Editor’s note: We’ve just finished training a group of 11 new Volunteer Family Guides over the past week; 11 open-hearted family members who know the devastating reality of a workplace injury, illness, and death, who have come together to participate in a special 5-day training to prepare them to companion others who have more recently experienced a workplace tragedy.

We’ve been holding Volunteer Family Guide training periodically since 2005. One of our incredible long-term facilitators, Audrey Stringer, was recently reading old journals and shares below her reflections from one of these days – companioning and guiding our family members on their journey to become Volunteer Family Guides.

three paper-thin wood shavings shaped like heartsAn excerpt from Audrey’s journal …

January 23, 2013

Over our two days together, our individual humanness was highlighted and affirmed. We are all unique, but still the same—filled with pain and sorrow. When shared pain and sorrow is expressed and released, there is movement and transformation. Rising from the ashes of grief, strength, courage and most of all, love.

Pain is so imprinted on the heart and soul – to release it is to let go. Some are unwilling to just to admit the hurt, let alone acknowledge the ritual of letting go. The metamorphosis was astounding. Everyone there came with not just a suitcase, but with extra baggage. I sensed that when they left their load was much lighter.

I glimpsed their souls: the essence of their being. Their human frailties and the sublime strength that they did not know was present. As their masks slowly dropped, their authentic selves were present, not only to me but to the others in the room. Teaching and learning are gifts, and I willingly give and receive each with grace. The camaraderie and acceptance filled the room with light and love when the masks fell one by one hitting the floor with a loud bang of relief.

On Sunday, Lake Simcoe howled and roared much like the participants in the room. By Monday, the lake was calm and less resistant to change and like the volunteers, serene.

For it is in the decision of reaching out to others in similar circumstance and loss that a deep sense of purpose and meaning will shine forth and crack open feelings of self worth, confidence, and joy. For to love hard is to grieve and mourn hard. Living life with purpose allows the reason to pick up and recreate a new you, forever changed.

I am blessed to be a part of such a wonderful organization called Threads of Life.

Audrey Stringer
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