Family forums offer support for families after a workplace tragedy
By Susan Haldane, Threads of Life
They come in Friday evening looking nervous, hesitant, perhaps even hostile. And for good reason: these are family members whose child, parent or sibling has been killed on the job, or permanently injured. They are arriving for the first time at a Threads of Life Family Forum, where they’ve been told they’ll learn to cope with their grief. By the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, there are hugs, tears, and maybe some laughter.
“We are safe together because we get it,” one participant commented after the recent Central Canada Family Forum in Barrie Ontario.
Threads of Life family forums are held annually in three locations across Canada. They bring together families who have experienced a workplace fatality, a life-altering injury or occupational disease, and offer a chance to reflect, learn more about grieving, and share experiences with others. Forums are one of the family support services available through Threads of Life, the association for workplace tragedy family support.
Each year in Canada, roughly 1,000 people are killed on the job. Canada’s construction industries account for more than 200 of these deaths, according to the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada. In 2012, construction workplaces were responsible for another 27,000 lost-time injury and disease claims.
What the statistics don’t reveal is the chaos, confusion and mourning the families of these workers must live through. Threads of Life currently support close to 2,000 family members across the country, offering them information, peer-to-peer guidance, and opportunities to help make workplaces safer by sharing their stories and raising awareness. Many members also volunteer to help others going through a similar experience.
“It took me six years after our son was killed in a work place accident for me to accept that I belonged in this group,” one mother wrote after attending a Threads of Life family forum for the first time this spring. “My expectations for the forum were so foggy – I did not know what to expect or what my reactions would be. I was nervous and yet, I was so full of emotion. Shortly after I arrived I felt like it was somewhere I really needed to be. “
“By the weekend’s end I felt like I was part of a very close family group. I received so much from those couple of days and I hope gave a little in return. I am already looking forward to the next forum and helping someone else feel like I did.”
For more information about Threads of Life family forums, visit www.threadsoflife.ca/for-families/family-forums/.
Photo: Family Forum
Caption: For families coping with a workplace fatality, serious injury or disease, Threads of Life Family Forums let them know they are not alone