December 2019

In this issue: 
  • Thank you
  • Dr Perry Hoffman
  • Family Connections (FC) reaches over 1000 Family Members in 2019
  • First-Ever Multi-Group Weekend Intensive Held in Surrey, BC
  • Family Day Conference, Vancouver, BC
  • Family Connections - Managing Suicidality and Trauma Recovery (FC-MSTR) Research Pilot, Toronto, ON
  • Holiday Tips


2019 was a very successful year for Sashbear and we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support. Special thanks to our many volunteers, donors, sponsors and collaborating organizations — you are making all that we do possible. We look forward to continuing on our mission together, so that no family is left behind, bringing skills and hope to all those in need.

Dr Perry Hoffman's legacy continues

It was with great sadness that we learned this past November about the passing of Perry Hoffman, PhD, co-creator of the Family Connections program and founder of NEABPD. She was an incredible advocate of families and their loved ones and will be terribly missed. Perry was very dear to Sashbear as we collaborated together to bring awareness about Family Connections - and that family matters - at many international conferences around the world. Her life's work was a labour of love, one that we will continue in her memory.

Dr. Perry Hoffman during 2017 Sashbear Walk

Family Connections Groups reach over 1000 Family Members in 2019

2019 was a year of consolidating awareness of the Family Connections program throughout Canada. Sashbear’s volunteer facilitators (150 leaders and observers) delivered almost 80 groups in BC, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Through these efforts, over 1000 individuals learned about these transformational skills.

In Alberta and BC, Sashbear has ongoing partnerships with Alberta Health Services and Fraser Health Authority, and in 2019 began a new partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. In Ontario and Quebec, we built upon our relationships with many local agencies and community groups as well as enormous efforts by volunteers to reach families in smaller cities and suburban areas.

Since the first group in the community in 2014, Sashbear has delivered 230 Family Connections groups throughout Canada and touched the lives of 3500 family members.

First-Ever Multi-Group Weekend Intensive Held in Surrey, BC

Sashbear, in partnership with Fraser Health Authority, offered four Family Connections groups in a single location in Surrey BC over two weekends in September and October 2019. The energy in the space was palpable as almost 60 participants attended these groups and shared their stories over meals in the lounge. A group of 19 facilitators, observers, and volunteers from both Vancouver and Toronto came together to make this amazing event happen.

100 percent of participants said they had learned new skills and would recommend the FC program to others. In the words of one participant, "This weekend was like gold. I now have resilience back."

Family Day Conference, Vancouver, BC

The Family Day Conference was held in Vancouver on October 15, 2019 as part of the International Society for the Study of Personality Disorders (ISSPD) 2019 Convention. The program included a land acknowledgement and teaching by Elder Doris Fox, and a brief workshop on validation. The program was presented by Lynn Courey and Mike Menu of the Sashbear Foundation, Beth McCrave from NEABPD, and several Sashbear facilitators and observers. Additional presentations were given by Dr. Alex Chapman, Dr. Carla Sharp, and Marika Sandrell. The event was emceed by Terry Crosby, a Family Connections facilitator from Abbotsford, BC. Family Day was attended by over 60 family members and clinicians who learned about the importance of family involvement and the Family Connections program, and had a chance to experience and practice the key skill of validation.

Family Connections—Managing Suicidality and Trauma Recovery (FC-MSTR) Research Pilot, Toronto, ON

Sashbear was pleased to host the only Canadian research pilot of a new program in development for family members who experience their loved ones’ crises as traumatic. The new program, FC-MSTR, aims to empower caregivers to effectively manage the stress and trauma following crisis such as suicide attempts or self-harm. The research is sponsored by NEABPD and McLean Hospital. The program was delivered in Toronto on December 6, 7 & 8 by Drs. Alan Fruzzetti, Cynthia Kaplan, and Luciana Payne and was attended by 65 family members and clinicians. We wish to acknowledge the support of CAMH for providing the location and to Sick Kids for a Community Conference Grant to help defray the cost of bringing this program to Canada.

Holiday Tips

Four Basic Assumptions to be more effective

1. Benign Interpretation

Let go of judgement. We often don't know the whole story, and judgement and blame are polarizing, leading to escalating emotions. Give yourself time to pause and respond out of Wise Mind, considering both logic and emotion.

2. There's no one or absolute truth

The parties or big family events that some people love, are incredibly difficult for others. Put yourself in their shoes and consider whether it's really that important to insist your loved one sit for hours at the big family dinner, or go to the concert that everyone else is looking forward to.

Offer up the possibility of doing something your loved one chooses, as a family or with a few close friends. And then practice acceptance if it doesn't work out.

3. We are all doing our best

If our family member is unhappy or distressed by the crowds, or lights, or family expectations, remember they are doing their best with the skills and resilience they have in the moment. Be compassionate and patient, and show the same compassion and patience to yourself.

4. We can all do better

Bring your skills into any difficult situation and see whether they make a difference.


"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." - Jon Kabat-Zinn

Remember the acronym, OPD-NOE when being mindful...

What to do: Observe, Describe, Participate.
How to do it: Non-judgementally, One-mindfully, Effectively.

Simply taking the time to notice and get curious about what's happening, whether it's your own emotions or your loved one's words or behaviours, can make a big difference.

Don't get caught up in the hustle and bustle of expectations, rather, take the time to truly experience the precious moments. Be fully present in an activity your loved one asks you to share in - a favourite song, a silly game, a quiet moment away from the crowd.

Radical Acceptance

Our family gatherings and holiday events don't always end up the way we imagined they would. Accept the reality that some things cannot or will not change, at least for now. Remember that non-acceptance when change is not happening is a place of suffering. We are free to choose suffering, but we don't have to. Radical acceptance is a difficult skill as it requires grieving what we have lost AND it can free us to pay attention to the precious little things we have not been noticing.


It's powerful to feel understood, to be heard, it is soothing, helps us feel connected and promotes problem solving.

To validate try these steps:

  • Be mindful of yourself
    Use mindfu
    lness to manage your own emotions and let go of judgements—stay in the moment
  • Be mindful of the other person
    Remember this is someone that you love and they are doing the best they can in this moment
  • Seek to understand, from the other person's point of view, what makes sense, what are they feeling?
  • Validate what you understand to be valid, remember that everyone's emotions are valid. If you were in their shoes what would make you feel understood?

We hope these reminders will help you have a holiday that creates positive memories for you and your family.

Happy Holidays!

The Sashbear Team  |

The Sashbear Foundation is a volunteer-based Canadian Registered Charity 
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