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The core intentions of this program are the development of resilience and emotional literacy to promote social and emotional wellbeing. The program is educational in nature and does not provide therapy.
We use the imagery of the four seasons to illustrate that grief is cyclical, not a linear journey with a clear end. Trained “companions” facilitate small groups where participants share their experiences, and support and learn from one another. Peer support is a key element of the program, and confidentiality is strongly emphasised.
Since its launch in 1996, Seasons for Growth has reached over 200,000 children and young people, as well as thousands of adults, in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland and Peru. Seasons for Growth works with children and adults to help them understand and express their experiences of change, loss and grief.
It is based on the belief that change, loss and grief are normal and valuable parts of life. We examine the impact of changes such as death, separation, divorce, natural disaster, etc. upon our lives, and explore how we can learn to live with and grow from these experiences. Seasons for Growth uses the images of the four seasons to help people understand that life is always changing, that one follows the other and that there are certain things that we can do to accept and deal with the ‘seasons’ in our life.
Seasons for Growth offers a range of activities that allow individuals to:
- explore the skills needed to manage the effect of loss
- understand that it is normal to experience and express a range of emotions around grief and loss
- review present beliefs and plan for a realistic and hope-filled future
- develop an integrated sense of self and higher self-esteem
- take part in a caring network of peers and adults
- build effective relationships with families, friends and others
Who is a Companion?
The Companion facilitates the delivery of the programme to children, young people and adults in a safe environment, using methods that promote a peer support focus. Group facilitators are described as companions to identify their role of accompanying the children, both individually and as a group, as they journey through experiencing, adjusting and developing new life skills in response to personal loss.
The role of a Companion is critical to the Seasons for Growth process. An effective Seasons for Growth Companion is a person who:
- Cares deeply about supporting young people in understanding and accepting their grief.
- Can listen deeply and effectively.
- Is able to facilitate discussion.
- Can ask questions sensitively and respect silence.
- Is not burdened by his/her own unresolved grief.
- Has the ability to express and deal with his/her own feelings.
- Can relate well to the age group he/she is accompanying.
- Understands the issues related to mandatory reporting.
- Is willing to take part in the Companion training.
- Does not bring a personal agenda to the group.
- Acts supportively – does not rescue, distract or make participants dependent.
- Trusts in the participants’ experiences and capacity to choose what is best for them.
- Asks “what” and “how” questions not “why” or “which”.
- Respects the uniqueness of each person’s life story.
- Is able to affirm others.
Effective listening in Seasons for Growth involves:
- Acknowledging that listening is more important than speaking.
- Using your eyes, ears, heart and head to listen.
- Tuning into the feelings behind the words.
- Giving full attention to the person speaking.
- Putting aside assumptions and judgements about the person speaking or what is being said.
- Respecting silences and not interrupting them.
- Letting others finish what they are saying.
- Paying attention to non-verbal communication.
- Restating what was said, making sure you have heard it correctly.
- Willingness to convey acceptance of others no matter what they do/don’t share.
Range of Programmes
Seasons for Growth is an umbrella concept for a range of programmes that are designed to meet the differing needs of a range of different groups of people.
Companion Training for the Young Peoples’ Programme 6 – 18 years
Training for those who would like to Companion young people (6~18 years) as they journey through the programme.
Parents are encouraged to take part in the Parent programme which is designed for parents of those young people who are participating in the Seasons Programme.
Exploring the Seasons of Grief – Adult Programme
The Adult Programme is for those above 18 years and who are not at school. It is a programme for those wishing to increase their knowledge of their grief and focus on understanding and managing their particular losses.
Picking Up the Pieces
This is a programme for people who are in contact with children, but who are not trained in grief or psychological support. The programme helps participants to recognise what is “normal” grief behaviour and give some practical strategies for how to deal with it.
Professional development is available for teachers in understanding change, loss and grief. Professional development is available for school management teams and Boards of Trustees in the hope that they will better understand the value of the programme and encourage the Seasons Programme in their school.
Literature for Life
Enhancing social and emotional literacy through the English curriculum (senior Primary and Secondary).
Supporting Your Child …
- … Following Separation and Divorce
- … Following the Death of Someone they Love (programme in preparation)
These two programmes are for parents and are as the title suggests.
In 2009, in response to the Victorian bushfires, Good Grief developed a resilience-building program called Stormbirds: Growing through natural disaster for children traumatised by such events. This non-denominational, educative programme is designed to help relieve suffering and bring hope to children and communities recovering from natural disasters which unfortunately leave individuals feeling vulnerable. It has been used in Auckland in the wake of the tornado that struck North Shore in 2011 and also with children displaced from Christchurch as a result of the earthquakes.
What it is and what it is not
- is an education programme, not therapy or counselling;
- is not recommended in place of one-to-one counselling for children or young people who are still traumatised by the event;
- supports young people in understanding and managing the changes they experience in the face of natural disaster;
- assists young people in understanding that their reactions associated with the natural disaster are normal;
- develops skills for coping, problem solving and decision making;
- builds a peer support network;
- helps restore self confidence and self esteem;
Premises of the Stormbirds Programme
- The Stormbirds programme is based on the belief that change, loss and grief are a normal and valuable part of life.
- Children and adolescents need the opportunity to examine how natural disasters, such as earthquakes, fires, floods and cyclones, have impacted on their lives.
- Stormbirds provides an opportunity for each participant to integrate the appropriate knowledge, skill and attitudes to understand and to manage the changes brought about by a natural disaster.
- This takes place within an atmosphere of like-to-like peer support.
- The Stormbirds programme, like the Seasons for Growth programme, is dedicated to the spirit of St Mary MacKillop, who lived by the maxim, “Never see a need without trying to do something about it”.
How does it work?
The program works on the premise that children need to give voice to their experience and hear from similarly affected peers. They need to be supported to process their feelings and to engender hope for the future. In the aftermath of a natural disaster, those who would normally offer support to children can be overwhelmed with the challenges of daily living, with just accessing the simple necessities of life. Stormbirds offers an opportunity for children to be asked, heard and nurtured to become more resilient and hopeful.em;
There are many eyewitness accounts of birds, and animals, migrating before seismic events, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and so remaing unharmed.
These “storm birds” have learnt to adapt to natural events, flying to safety in the face of disaster. It is hoped that children and young people who complete this programme are helped to learn from the experience of the natural disaster those skills of resilience and attentiveness to feelings and reactions which will enable them to live fulfilled lives.
“The program which is contained in Seasons for Growth seems to me to deal with the issues of grief and loss in an age related way that will be most useful to children and young adults who will not respond to the normal counselling methods employed for adults. The program containing as it does times for reflection and response in sharing artwork, music and movement seems to me to be an entirely appropriate way to deal with grief and loss.”
Professor Peter Ravenscroft
President, Australia and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine
“I wonder why children’s grief gets overlooked as somehow pretend-grief. This Seasons for Growth Program treats it as an emotion to respect but not to be trapped by and speaks in a tone that I think will touch base with children.”
Ms Geraldine Doogue AO
Life Matters Radio National and Compass, ABC
“I firmly believe that schools should take on this program. If we truly believe as educators in the development of the whole child and in the importance of individual needs, then we need to specifically address the emotional needs of these children in grief before we can expect them to immerse them selves in any quality learning experiences.”
Ms Anne Duncan
Principal, St Bernard’s Primary School