Sr Margaret is one of our longest running Seasons for Growth Companions. In total, she has Companioned 64 young people and adult groups over nearly two decades. Unfortunately, her Dr recently advised that she retire for health reasons. Good Grief thanks Sr Margaret for her dedication and selfless contribution in working towards improving the lives of others. We are sure that her community, in WA, is very grateful too. After so many years running Seasons for Growth, Sr Margaret has a lot of knowledge, experience and wisdom to pass on. We wish her well with her health concerns and we will miss catching up with her here in Head Office.
I am a sister of St Joseph; Seasons for Growth was created in honour of St Mary MacKillop and that was my initial incentive to become involved with the program. I trained as a Companion in the Children and Young Peoples Program in 1998. The following year I trained as Companion in the Adult Program. I ran level 4 of the program, (ages 12-18) in Lumen Christi College Gosnells WA for 2 years and then at Mater Dei College Edgewater WA for a further 12 years. By the time I finished at Mater Dei College I had run 30 Seasons for Growth groups with the students. I became a Seasons for Growth Trainer in 2001 but I primarily worked as a Companion. My advice to newly trained Companions is to connect with other Companions, if possible, as support is paramount.
For the Young People’s Program I generally had 8 participants in each group and we met once a week for eight weeks, plus a celebratory day at the end. The participants often found it difficult to concentrate, due to a combination of their age and problems at home. I found kindness always worked, at times I would see them individually when they needed extra help and one to one understanding. I frequently met participants weeks after the program had concluded, they would thank me and say that it was only now that they realised how much Seasons for Growth had helped them, even in small ways, and that they felt happier in themselves.
I ran the adult program in the evening at Mater Dei College, as the Principal supported offering Seasons for Growth to parents, and anyone else, who wished to participate. In my experience, adult participants find Seasons for Growth very beneficial, so much so, that they were often very willing to travel quite a distance to our weekly meetings. I found that groups tended to bond after the first session and that men were often more at ease in a mixed group, as it encouraged them to share more easily. Participants often expressed their gratitude at being able to share within a group that they knew they could trust to keep their information confidential. Many participants found that they had the courage to accept their situation and move forward after they had completed Seasons for Growth.
Outcomes from completing Seasons for Growth that I observed included; participants coming to the realisation that other members of their family experience grief differently to them. Often parents were so focused on taking care of their families they forgot that they need time to care for themselves, Seasons for Growth regularly helped them to remember the importance of self-care.
I have also seen participants who were in difficult relationships become aware that they had done everything they could to save their marriage, but to no avail. Often, they chose to accept that they could do no more and move on peacefully for the sake of their children, difficult as it was. Grief is different for every person and it can take a long time to diminish. I think that it is essential for each person to be very patient with themselves, and others, during times of change and loss.
One outstanding memory that I have is from the only all-men group that I ever Companioned. I realized a week ahead that our next session was scheduled for Melbourne Cup Day. I suggested that we reschedule but the participants told me that they had discussed it and that they wanted to leave the arrangement as it stood as ‘they could go to Melbourne Cup any year but they wouldn’t be able to go to Seasons for Growth any year.’
I recently completed my last Adult Seasons for Growth group. I have run 34 Adult Groups in total. Sadly, there are no other Adult Program Companions currently running groups in Perth.
Just as the seasons ebb and flow, the life cycles of schools continuously change over time. Unfortunately, Mater Dei cannot currently offer Seasons for Growth to High School Students. I know the new Principal, very well from my time there, and I intend to support her with reinstating Seasons for Growth, if it is at all feasible.
I have enjoyed every minute of being a Seasons for Growth Companion. There have always been participants that I have kept in touch with from the various adult groups that I have run. Now that I am retired I will have more time to catch up with former participants, especially those who require a little extra support.