Sharing stories for healing and change

Threads of Life volunteer speaker Lisa Shirley shares her story at a family forum.

This Friday, as most people are winding up their workweek and thinking about downtime, a dozen volunteers will be rolling up their sleeves and getting down to work. The newest group of Threads of Life speakers will spend three days preparing to promote health and safety by sharing their intimate, heart-breaking, hopeful stories.

The weekend of training, though, is not the first step in becoming a Threads of Life speaker. For some, the decision to speak publicly about their experience was easy and obvious. For others, there were months of internal debate: should I do this? CAN I do this? Am I ready?  As Threads of Life staff, we can help a bit with those questions, but ultimately only the volunteer-to-be knows whether the choice to be a speaker is right for him or her.

Once the decision is made, and in the months leading up to training, the new volunteers face the task of writing down their story. Getting it all down on paper for the first time can be one of the hardest hurdles they face – it means walking all the way down that road again, looking directly and closely at what happened, opening your heart and writing about what you find there. For a few people, the difficulty of writing the story helps them figure out they’re not ready to tell it in public yet – and that’s fine. They’ll know when the time is right.

When training weekend finally arrives, the new speaker volunteers are in for a tiring, intensive experience. We talk about what it means to be a Threads of Life speaker, how to look after themselves and cope with the emotions triggered by telling their stories, how to manage their nerves, how to leave listeners with some action they can take in response to the story they’ve heard. We spend time building a Powerpoint slide show as a visual aid, and we review the messages Threads of Life hopes to leave with each audience.

And finally, towards the end of the weekend, each new speaker volunteer stands up and gives his or her presentation to the other volunteers. It’s a small, supportive audience – but sometimes that’s harder than talking to a room full of strangers.

By the time they home on Monday, we hope our new volunteer speakers have a sense of accomplishment, some new friends, and have experienced the healing that comes from not just sharing their story, but telling it in order to protect others from similar hazards.

Our volunteers this weekend are coming from across the country – Newfoundland in the east to British Columbia in the west. They are bringing with them stories that relate to road and vehicle hazards, health hazards, chemical hazards, construction, and more. Those who are not destined to speak before crowds,  will still have skills they can use when talking to friends and neighbours about health and safety. And the new speakers in the group will join roughly 60 others already active across Canada. Either way, our new volunteers will play an important role in changing health and safety culture in this country.

If you’d like to bring a Threads of Life speaker to your workplace or event, visit the speakers page on our web site, or contact , 888-567-9490 ext. 105.

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Start a new Family Day tradition

Family Day. A day to celebrate being together with our family during a long Canadian winter. What are you doing this family day? Spending time with loved ones, relaxing and sharing a meal together, maybe doing some outdoor winter activities with family, or heading out of town to visit relatives. All good ideas!

Family Day is recognized in seven Canadian provinces in February. It creates a much-needed long weekend break during the cold, dark stretch of winter. While not everybody gets the day off work, lots of families use this relatively new holiday as a chance to relax and play together.

But maybe it’s time to start a new Family Day tradition. Let’s spend some time thinking about the family members that Threads of Life supports. Families who may be grieving the death or injury of a loved one through a workplace tragedy, or who are dealing with occupational disease. Families who woke up one morning thinking that their day was going to be the usual, only to find out that a loved one either did not come home from work, or came home injured. Families whose lives have been forever changed. Families who used to spend Family Day together celebrating with each other, and now can’t because of a workplace tragedy. Families who never thought this could happen to them. It can and sadly, it still does. On a day that celebrates families, let’s spend some time thinking about the families who are not able to celebrate. Continue reading

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5 Tips for Dealing with Cultural & Religious Differences When Grieving

(Posted on February 7, 2017)

Maryanne & John, 2000

My husband, John, was Greek Canadian. He was born in Canada. His parents immigrated here from Greece in 1958. The family was Greek Orthodox and attended church regularly.

John’s family were lovely people and warmly welcomed me – a born-in-Canada Anglican gal with English and Irish roots – into their family.

For the most part, our cultural differences were a benefit to my life, not a burden. Especially when it came to the food! Souvlaki, spanakopita, roast lamb, Greek salad, Greek potatoes, Greek meatballs, Greek anything was prepared to perfection by John’s mom – and devoured with glee by yours truly.

The differences in our religions, however, not so gleefully devoured. Even though John himself didn’t attend church much as an adult – nor did I – when it came to planning our wedding, the process just about drove John and me apart.

L to R: Pete, Tina, John, Jimmy, Stacey

John’s family expected us to be married in their Greek Orthodox Church. My mother was not having any of THAT, thank you very much. In the end, John’s parents accepted that we were going to be married in an Anglican church. The Greek Orthodox priest,

however, made it clear that because of this decision, when the time came for John to be buried he would not be given a Greek Orthodox funeral. Ouch. John was devastated but figured that his funeral wasn’t something we need worry about any time soon.  We were only 28 for heaven’s sake!

But wouldn’t you know it, four years later John did die – and that claim was put to the test. Continue reading

Posted in Grief and healing | 1 Comment

One can make a difference!

Make your difference – Register today for Steps for Life

(Posted on February 1, 2017)

Everyone wants to make a difference in the world. We want our presence here, and our efforts to somehow make things better.

Well, Steps for Life is a place where that aspiration comes true. You can, and you do, make a difference in the lives of people who are suffering and grieving after a workplace tragedy. Each person who participates – each walker, each donor, each fundraiser – plays a role in bringing healing to those affected, and in building a culture where such tragedies won’t happen in the future.

Are you ready to make it real? It’s time! Here’s how:

  • Register as a walker in Steps for Life. The web site opens February 1 so you can sign up right away – just find the walk community closest to you, and hit the “register” button.
  • Personalize your fundraising page. It all means more if people know why you’re involved in Steps for Life. Do you walk in memory of someone in your life? Or in recognition that your children will be joining the workforce one day? In a few words, share your thoughts.
  • Raise money in support of your walk. Walking in Steps for Life makes a statement about your commitment. Raising funds goes even further to support Threads of Life programs and services.

If you don’t live near one of the 30 Steps for Life communities across Canada, there’s a new way you can participate and make a difference too!  It’s called Your Walk, Your Way. Most Steps for Life walks take place in May, but you can organize your own mini-walk, or other fundraising event, any time in the month. Register the same way you would for a community Steps for Life walk, and use your personal fundraising page too! Get your friends and family together to join you, or just do your own thing.

However you choose to participate, you will be making a change in someone’s life. Thank you.

P.S.  Planning to register a team for the walk? Check out our new step-by-step How To video! (Scroll to the bottom of the Locations page.)


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How to talk to families after a tragedy

(Posted on January 24, 2017)

“This relationship [with the employer] was very important to our family. We felt that they sincerely cared about us and would do whatever they could to help us through the difficult times.”

Photo by Tom Buchanan, Tom Buchanan Photographics

No one wants a work-related tragedy to happen. A fatality, serious injury,
or occupational disease exact a huge emotional and economic cost, and the ripples reach family members, friends, co-workers, the community and beyond. If such a tragedy were to happen at your company, wouldn’t you want a comment like the quotation above to reflect how to those people felt about you?

All too often, that’s not the case. When the worst happens, an employer’s response can either help, or hinder a family’s emotional healing. Threads of Life conducted a survey with some of our members, asking for their feelings about how the employer treated them and communicated with them following the workplace tragedy that affected them. Sadly, the survey indicates companies are generally doing a poor job of dealing with workers and families following a tragedy.

“They acted like they didn’t know me,” one person commented. “It was difficult to get assistance… It was heart breaking. I had worked with and for these people for almost two years.”

Based on the survey, Threads of Life has prepared a report for companies and organizations. Titled Workplace tragedy: Employer communication and crisis response, the report offers a summary of the survey findings, plus recommended steps employers could incorporate into their emergency plan and safety program.

The report also includes advice from the families about how employers could help families going through this experience in the future.

“Employers should consider taking a step back to try and put themselves in the shoes of the deceased’s family. A death, critical injury or occupational illness in the workplace is completely unacceptable and yet this provides an employer with an opportunity to change and prevent it from occurring again in the future. If the employer conducted a thorough investigation of the incident, several recommendations would present themselves. It is these recommendations, and forward movement from the incident, that I feel would provide some sense of comfort to the family members, knowing that an employer recognizes their responsibility and is willing to recognize their shortfalls in their business and that moving forward they will ensure that this will not happen to another worker. I know if my father’s employer communicated this, it would have assisted in my healing, rather than say nothing at all. An employer saying nothing at all in this situation shows me they do not care and are willing to let this happen to other workers.

 Download the report Workplace tragedy: Employer communication and crisis response from the Threads of Life web site

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Remembering Michael Bonvie and a preventable workplace tragedy

(Posted on January 17, 2017)

On October 26, 2006, Town of New Glasgow Public Works employee Michael Bonvie died at the scene of a preventable workplace accident on Foxbrook Road, Westville, NS at 9:30 a.m.  On that fateful day, Michael lost his life while working on a construction site when a trench collapsed.  Another town employee also sustained minor physical injury.  Several other employees were on site

Memorial site to honour worker Michael Bonvie in New Glasgow NS

and witnessed this tragedy. It is a day that no one will ever forget as so many lives were changed forever. Michael was a devoted son, a loving father, a loyal friend, and a good family person who deserved to return home to his family at the end of the work day.  Michael’s father is a retired Public Works employee with the Town of New Glasgow and Michael had been very proud to be following in his father’s footsteps. The loss to his family was unspeakable and will be etched in their hearts forever.  Those who were employed with the Town of New Glasgow at that time, still remember the day with shock and sadness. It was a grave loss and its impact is still being felt today.

The Town of New Glasgow initiated a new system for workplace occupational health and safety and has diligently worked to improve its workplace safety culture and programs over these past 10 years. A special place of remembrance and reflection was created in New Glasgow not far from the Public Works Department and was built by Michael’s colleagues and friends. The monument includes a large rock that came from the quarry of SW Weeks Construction, a company Michael had worked with for many years prior to joining the Town of New Glasgow. There are park benches as well as trees planted to symbolize Michael’s two daughters and recently a new tree planted this year for the 10th anniversary and in acknowledgment of Michael’s new grandchild. On the first anniversary of Michael’s death and the preventable workplace accident and every year since, the Town holds a special ceremony to remember and reflect.  This ceremony is attended by town employees, town officials and members of the Bonvie family. Continue reading

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A friend along the way: being a Volunteer Family Guide

A new group of Volunteer Family Guides will soon be ready to provide hope and healing to families of workplace tragedy.

(Posted on January 10, 2017)

When you’re on a difficult journey, having a companion beside you makes the path seem a little smoother. That’s the role of Threads of Life’s volunteer family guides. Hundreds of people have experienced the healing benefit of being able to talk with someone who has been down a similar road already, and who knows how to listen. Your Volunteer Family Guide may not tell you which way to go, but he or she will be there with you.

In a few weeks, another group of Volunteer Family Guides (VFGs) will complete their training and be ready to provide that kind of emotional support to others who have experienced a work-related fatality or occupational disease, or who are injured workers themselves.  These new guides will join 47 VFGs who have already been volunteering – some for more than 10 years.

Have you considered becoming a Volunteer Family Guide? Two of our experienced guides shared why they continue to give their time for this program:

Continue reading

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Musical healing

Woman listening to music on headphonesUsing music after a loss or difficult life experience

I’ve been an accredited music therapist since 2004 and I’ve used music with many different people, to reach many therapeutic goals. Often, we move through our days with music around us. It may be on in the background, in the store, in the car – but are we really harnessing the power of music? I’d like to share a few ways in which you can choose and use music with intention. Continue reading

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Volunteer profile: Trish Penny

(Posted on December 27, 2016)

trish-pennyThere is a wonderful quotation that says: “Volunteers don’t necessarily have the time, they just have the heart”. At Threads of Life, we certainly know this to be true. Threads of Life exists today because of volunteers giving of themselves with all their heart.  A shining example of this can be found in Trish Penny.

Trish first learned of Threads of Life after her big brother, Luke, died. Luke was part of a construction crew working on the foundation of a garage. The trench he was working in collapsed, causing a concrete wall to fall on top of him. Trish and her family learned about the Steps for Life walk and Threads of Life, through a friend of Luke’s. Trish says “we decided to go for it and ended up having a full team. We fundraised and really surprised ourselves with the amount of support we received. After the walk, we decided to attend a Family Forum and the rest is history”.

Trish decided to start volunteering for Threads of Life in 2014, and soon after, she trained to become a member of the Speaker’s Bureau. As a volunteer with the Speaker’s Bureau, Trish willingly and bravely shares with others the story of Luke’s death, and the impact that it had on her and her family. She does this to raise awareness of the importance of injury prevention, and the devastating effects of a workplace fatality. Continue reading

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My journaling journey

(Posted on December 20, 2016)

journaling_journey_dark2I jumped right on the journaling bandwagon a few years ago. It is good for you, they said. You will love it, they said. You will feel so much better after you write, they said. This will be perfect for me, I thought!

I had been given a gift card to a local book store and this would be the perfect purchase!! I ran off to said local store, bought myself a nice hot tea and proceeded to carefully examine all of the beautiful journals available to me. Oh my!! The possibilities were endless!! Plain ones, fancy ones, inspiring ones, funny ones, cute ones, leather ones, fabric ones, and the list goes on. I was overwhelmed. More tea required! I settled on a journal with no text on the front….I didn’t want to be distracted as I wrote in it, after all. The words needed to come from me. It was purple and had a slightly velvety feel to it. Why purple, you ask? No idea. I’m not usually a purple person, but it spoke to me, so I listened. I was enamoured by the feel beneath my fingers. That must be a good sign, I thought. I can feel it when I write and will enjoy the experience all the more. Perfect, decision made. Off to the pen section.

I had read that journaling could include doodling and colour, so I needed to stock up on fancy colours. I indulged in markers in a rainbow of colours!! So exciting! Then I saw them. The glittery gel pens. WOW!! Surely I needed these to enhance my journaling experience. In the basket they went, beside the markers and purple journal. Black pens in a variety of thickness were next. Perfect. I was set.  I briefly glanced at the lap desks with cup holders and lights, thinking that it would be nice to journal in bed each evening, while burning an aromatherapy candle, but thought that I would wait until I received another gift card before purchasing that one. I stored the thought in my mind for later. I did, however, buy the aromatherapy candle…..just in case I needed to be more relaxed to help the words flow.

Continue reading

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