Each worker and family member who has been affected by a workplace tragedy is a thread in the quilt of life.
Each thread, by itself, cannot stand alone, but when woven together provides strength.
Although we are individuals, we are also connected in the fabric of life.
Powerful words. Without question there is incredible strength that the Threads of Life families gain from one another. Our families are deeply connected by their shared experience. However that connection is far greater than the commonality of a workplace tragedy. That which binds us so strongly is the thread of loss. The journeys of the three streams are very different roads but in each we all lose our identity of who we are. The question of ‘Who am I?’ as each individual struggles to find that new normal can be heard again and again. In time, we each must come to terms with the reality that the person we were before no longer exists.
For those who have experienced a fatality there is a physical person missing. For those living with a life-altering injury or an occupational disease, the person is still here, however, very changed. For everyone the future is forever altered. Dreams, hopes, plans, trust in the world, all are shattered.
So many people ask, “When will you be back to normal? When will you be you again?”. What they don’t understand is that person is gone. As individuals we each have to come to terms with this and ultimately mourn for the person we used to be.
We can all be extremely grateful to our founding members and especially Shirley Hickman who knew from the beginning that the experiences of the three streams are more similar than they are different. All are bound together by grief and loss. For those of you who have attended the Reflections Ceremony at a family forum you will understand the shared bond. Shirley acknowledges this as she gently says that there is no worst story. They are each the worst story.
At the advanced Volunteer Family Guide training in November we talked about our common experience of loss rather than the different journeys that the three streams face. There was tremendous discussion as everyone realized that we all lost who we were no matter what our tragedy had been. No one was the same person and we all struggle with that elusive new normal. We know that change is inevitable but it should not be like this.
Our wise facilitator, Roy Ellis remarked how during our time together at the training, we were holding each others’ hearts in our hands. I think this compassion and care extends to all of the interactions between families and especially at the family forums. It is our shared loss which allows us to be vulnerable and completely honest with each other, creating that safe place that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
Threads of Life is the club no one wants to join but each time a new family finds us I am grateful that they have connected with us. I am even more grateful that as they have the opportunity to meet with other families I know that safe place will be extended to them and their hearts will be held with care and love.
This article will appear in the upcoming summer 2015 edition of our free quarterly newsletter, Threads. For more personal stories, news, and information from Threads of Life and our family members, subscribe here.
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