Central Virtual Family Forum

Each year, families affected by a workplace tragedy from Ontario and Nunavut will reunite for a weekend of support and healing at the Central Family Forum. This year, we’ll gather virtually.

When you are coping with a serious workplace injury, an occupational disease, or the aftermath of a workplace fatality, you may be feeling very alone. No one understands what you’re going through. Friends and family think you should get over it, get on with your life, get back to normal. But your normal is gone. We get it.

An open laptop screen with a mug rests on a desk​By attending the Central Virtual Family Forum, you will gain:
• Greater understanding of your loss and its impact
• Strategies for coping and healing
• A new network of individuals who have had similar experiences
• The assurance that you’re not alone!

In the past, Threads of Life family forums have been in person. For 2021, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will host an online event.

The weekend will open with a Reflections Ceremony, offering an opportunity to honour lives forever changed. Workshops are focused on topics that support hope, healing, and ways to cope for families affected by a workplace tragedy.

Each participant can sign up for a combination of sessions. There is no charge to attend, for families in Central Canada affected by workplace tragedy. Sessions are intended for those 14 years of age and older. Please note the times below and that there are two sessions being offered during each time block on Saturday and Sunday. Threads of Life reserves the right to make changes or cancellations as necessary. Session availability is dependant on registration numbers.

Friday, 22 October, 2021

6:00 – 8:00 p.m. EDT

Reflections Ceremony

One of the most moving and impactful features of a Threads of Life Family Forum is our Reflections Ceremony. It is here that we collectively honour our loved ones, injured family members, and those living with an occupational disease. We take time out of our busy lives to reflect on the past and present, so families can move further into their futures.

The ceremony will also include a powerful presentation by one of our Threads of Life family members, sharing their experience of workplace tragedy.

Saturday, 23 October, 2021

9:00 – 11:30 a.m. EDT

The Ripple Effect of Secondary Losses - Audrey Stringer, Therapist/Author

The pain of loss of a loved one, Occupational disease or Life- altering injury can be all- consuming. In this interactive session, we will identify secondary losses that follow the death of a loved one, occupational disease or life-altering injury. The chain reaction of these secondary losses will be identified, acknowledged and their impact with the goal to increase self-awareness and build strategies to equip participants to face and mourn. Secondary losses as a result of 2020 Covid pandemic will also be highlighted in this session.

Audrey Stringer lives in Sarnia, Ontario. She is a Bereavement counsellor, author of 4 books and a motivational speaker.  She is currently writing her 5th book.She is a mom, grandmother and great grandmother. She loves to travel with her husband Brian. They have two dogs (Big Al and 2019 a rescue from Mexico -Luna.

Music Therapy for Wellness - Jacquie Costron, Business and Life Strategist with Costron + Co

The process of freeing up the future begins by looking back—because how you perceive your past influences how your future unfolds. In this session, you’ll be guided through reflection exercises, accompanied with live music, to help find patterns in what made you feel great (and not so great) in the recent past.

Costron + Co. is a dream actualized! To have co-founded this firm with my daughter is a thing of beauty for me. Shhhh… but I think that her amazing success is due, in a small part, to my mentorship of her. Don’t tell her—You know the parent-child dynamics and all. As a lifelong learner, I have a toolkit that will build a unique and personalized approach to your own journey. This unique toolkit allows me to support you as your life twists, turns and shifts.

I am a Certified Executive & Life Coach, Licensed Facilitator of the teachings of Danielle Laporte, a Lumina Learning Practitioner and a Certified Financial Planner (retired). I also have training in financial therapy which provides an understanding of people’s relationship with money. This combination of training and experiences provides me with a unique lens to support you in our soul-aligned journey.

My heart-centred life is unfurled & aligned; through curiosity, grace & light.

12:30 – 3:00 p.m. EDT

Tears Are Welcome - Marj Deyell, Family Member

At Threads of Life events, tissues will be available and you will hear that tears are ok. Crying provides an emotional release and tears can help to heal your loss. In this interactive session we will discuss the different types of tears, the health benefits and some ideas of how to comfort someone who is crying. Come prepared to share your ‘go-to movie’ when you need a good cry.

Marj worked for many years as an RPN both in hospital and in the community. She and her husband Brian had 4 children – David, Helen, John, and Laura. John died in a workplace tragedy in 2003.  They have 3 grandsons who they take great pride in. In her spare time, Marj is an active volunteer in her community, an avid curler (until the pandemic hit!), and lover of dogs. She is also a volunteer with Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region and Threads of Life in many capacities including Volunteer Family Guide, Speaker, and Session Facilitator.

How To Talk To Strangers About Threads of Life Susan Haldane, Manager Communications and Marketing

Are you shy or hesitant when it comes to talking to friends, neighbours or strangers about your involvement in Threads of Life? In this session we’ll tackle the “elevator pitch”, a quick formula for getting those important messages out. Together we’ll figure out what you can say to help spread the word to other families who may need support, and to potential Threads of Life volunteers and partners.

A journalism graduate and former newspaper reporter, Susan worked in communications, marketing, and product and program development for Ontario’s workplace health and safety associations for 17 years and joined Threads of Life in 2012 as the Communications & Marketing Manager. Susan lives near North Bay, Ontario, where she operates a farm with her husband.

5:00 – 7:30 p.m. EDT

Putting the Pieces Back Together Through Journaling - Johanna LeRoux, Family Member

Johanna has been journaling for almost 40 years and of the many tools and strategies that she has explored since her son’s death 15 years ago, she has found journaling to be of particular ongoing value. 

There are many reasons, and many ways, to journal. 

A journal can be a reservoir for your most painful and private thoughts, a safe place for you to vent your fear or anger, and a way to try to sift through all of the conflicting emotions you might be feeling. It can be a place where, sometime down the road, you can look back and see just how far you have come along in your healing journey.

It can also be used to organize your “busy-brain”, or as a way to reach within yourself to remember the things you still have to be grateful for.

So please find yourself a notebook and a pen (Johanna prefers coloured pens and she will share with you why) and join us for this workshop to explore how incorporating the practice of journaling can assist you in your journey of healing.

Johanna is a Threads of Life Family Member, Volunteer Speakers Bureau Presenter, Volunteer Family Guide and Group Facilitator.

She has been a Program Assistant at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit for 17 years, supporting various programs including: Rabies, Emergency Management, Vector Borne Diseases, Healthy Environments, and the Food Safety and Safe Water Programs.

Previous to that she has worked in a variety of positions including, at a young offender facility; managing a large horse farm; with the Red Cross; and with a telecommunications company.

She also runs her own small home business.

Johanna found Threads of Life in 2007, a year after the death of her son Micheal due to a workplace injury. Like many of this session’s participants, she struggled with putting the shattered pieces of her life back together after such a devastating loss. Through her involvement with Threads of Life, she learned how to take steps toward healing, and finding purpose and joy in her life again.

She is deeply honoured that you have chosen to share this journey with her and spend some time today exploring our session’s topic.

Noticing the Negativity Bias - Shirley Hickman, Executive Director & Sharon Freeman, Coordinator

Our brain is always changing and we have the opportunity to make new pathways in our thinking.  Learn to say “no” and change your brain pathway to create space for a positive emotional state.  We can create a positive emotional state when we are happy, relaxed and curious.  Let’s share ideas and explore our paths.

Shirley Hickman never expected to be leading a national organization dedicated to helping people affected by tragedies in the workplace. Trained as a nurse, she was happily married and raising a family in the late 1990s. That is when tragedy struck, and Shirley’s life, along with her family’s, were changed forever. Since that time, she has focused on making a difference in workplace health and safety. In 2003, Shirley co-founded Threads of Life and is currently the Executive Director. Shirley is also the proud grandma of two amazing young girls.

Sharon has been involved with Threads of Life since the death of her stepdaughter Amanda Peat in 2000. Sharon works for Threads of Life as a Coordinator and is also an active volunteer in her community as well as with Threads of Life as a founding member, speaker, and volunteer family guide.

Sunday, 24 October, 2021

9:00 – 11:30 a.m. EDT

Life is a Gift: Finding Happiness After Loss - Karen Lapierre Pitts, Manager, Family Support

Grief and happiness often cause conflict from deep within: happiness after loss can feel like an internal battle. For many of us the ‘happy” word is now difficult to define. While it is normal to have many emotions all at the same time when grieving a life altering loss- it often feels uncomfortable and contradictory. Grief is a messy place; a significant loss is painful, difficult & life changing. It’s normal to struggle with feelings of guilt, anger & bitterness, but what about those moments when you should feel joy or happiness?  It doesn’t seem right anymore. You may be thinking, will I ever feel happy again?

On February 9, 2000, Karen’s family suffered from a traumatic workplace tragedy. Karen has been part of Threads of Life for many years and is currently the organization’s family support manager working directly with families. She is also an active Family Guide and member of the Speaker’s Bureau. Threads of Life helps families heal after they are affected by a workplace fatality, life-altering injury or occupational disease. It is currently working with more than 3,200 family members from across Canada. Threads of Life promotes public awareness and accountability for workplace health and safety. Its mission is to lead and inspire a culture shift where work-related injuries and illnesses are morally, socially and economically unacceptable. Many things have changed in Karen’s family’s life since that fateful day.

Yoga and Self-Care - Morgan Story, Yoga Instructor, Reiki Practitioner, Yoga Studio Owner

Join us for a gentle healing yoga flow, where we move the body to release physical tension in the mind and body.  As well as learn different healing tools and techniques that assist in removing emotional blockages and balancing emotions.

Morgan Story is a certified yoga instructor who gained her 500h certification through Blue Heron Yoga Studio in 2015. She has also since then furthered her yoga education by taking some additional certifications including Yoga For seniors, Reiki level 1 and 2, among many other workshops. She has recently opened up her own Yoga Studio in Guelph Ontario called Karma Yoga Studio. Morgan also helps certify yoga instructors at Yoga City Mississauga in teaching the courses on Meditation, Ayurveda and Seniors Yoga. She has a strong passion for self care and teaching it to others.

12:30 – 3:00 p.m. EDT

Listen from your Heart, Not your Ears. - Shirley Hickman, Executive Director & Kelley Thompson, Administrator

We have intimate wisdom to improve our most important relationships and make genuine connections with people through the art of listening. By avoiding letting anger, anxiety, and fear of being hurt impede our ability to listen, we can transform what is inside our heart and within the space around us.

Shirley Hickman never expected to be leading a national organization dedicated to helping people affected by tragedies in the workplace. Trained as a nurse, she was happily married and raising a family in the late 1990s. That is when tragedy struck, and Shirley’s life, along with her family’s, were changed forever. Since that time, she has focused on making a difference in workplace health and safety. In 2003, Shirley co-founded Threads of Life and is currently the Executive Director. Shirley is also the proud grandma of two amazing young girls.

Kelley was born and raised in London, Ontario where she lives with her husband and two children and works as an Administrative Assistant at the Threads of Life London office. She is the friendly voice on the other end of the phone when you call! Kelley has a background in retail management and training and in her spare time actively volunteers with Girl Guides of Canada and the Salvation Army Christmas Hamper program in London.

Men Mending - Eugene Gutierrez, Family Member

Men often experience grief differently than women, sometimes because there is an expectation that men remain “strong,” keeping their feelings to themselves. Despite this social expectation, men still need to grieve and express their feelings, typically in settings that are safe, supportive, and judgment-free. This workshop will provide such an environment, offering a safe setting for men to explore their experiences of loss and grief and to support one another. There will be some questions to guide the conversation, but the participants’ stories will provide the main focus of our time together.

After losing his father due to a workplace fatality in 2017 and finding support through Threads of Life, Eugene has been an active volunteer and advocate for the organization. He currently supports us with Steps for Life, overseeing social media & sponsorships in London, is a member of our Speakers Bureau, and has returned as a facilitator for family forums.

You’re not alone. Join other families of workplace tragedy who “get it.”