Companion Story - Loretta Heffernan


Name: Loretta Heffernan

Organisation: Diocese of Maitland Newcastle

Role Description: Family Ministry Coordinator Myall Deanery

State: NSW

Year first trained in Seasons for Growth: 2010

Programs Trained In:  Seasons for Growth Companion in the Children and Young People's Program and the Adult Program

Why did you decide to train in Seasons for Growth I first knew of the program when my child was going to school nearly 20 years ago. I saw first-hand how Seasons for Growth assisted with educational strategies to cope with change, loss and grief. When the opportunity to train arose, through working with Benita Tait at the Diocese of Maitland Newcastle, I readily accepted.

How many groups have you Companioned?  I have Companioned children, young people and adults since being trained, I can’t recall the exact number of groups I have companioned.

Are there any highlights of Companioning that you would like to share?  The feedback from children, young people, teachers and adults, on how Seasons for Growth  has helped them to gain a better understanding of the change, loss and grief in their lives, and how it helped them with developing  strategies to manage it. The relief that many participants express when they realise/learn their grief reactions are normal is also a highlight.  

Have you any special stories about Seasons for Growth groups or program participants you would like to share?  I Companioned a young person who, after the death of a parent, had become isolated from family and friends. While participating in the group, durining the session on "Memories" , the young person was able to share their story of grief, loss and change in a safe and caring space. The feelings and emotions expressed were intense. During this time peer-support was evident as the other participants in the group genuinely listened, cared for and valued the young person.

Do you have any advice for other Companions? Check the Companion Portal for resources. Allocate enough time to prepare each session. Try to gather your seasonal resources and keep them in a “Seasons” box. Make sure activities are included in the sessions, they do assist with learning. Talk to those in your organisation about resourcing for the program and support people.  Debriefing and reflective practice also help; Trainers and Good Grief staff are available for guidance and support. Be mindful of your own life circumstances that may impact on the Companioning role. I try to not stop genuine conversation that is occurring in groups, and adjust the sessions accordingly.

What has been your biggest personal or professional learning from being involved with Seasons for GrowthThat life is like the seasons, grief, change and loss happen to everyone and that everyone has a story. Learning what is helpful and unhelpful when it comes to supporting others, especially around anguage. That being cared for, respected and valued leads to self-confidence, self-respect and self-esteem and that recognition is important in relationships.

Finally, what part of the program do you treasure or enjoy most and why?  I enjoy the summer sessions, especially when the children, young people and adults reflect over the previous sessions and realise that each of their stories are valuable and that through their participation in Seasons for Growth  they have developed positive ways to move forward in life. The celebration is always special too.