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:

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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.

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Grief didn’t know it was a holiday


(Posted on December 13, 2016)


Which holiday traditions do you want to keep? How can you work around the others?

There are various days during the year that society calls a ‘holiday’ – like the upcoming season, mostly called Christmas even by those who do not recognize it as a religious day. For many, the planning for this Christmas season seems to start even before Hallowe’en. I go to a store and there it is – all the stars and bangles and the music, row after row, telling me that some special day is happening.

It seems that there is so much attention to that special day. For some it’s just 24 hours; for others it seems to be a week or more – taking us to a new year.

My first Christmas after Tim died, I was faced with many questions. How can this be? How will we make it through this first Christmas? With time and thought, I realized we would make it the same as we had made it through each other day. We would take it by the moment or in small chunks. It was going to happen, but what did we want it to look like?  I asked myself several questions. It didn’t take me long to realize that while our family had many traditions, each year we had also done some different things to celebrate. We had different people over for a meal, bought different gifts, ate mostly the same foods, did many of the same activities. What did I want to keep? What was most important? Continue reading

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Comfort foods to bring us home

Comfort foods to bring us home [macaroni and cheese]Living on the ‘wet coast’ you can expect some rain come Autumn, and November is known as our stormy season. But when I heard a report that it rained 28 out of the 31 days in October, that the typical amount of rain for the month of November was already surpassed within the first 10 days and there was still plenty more to come for the rest of the month, it started to get a little depressing. And what do we do when we start to feel gloomy and run down? Continue reading

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Helping children grieve

(Posted on November 29, 2016)
helping-children-grieveWhen you have children you want to protect them. Protect them from harm and any pain. We can’t help but want to make everything okay. The hurt to us as adults is almost unbearable when there are things that we cannot protect them from. Things that you cannot change.

Recently, the world marked Children’s Grief Awareness Day, a day to recognize their loss and to help everyone understand how we can better support a grieving child.

Just like with adults, when a child is grieving they need to experience all of their emotions including those of intense pain. And you can’t make it better with a hug or a cookie, nor can you hide the truth from them. One of the most important things with kids is to tell them the truth and to do so in language they can understand. Death is a huge concept and the finality of it is difficult for young children to fully comprehend. They may not yet have the words for their sadness or anger. Depending on their age it may take several years before they truly do comprehend and are able to fully express their feelings. Continue reading

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Heart poems: Mind wanting more


One more clear night in bed/ with the moon

In  her blog Heart Poems, counselling therapist Jan Falls shares poems that have touched
her deeply.  She writes “A gift is meant to be shared, given away to the larger world. These [poems] are gifts I have received that I want to pass on to you. Sometimes doors open that take us places we never could have imagined. I hope you will join me there.”

The following post is republished with permission from Heart Poems. Continue reading

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Did you hear the one about the…?

(Posted on November 15, 2016)


A dog goes into a bar and orders a martini. The bartender says, “You don’t see a dog in here drinking a martini very often.” The dog says, “At these prices, I’m not surprised.”

All kidding aside, it has been proven time and time again that humour is good for us. The expression “laughter is the best medicine” may well hold true. But why?

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter can’t cure everything, but there is increasing evidence of all the positive things it can do:

  • When we laugh we take in more oxygen which stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles
  • Laughter can stimulate circulation and muscle relaxation, which can help reduce some of the stress symptoms we feel
  • Laughter can even increase immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies which leads to improved resistance to disease.
  • A good laugh may help relieve pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers
  • Laughing causes the brain to release endorphins which, for those experiencing depression or anxiety, can help them to feel happier.
  • Humour can change our perspective of certain situations, making them less threatening, and creating psychological distance which can help to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

humour-blog_reneeThere are social benefits to laughter, too. Sharing a laugh with someone helps to create a positive bond which acts as a buffer against stress, disappointment and disagreements. Continue reading

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(Posted on November 8, 2016)

My perception of Time changed when I lost my son Brent to a workplace fatality. Life and 2016-02-life-of-pix-free-stock-wall-clock-time-leeroyTime itself became meaningless for the first couple of years. I began to ponder the word Time, its meaning, its importance and the affect Time has on each of us who have lost.

Life, as we know it is time-sensitive and there are no rules of fairness or equity with death. I became intrigued by the concept of “Time”. How could one word like ‘Time’ with its multiple meanings be so many different things to so many different people? “Time” can be used as a noun, or as a verb, or as an adjective. One definition of Time states it is: “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.”

People regard time as endless, as infinite. It continues into eternity. Even when they say: “Time stood still”, it has not and it cannot! Heartache, pain, or the loss of what was central to your life can create the illusion of time standing still.

Interestingly, traveling always distorts one’s perception of time. We know there is such a thing as jet lag when rapidly traversing time zones. I often wonder how can it seem like yesterday when my world came crashing down around me and yet, like an eternity since Brent’s death and the last time I saw him or heard his voice. It’s a distortion greater than jet lag. Continue reading

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