Stories of Courage

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Tearmann employees often witness incredible personal growth and insight from the women and children who use our services.  Courage is defined as "strength in the face of grief or pain."  Some of the most courageous people we know have been women who have walked through our doors.  What a privilege to be a part of the journey.


These are some of the things women have shared with us (used with permission:

“For the first time in my life I walked into a place I live and feel like I’m home.”  

~Brenda Place Resident, 2020


"When I arrived at this shelter, I was in a lot of stress and devastated, I felt there was no way out and when I realized they (Tearmann) are here, there was some hope.  I met some staff.  They are good people.  They helped me emotionally.  I was treated with respect.  I realized that there was help for me.  These agencies work together- Regional Police Services, New Leaf, Tearmann Society.  They promote awareness of family violence and to prevent it and help families and their children get help." -Tearmann House resident


"I am so grateful to be at second stage. Without this help and support I don't know how I would have coped with the trauma of having to leave my home.  It has been an amazing and enlightening experience.  I am emotionally, mentally, and financially so much better off having been able to live here.  Thank you Tearmann."

~Brenda Place resident


I was at Tearmann during some of the worst and saddest times of my life. I don't know how I would have gotten through it without you guys." -Tearmann Resident


 "I was trapped. I never knew there was any help until I found Tearmann House." "I now try to value my life every day."  -Tearmann Resident  


"I moved a long way to get away from an abusive relationship. Without the help and supports I received from Tearmann House I'm not sure that I would not have gone back into that situation I left.  Every step I have made, all the staff have been supportive but also truthful. Living here at second stage is very hard but if you are willing to do the work, you will benefit from the experience." -Tearmann Resident 2015



 How Tearmann House Saved Her Life

By Debbi Harvie
The Pictou Advocate, February 10, 2016

“Either I was going to be there or I was going to be dead.”
Sarah, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, credits Tearmann House with saving her life, twice.

She had been in an abusive relationship with her husband for many years and it wasn’t until she landed in the hospital, that she realized it.

“I had taken an overdose because my life was ending,” says Sarah. “I had been in an abusive relationship for a long time and didn’t really realize I was in an abusive relationship until I got in the hospital.  I thought every woman went through this with their husband. ‘Oh, he’s drinking, he’ll be nicer when he sobers up’...”


Once released from the hospital, Sarah was encouraged to go to Tearmann House.
“When I arrived, I think they sent me in a taxi from the hospital and I walked in the door and cried the whole time because I didn’t know what Tearmann was about.”

Sarah, at the time, had two adult children, so she was alone when she entered the house.
“I felt I lost my children at the same time because they didn’t want to take sides I guess.”

She stayed at Tearmann House a total of eight weeks, however, that time was split up.


“I ended up in the hospital again about five weeks after I arrived. I got a call from my husband while I was there and it knocked me down again. I felt he was taking everything from me.”

Sarah took another overdose and while in hospital, Tearmann House kept her bed for her.
The entire time she was at Tearmann House, she accessed counsellors and other assistance to help her cope with daily life.


“It was unbelievable the help I got there. I would never be here today if it wasn’t for Tearmann House.”  Sarah spoke with a counsellor every day, learned to meditate, journal daily and learned yoga. She continues to see a psychiatrist regularly.


“If it wasn’t for those guys, I wouldn’t have had a hope... I never did (meditation) before in my life... before I was so in my head, so crazy, I was so worked up, I could never shut my brain off. We did meditation and guided imagery as a way to relax and a coping strategy.”
She truly feels the help she received while at Tearmann House helped her realize she could continue.


“They practically had to teach me how to live again. I was scared when we talked about getting out on my own; every time I thought about it, it knocked me back down again. Thank God I had that place to go, if I was out on my own, my husband would have found me. I felt safe.”
Sarah received support after she left Tearmann House as well and still has her list of outreach numbers to call any time she needs. She says there were times where she felt nervous, but never had to call.


“I maintained my safety plan. There were a few times when (her husband) found me, I called Tearmann, left the house and other times I had my chairs and couch pushed up against the door.”


But she is grateful for the support she received and the staff at Tearmann.
“I never knew there were such places, people don’t know there are places like this.”
Since, Sarah has been able to reconnect with her children.

I am grateful for my life, because of them... They taught me life skills and let me feel useful, helping with dishes, cooking, laundry, cleaning. Everything was so organized. We learned how to work together and pay bills, I never did that before. I always wanted to take first aid and a hunters course but my husband told me there was a written test so I couldn’t do it (because she cannot read well). After I left (Tearmann) I took both tests and had them read the questions to me and I passed. I thought I was too stupid to do it because that’s what I was told.”


Tearmann House is a shelter for abused women who experience violence in an intimate partner relationship or family violence that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Tearmann House serves women who are 18 years and older.  


Donna Smith, acting executive director, says some women will show up at the door in a crisis situation, and many others are referred by different community agencies.  “When a woman first comes to the shelter, we welcome them, make them feel comfortable, give them a cup of tea and discuss what is happening in terms of their safety, hear her story.”


Single women as well as women with children arrive at the shelter in need of help. If women arrive with children, they introduce the children to the youth care counsellor and familiarize the woman with the house, explain the services and if the woman decides she wants to stay, she is set up with a room.


“We have outreach services as well, so there are some women who feel their security is not imminent so they choose to stay in their home and access our services,” notes Smith. “There are other women in high-risk situations where we work closely with the community to ensure their safety. When we have high- risk situations, we have a certain protocol to make a safety plan.”
Sharon Maloney, a house counsellor, notes that women can stay in the house up to six weeks and are typically in the house one week before they begin discussing housing goals and income supports.


“We are here to listen to the women’s needs and let them make the choices and support them in their decisions,” says Smith.


Maloney adds, “When women come in here, it’s often the first opportunity for them to have a say in their life.”


Tearmann provides counselling, coping methods, supports and advocacy for referrals and appointments with other agencies, life skills programming and follow-up services after the women leave.  “All personal care needs are provided while here including food,” explains Smith. “We get donations from the community, which is very generous... for things like clothing for women and children.


“We want women to feel at home when they are here... it helps with the process of moving forward,” says Maloney.


Tearmann House is a 15-bed shelter with occupancy varying. Currently it is at 50 per cent but has often been full, serving Pictou, Antigonish and Guysborough counties.
“We see 60 to 70 new women each year,” notes Maloney. “Those are just the shelter statistics, not the outreach services”


“We also have a coordinated second-stage housing called Brenda Place,” says Smith. “It’s for women who have left an abusive relationship. It’s a six-unit family space and the women receive ongoing services. They can stay up to a year."


Tearmann House has 10 full- time staff, one part time administrator, six casual workers and receives 75 per cent of its funding from the province with the remainder coming from fund- raising efforts.“




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