silhouette of hand under the sunThis year the Atlantic Family Forum was another wonderful weekend for me, and I am sure the other families who made the trip to the South Shore of Nova Scotia would agree. We were treated to great sessions from phenomenal facilitators, great company among other families, great food and great music.

To the staff and volunteers who make these family forums such a memorable time for us I would like to say thank you. Thank you for all the work that you do to make the forums such a success and for taking us into your family.

Friends and coworkers often ask me why I go to the Forum. Why I want to go spend a weekend with people who are sad and grieving. Why do I want to spend my weekend with people who are feeling sorry for themselves because they were injured at work or are living the rest of their life without their loved one who was taken from them by a workplace tragedy?

To those people I say this: Yes, there are families grieving, there is sadness, and there are people on many different parts of the journey that follows workplace tragedy. But I have been there too. I have been the girl crying because her dad is gone and I am attending a forum for the first time with fear and anxiety and a feeling that I don’t have any idea what I am doing. I am the girl that knows there will be tears but returns because I also know what the support from other families can do for me. And I hope to one day be the girl that will be able to offer the support to others that I have received from those who are further along on this journey we are on. But in addition to that sadness there is a great deal of hope and healing that takes place over the three days that we are together. A sense that although nothing will ever be the same, we will all in time find a way to move forward in our life and find the new normal that we all so desperately want.

As for those who don’t understand why I go to spend a weekend with people who feel sorry for themselves, I want you to know that I didn’t see one person feeling sorry for themselves this weekend. What I saw was people with courage and resilience. I saw people who have been impacted by an injury that could have taken away their desire to go on, laugh and smile and adapt in a way that most people will never understand.

This group is like a second family to many of us including me. They are a group of people who do not feel sorry for you that you lost your mom or dad, brother or sister, husband or wife. They don’t feel sorry for you that you are living with a life-altering injury or occupational disease. Instead it is a group who understands. They understand. Understand that you have endured the worst that life has offered up, yet came out on the other side. They don’t care if you are still crying after one year, five years, or even fifty years. They know that for you it still feels like it happened yesterday and will probably always feel like that. I was having a conversation with one of the family members this past weekend and we were talking about society’s expectations. We are expected to grieve for our family member who we have lost for the amount of time that society deems acceptable and then move on. People don’t understand why, after losing your loved one you are still hurting and grieving and vulnerable. The woman I was talking to said that her response to people who ask why she is “still” grieving is simple. Her loved one is “still” gone. This is why I attend. This is why I will continue to attend. Because this group of “sad, grieving” people get me in a way that no one else can.

After Saturday’s sessions a large group of us went to listen to the entertainment that was at the hotel that evening. I watched people laughing, singing, dancing, and enjoying the company of the “family” who for the most part only see each other for three days a year, yet hug and chat like we had seen one another just yesterday.

At the end of the night the musician sang a song that he said was for the Threads of Life group and how he “saw” us.

Circle

All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown
The moon rolls through the nighttime, till the daybreak comes around
All my life’s a circle and I can tell you why
The season’s spinnin’ round again the years keep rollin’ by

It seems like I’ve been here before, I can’t remember when
But I got this funny feelin’ that I’ll be back once again
There’s no straight lines make up my life and all my roads have bends
There’s no clear-cut beginnings and so far no dead-ends

I found you a thousand times I guess you’ve done the same
But then we lose each other it’s just like a children’s game
But as I’m standing here with you the thought runs through my mind
Our love is like a circle, let’s go ’round one more time

All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown
The moon rolls through the nighttime, till the daybreak comes around
All my life’s a circle and I can tell you why
The season’s spinnin’ round again, the years keep rollin’ by

Oh all my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown
The moon rolls through the nighttime till the daybreak comes around
All my life’s a circle and I can tell you why
The season’s spinnin’ round again, the years keep rollin’ by

Oh all my life’s a circle there’s sunrise and sundown
The moon rolls through the nighttime

Songwriter
HARRY CHAPIN

As I sat listening to him sing I thought that it was the perfect song for our group. Although we “lose” each other at the end of our weekend, we manage to find each other again the very next year. Many of us don’t talk for an entire year but then come together for those three days like the family that we are. We don’t care that you don’t call, or come visit. We care that you are there with us again for that one weekend when we can just be us and feel whatever we want to feel.

As Sunday came to a close it was a bittersweet time for me as it always is. I am grateful for the healing that has taken place over the past three days but at the same time sad that I have to say goodbye to my other family, put my mask back on, and be “OK” again.

Shannon Kempton

Shannon Kempton

Shannon lives in Nova Scotia. She is a Threads of Life family member, and volunteers as a member of the speakers bureau.
Shannon Kempton
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