Trying to put pieces back together for PTSD sufferers
Two Christmases ago, Nicole Osmond began her annual tradition of putting together a jigsaw puzzle, not knowing that it would eventually result in her co-founding a business.
The puzzle she chose was difficult — the image had a lot of snow, resulting in many similar puzzle pieces — but she found herself not minding the challenge.
“I thought about it, and I was actually quite relaxed when I was doing it,” said Osmond. “It was a nice thing, a nice gift to myself.”
After sharing her thoughts and a picture of the half-finished puzzle on Facebook, her friend, a former member of the military with post-traumatic stress disorder, commented: “Whenever your mind is at rest, it’s never a waste of time.”
Those words would stick with her throughout the inception of Piece by Peace Puzzles, a company that promotes using puzzles as a way to relax the mind for people with PTSD or other mental health issues.
Osmond and Natalie Ducey, her twin sister and co-owner of the company, are both married to serving members of the Canadian military.
“Thankfully, neither one of our spouses are dealing with PTSD, or anything like that, but we know people who do, and who have,” said Osmond. “So we’ve always been empathetic to it.”
In the year since the company got off the ground, Osmond said the feedback from the customers signals a need for this type of product.
As an example, she pointed to a veteran who bought seven puzzles for himself, his friends, and family after his therapist suggested he do jigsaw puzzles to help manage his PTSD symptoms.
The puzzles feature relaxing images of scenery, flowers, and animals, overlaid with an inspirational poetry verse written by Ducey.
“You’re getting that therapeutic relaxation experience with that inspirational message,” said Osmond.
“Thinking more along the lines of people dealing with PTSD, or dealing with dementia, or their mental health, this is a really good — very simple, but very good — exercise that they can do.”
When it’s completed, she said some customers choose to take the puzzle apart and do it over and over again, while others glue them together and display them in their homes.
Ducey, who has two published books of poetry, said she hopes the verses on the puzzles resonate with the person putting them together.
She said she originally began writing poetry in 2014 as a way to work through some of her own personal issues, and quickly learned of the “healing power of words” — for both writers and readers.
“I always try to write messages that inspire hope, and courage, and love, and understanding,” said Ducey. “And hopefully they resonate with people in a cathartic way.”
Even though Ducey lives in Ontario, she said there hasn’t been any logistical problems while working with Osmond in Halifax.
To create the puzzles, the process begins with Ducey writing a verse, then the sisters design an image and work with a company called Puzzles Unlimited, which actually produces the physical puzzle.
But Osmond said Peace by Piece Puzzles may soon begin producing its own puzzles after hearing from customers who would like to see more personalized options.
“The last year has been just testing, and learning, and taking feedback in,” said Osmond.
“It’s helped us validate that there’s something here that people connect with, and then how we can do it in a way that actually connects with more people.”
The puzzles cost about $30 and can be bought online, though they’re sometimes sold at markets in the Halifax area.