Change, loss and grief needn’t isolate anyone of any age

change, loss and grief

Concern for people impacted by change, loss and grief and recognising the need to accompany them has seen Levin’s Uniting Parish call on Wellington’s Catholic archdiocese for assistance.

Back in 2020, Levin’s Reverend Sandra Williams had a vision for helping everyone – adults, young people and children – whose lives are impacted by change, loss and grief. She wanted them to know “they do not need to walk that journey alone and that the impact of their grief need not stop them living full lives and becoming the best they can be,” she says.

She found a suitable programme – Seasons for Growth. It’s described as “a robust educational programme from Australia, helping people of all ages to process experiences of trauma, loss and grief.”

Cardinal John Dew holds the licence for its delivery in New Zealand where it has been running successfully for over 20 years. It works on the peer support principal and reflects St Mary MacKillop’s call: “Never see a need without trying to do something about it”.

The archdiocese also provided Trainer/Coordinator Katrin Eickhorst to facilitate the programme for Williams.

She is responsible for making the Seasons for Growth available in the archdiocesan area (which includes Levin) and training those delivering the programme (companions).

All companions are police-checked and endorsed by an agency, such as a school or parish.

Williams is among those who have trained as a companion. She operates as regional coordinator where companions work with 12 primary and secondary schools.

“Requests for companion training typically come from Social Workers and Learning Support Co-ordinators (LSCs), specially qualified educators for students with specific learning needs,” she says.

“Local whānau suffer significant loss through COVID, family breakups, redundancy, substance abuse, violence, death and suicide. Self-harm is increasing amongst students.

“LSCs see Seasons for Growth as a valuable tool against increasing anxiety. The safe setting allows students to learn that change is normal, and sharing their stories increases trust. They “make better choices, develop empathy and emotional regulation. Their parents and whanau appreciate the outcomes”.

About the programme:

Initially developed for children and young people, Seasons for Growth has now been adapted for adults as well.

“It is based on the principal of peer support and delivered by trained facilitators (companions) in small groups of four to eight participants. The Children and Young People’s programme is usually implemented in schools over eight weekly sessions,” says Eickhorst.

People working with young people are positive about the programme, especially now: “… under the circumstances, ie having just had the lockdown and knowing some of our students at college, the need for this programme will be even more urgent”.

Anecdotal evidence suggests everyone’s benefiting already.

Children’ comments include: “it was awesome, it really helps me” (age 10); “there is always someone there for you” (age 10); “it can help you with a lot of worries” (age 9).

Parents appreciate the “safe environment for my child” to process their experience.

Adult participants appreciate the safe peer group setting for sharing their experiences and discovering their own resources in navigating the grief process.


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