Following a workplace tragedy, many families would say that every day is a day of mourning. It’s especially true in the early days following a fatality, but the aftermath of a serious injury or an occupational illness, too, are filled with grief at the loss of life, of expectations, of hopes, of an imagined future.
While grief is deeply personal, mourning is the more public expression of loss. On April 28 every year, the broader community joins together to mourn the losses caused by workplace tragedy. Day of Mourning has been observed across Canada and around the world since 1991 when Canada’s Parliament passed the Workers Mourning Day Act making April 28 an official Day of Mourning. The roots of the day go back even further to the 1980s when Canadian labour unions established a day of remembrance.
Day of Mourning is an important day for Threads of Life family members – a time for private remembrance, but also a time when many choose to share their personal stories in order to honour their loved ones and their own experience, and to help others understand the impact of a death, serious injury or illness caused simply by going to work.
For National Day of Mourning 2022, Threads of Life has worked with three family members to capture their personal stories on video, to be shared with other families, partners and supporters. These three stories are examples and symbols of all the many losses experienced by all the other families.
This is MY Day of Mourning: Melanie Kowalski
Melanie was a newlywed when her husband Mark was injured at work. He was an industrial electrician and had been repairing an electrical panel in a confined area when he fell from the ladder. Mark sustained multiple injuries, including broken vertebrae, skull fractures and brain injury.
“Mark did wake up but he was never the same again,” Melanie says. He spent the next four years struggling to find a new normal, but “on the day of Mark’s accident he lost everything that made him Mark.
Mark died four years after his injuries, and Melanie and their young son honour and remember him, and miss him every day.
This is MY Day of Mourning: Michelle Sprackman
Michelle’s son Cade was 18 and couldn’t wait to start his adult life. He had dreams of becoming a film director. In the meantime, he was working at a tire recycling facility, saving money. One January evening, Cade became entangled in the tire shredding machine and was killed.
“I just think it’s important for people to be able to put a face to something that IS happening out there,” Michelle says. “It is a reality that people get hurt at work, and get killed at work.”
Michelle has shared her story to help improve safety education and awareness particular among young workers. She has also trained as a Volunteer Family Guide to help other families experiencing tragedy, and will serve this year as the family spokesperson for Steps for Life Regina.
This is MY Day of Mourning: Nicki Beck
Ron Beck, Nicki’s dad, worked as a railroad conductor. He was working to set off and secure rail cars, when he was crushed between the cars. Ron was an amazing dad, Nicki says, who taught his daughters how to bait a fishing line, change a tire and stand up for what they believe in. He loved nothing more than to spend time with his grandkids, drinking pretend tea out of tiny cups or serving as target for rubber arrows.
Losing her dad changed Nicki forever. Nicki became part of Threads of Life to find others who had a similar experience of tragedy. She is an active member of the Threads of Life speaker’s bureau, sharing Ron’s story at workplaces, safety events and Day of Mourning ceremonies as a way to save other families from experiencing the grief her family has lived through.
Join us for a brief online candle-lighting ceremony on Day of Mourning at 10 a.m. Eastern. Register here.
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