Child grief and loss programme needs helpers

A grief and loss education programme that works with children is looking for volunteers.

The programme – Seasons for Growth – aims to help emotionally and socially grieving children aged 6 to 18.

These young people are dealing with major life changes such as death, divorce and significant losses.

Using the metaphor of seasonal change, the programme teaches them to explore the impact change and loss is having on their lives and learn new techniques to deal with these changes.

The programme works with small groups of children in eight one-hour sessions.

Each child gets a journal to complete throughout the experience.

“Young people learn that they are not alone in dealing with the effect of change, loss and grief,” Seasons for Growth says.

“They build their communication, decision-making and problem solving skills within a supportive peer group.”

Many New Zealand agencies, including Catholic Social Services, offers Seasons for Growth programmes.

Volunteers say they get a lot out of contributing.

Called “companions,” volunteers are trained adults who facilitate the small group programme.

In these, “participants support each other in age appropriate and engaging activities,” Seasons for Growth says.

One volunteer wanted to “give back” after experiencing grief within her own life.

“I love being there when the children come in,” she says. “Sometimes they even ask to come back during the holidays!”

Another says the grief and loss programme teaches children fundamental skills.

These include resilience and self-reflection.

“I’ve seen many positive transformations in the children during their time with us,” he says.

Yet another volunteer says she thought the programme would use a good combination of her teaching skills.

“One child complained a lot the first two sessions,” she says. “In the third one, they’d zoomed in – so happy to take part.”

It’s like being strangers on a train, she says.

“We are companions to the children on this particular journey. Then we part ways.”

Candice Thum, who is the area coordinator in Auckland’s Flat Bush area, says accompanying children is “very rewarding.”

It’s not for everyone though.

There is a selection process. During this, potential volunteers are vetted and must attend a weekend training session.

As Season’s for Growth demand from local schools in Flat Bush is increasing, they are especially looking for volunteers within and close to that area.

“Volunteers can give as little or as much as they have,” Thum says.

She’s “continually humbled by the skills and compassion of our volunteers,” she says.


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