This is a story of a wedding day with a piece missing – the father of the groom. It’s the story of a son who never knew his father.

My friend Rosemary was six months pregnant when her husband Doug was killed in a workplace fatality. Their son Christopher was born without his father. Not only was Christopher born premature, he had health issues throughout his life.

Last fall Christopher married his best friend. I attended Christopher and Ashley’s wedding on October 29th, 2021. It was a joyous day; a wedding that had been postponed twice due to COVID.

While the wedding was perfect in every way, I couldn’t stop thinking about Christopher’s father Doug who should have been there celebrating his son’s special day. After the dinner I went to Doug’s mother and said “This must be a difficult day for you?”  She said “I am trying not to think about it”, with tears in her eyes. This is such a common experience for those of us who have experienced a workplace fatality – family milestones are a mixture of joy and grief, celebration and loss. I asked Doug’s mother if I could take her picture with Christopher and write a story honouring Doug’s memory.  I truly believe she was heart-warmed by the acknowledgment of her son.

Doug was a truck driver. Due to snow piles and visibility, he was killed at a railway crossing by a passing train. He was one of the kindest people you could meet. Just previous to the accident, he stopped to help a police officer whose car had slid into a ditch.

When Doug was killed 36 years ago, there was no organization for my friend Rosemary to reach out to. Threads of Life was established in 2003. Rosemary has been involved with Threads of Life since I first organized a Steps for Life walk in Niagara and she attended a Family Forum event with me several years ago as a guest.

Rosemary started out as a friend and became family when she remarried, to my nephew. And she is also part of my Threads of Life family.

I am grateful for Rosemary’s friendship all these years – a friendship deepened by our shared experience of losing someone we love to a workplace tragedy.

In our community of family members at Threads of Life, I knew you would understand this monumental moment. Many of us know how the death of a loved one has changed our lives forever.

How do you acknowledge your love for your missing family member during these monumental events?  Here are a few tips, adapted from an article featuring psychologist Dan Wolfson:

A woman and man smile brightly. The woman has bright red hair and both are wearing black.

Chris and Ashley

Chris crouches down beside his grandmother

Grandmother Leatha Young (Doug’s mom) and Christopher

Rosemary stands between her mother and mother in law

Grandmothers on both sides and Rosemary in the middle.


  • Give yourself space for grief and allow sadness to set in.  It’s important to make space for grief and doing this can actually feel freeing. “Grief never goes away,” Dan Wolfson notes. “The intensity of grief changes over time. One of the big things that helps us adapt to loss is to make space for these emotions. This allows you to re-engage with your life and have a vision that’s meaningful in the absence of your loved one.”
  • Stay connected to your loved one during big life events. Whether you’re planning a wedding, having a baby, or preparing for another big life event, there’s a way to acknowledge “the important people in our lives that are no longer with us during these significant life changes.” Some ideas may include playing a special song, lighting a candle, or displaying their picture.
  • Don’t feel guilty about feeling grief and joy simultaneously. By communicating your feeling “if you feel you are in a different place than those around you”, family and friends can understand that people grieve at different paces and in different ways. “Through communication and openness,” Wolfson says, “you can feel more understood by your support system and be empathetic towards the feeling of those around you.”
  • Be kind to yourself:  It’s okay to not be okay.

I would love for you to share your big life moments and how you managed them!

Sharon Freeman
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