Companion Profile Benita Tait

Name: Benita Tait

Organisation: Good Grief

Role description: Trainer

State: NSW

Year first trained in Seasons for Growth: 1998

What programs have you trained in? CYP, Adult, Parent, Stormbirds, Seasons for Healing

Why did you decide to train in Seasons for Growth? Prior to SFG I was already involved in supporting adolescents through their grief experiences at the high school I was working in. When the SFG program made its way to us I was given the opportunity to complete the training. My previous experiences of supporting young people in this space and my own experiences of childhood loss greatly encouraged me to be more formally trained - one of the best decisions in my life.

How many groups have you Companioned? I have companioned countless groups through paid and voluntary work for over 20 years.

Are there any highlights of Companioning that you would like to share? My collective experience of witnessing how the Good Grief programs have been responsive to the needs of each individual/group no matter what age I have companioned, what each person’s loss is or which program I am implementing is my biggest highlight - each encounter has been special - from a group of 5 year old girls forming a strong bond, staff working in aged care feeling heard and supported, through to an 89 year old woman who discovered that ‘Yes, I can do this’ as she faced the challenge of working out finances following the death of her husband after over 60 years of marriage. For me, it has been a gift to be able to offer support across the ages and I am grateful to the Sisters of St Joseph for their vision and to Anne Graham for her wisdom in developing the programs.

Have you any special stories about Seasons for Growth groups or program participants you would like to share?  There are many special stories but one I’ll share is that of a 10-year-old boy. This young person’s father had died and as we discussed the ways in which change/loss affects us he said ‘I now feel dumb’. As we explored this together, he spoke about how he ‘used to be good at maths’ but since his dad’s death he finds that his ‘brain often doesn’t seem to work’ and this left him feeling embarrassed. I was particularly touched by how respectfully the group listened to him and how his peers supported him. They told him it was ok to cry and pointed out to him all the things they admire about him...hearing that his experience was normal, his reactions were ok and that his peers valued him seemed to ‘lift him up’ and I was then in awe of his ‘I CAN’ - to speak to his teacher and to have a sign (turn his pencil case over) that would communicate discreetly that he needed a time out/break. This experience really confirmed for me that people who are grieving have the capacity and resources to adjust and cope with life changes but often need appropriate support to do so - hence why I am so passionate about the Good Grief programs.

Do you have any advice for other Companions?

1. Trust yourself - the relationship that develops between you and the group members is, from my experiences where profound healing begins - ‘someone cares for/about me’ - incredibly powerful!

2. Trust the program - like grief, it is a process and it will speak to each participant in a way that is right for them.

3. Self-care - as companions we enter into another’s story and in being fully present, we often find ourselves connecting to our own stories, we therefore have a duty of care to ourselves and those we support.

As you are also a trainer for Good Grief, would you like to share any highlights in that role?  I always find it an absolute privilege to work with so many people who have such genuine care and desire to support those challenged by change and loss. I especially love to see companions connecting and leaving the training with plans to build networks of support in their local communities. Grief has the capacity to ‘bring people together’ and the online training has been effective at doing this.  Despite these uncertain and difficult times, the Good Grief programs, through the large number of dedicated people being trained online, have remained a catalyst of hope and healing for individuals and communities - I am incredibly grateful to be a trainer during these particularly challenging times.

What has been your biggest personal or professional learning from being involved with Seasons for Growth?  As an educator and as someone who has experienced significant loss, I have become increasingly convinced of the importance of learning about grief - knowledge hasn’t prevented me from experiencing the pain of grief but it sure has helped me to understand my experiences and empowered me to make choices that help me to heal and grow - this is what drives my passion for the program.

Finally, what part of the program do you treasure or enjoy most and why?  As a companion and trainer, I really like how unique each group is and how the program so seamlessly manages to speak to both the commonality of grief as well as to its uniqueness for each individual and in doing so builds connections - “I’m not the only one/I’m not alone” and belief in self – “Yes, I CAN do this”.  I will therefore always treasure the trust people place in me as their companion when they share their sacred stories of change and loss whilst moving towards a place of hope and healing.