When a sudden workplace tragedy happens families are thrown into a world of unknown. There is little in life that could have possibly prepared them for this. With the complications of medical decisions, investigations, media, court procedures let alone dealing with the grief and loss, to state that it is a surreal experience is an extreme understatement. It is not like anything else. Many words become landmines – like ‘hope’, ‘normal’, ‘moving forward’. Everything has been impacted by loss. At times there is no hope, normal no longer exists and the thought of moving forward is a concept beyond consideration or comprehension. However, healing can happen.
Threads of Life was created to be there for families when the worst happens. Family support is at the core of what we do. The family forums and the one-on-one peer support provided by the volunteer family guides have been the cornerstones. The next step will be community peer support groups with the first two starting at the end of September in Barrie, Ontario and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Peer support is about providing a safe, non-judgmental space for families to share and talk about their loss, the depths of emotions that often cannot be spoken of anywhere else. This is the value of being able to be with someone else who ‘gets it’ because they have had a similar experience. Our volunteer family guides know the dark messy places and are willing to walk through them with another family member. That is because they have been there and have chosen to make something positive from their loss by giving back to support someone else. That giving back ultimately becomes a part of their own healing. As shared by one of our volunteer family guides, Joanne Wade, “Grief is a forever journey to be experienced in a healthy way. We grow as we proceed through the tunnel of fear and confusion. It is the caring and sharing of our stories and our journey that gives each of us more understanding of ourselves and what we are feeling and that we are normal and we are not alone.”
The facilitators for the new community peer support groups are all volunteer family guides. Together we have developed a 6-week program that will have different themes each week. Healthy coping skills will be prevalent throughout as well as topics of dealing with holidays and anniversaries, normal grief, what is loss and self-care. Johanna LeRoux, one of the facilitators, says “My Threads of Life family isn’t just a second family to me… some have become an extension of my family. I become more grateful with every [event] I attend that I found this organization and some of the people that have walked with me through this journey. The support and acceptance I have received, no matter what stage I’ve been in, has been invaluable.”
The first groups are open to family members who have experienced a traumatic workplace fatality one to five years ago, are over the age 18 and are able to commit to the full six week program. Additional groups are being planned for the new year in other communities. Together we can help to navigate through the unknown.
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