations from his injuries. Melida finds herself now caring for a very self-sufficient man that believes that he must do “everything.” Recently, they received news that her husband had 18 months left to live. They’ve decided to live every day to the fullest by helping others and creating a charity called FRAME Initiative. FRAME Initiative provides tools for military caregivers, veterans, first responders, and their families to achieve greatness in their lives, regardless of the challenges that are before them.

As a Dole Fellow, Melida would like to increase awareness in two areas; one being self care by  helping other caregivers incorporate self care into their own spiritual practice (what ever that may look like to them). Caregivers forget to take care of themselves and when they fall apart, they cannot help themselves, much less their wounded member. And two, helping to find ways to help caregivers' children; by teaching kids, teen, and young adults how to put together a “tool box” of strategies to best help them navigate life and cope with the silent wounds they vicariously inherited. This can help lessen episodes of depression, anxiety and yes, even suicide. Melida believes in helping children and caregivers understand that they do not have to own their service member's war related trauma.