Honouring Justin: Day of Mourning offers a chance to unite in grief and support

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Special to CaDCR

June 21, 2013 was an unforgettable day for Rose Wilson and her family.

Rose was preparing to celebrate her 33rd wedding anniversary with her husband George, when an officer for the Ontario Provincial Police knocked at her door with news that no parent should ever have to hear: “Your son Justin was in a workplace accident and passed away this morning.”

Justin, 29, had been working for a contracting company at a graphite mine in Kearney, Ontario. On the day of the accident, two turbines had been removed from the roof and insulation was applied to the open holes. The crew was in the process of removing metal sheathing to cover the holes when Justin stepped onto and through the insulation and fell 60 feet to the floor of the building.

He was killed by the resulting massive trauma, and in that moment Rose’s family was changed forever.

As they grappled with their grief, they turned to others who had gone through similar experiences of tragedy, and this is when they discovered Threads of Life – the Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support.

Threads of Life is a national Canadian charity which supports people who’ve experienced a work-related serious injury, occupational disease or death in their family. The organization offers peer support, opportunities to learn new coping skills, and a network of families who share their experiences, and help one another to feel less alone.

Each year, Rose, her family, and an ever-growing number of supporters walk in Threads of Life’s annual fundraising event, Steps for Life. She explains, “The outpouring of kindness as participants gather for the walk in Barrie to bring awareness to workplace injuries, illness and tragedies is truly great.”

These families walk together to honour their loved ones, increase awareness of Threads of Life’s mission, and raise funds for its life-changing programming. “Many families like ours rely heavily on the programs offered to assist them through their grief and loss, ” says Rose.

Aside from the walk, there is another day that unites Threads of Life’s family members together each year: National Day of Mourning on April 28. This is a day to honour and remember all those – like Justin Wilson – who are killed or injured on the job in Canada. It’s also a chance for individuals and organizations across the country to show their meaningful support for people like Rose.

As April 28 falls on a Sunday this year, Threads of Life will hold a virtual candle-lighting ceremony on April 26 that anyone can register for and take part in.

While the grief is still present 11 years later, Rose continues to rely on the support and connections she has made through Threads of Life. She shares, “Grief is a universal experience, although it affects everyone differently. It can certainly help when those searching so desperately for comfort during a period of such deep loss can connect with those who are on the same path to healing or already further along in their healing journey.”

Photo included: Wilson team Steps for Life – caption: The Wilson family and friends team “Relax Guys” walks in Steps for Life every year in honour of Justin.

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